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Retail hacks for the holiday season: Inventory endless aisle

Solving the out-of-stock dilemma with inventory visibility

One of the most significant pain points expressed by holiday shoppers is the lack of inventory visibility and out-of-stock items. 

When customers visit your store searching for a specific product, they expect to find it. What happens when you don’t have it in stock? 

Let’s take a critical look into the importance of providing a comprehensive view of your catalog and how it can address this common frustration.

Customer pain point: Out-of-stock items

One of the most significant pains for holiday shoppers is the disappointment of finding that a product they saw online, on social media, or at a different store is not available in the location they’re at. Think about it: Behind customers asking for specific products, there is a personal need that they hope to solve by going into your store. 

Customers may understand that products can run out-of-stock, but they will expect some guidance on whether or not those items can be found elsewhere. After all, we live in an omnichannel era (note that asking the customer to visit your website will only make things worse).

Not finding a proper answer can lead to a big frustration. This frustration can lead to missed sales and disappointed customers.

Enterprise inventory visibility is not just a technological upgrade; it’s a game-changer for both customers and retailers. It involves providing a 360-degree view of your entire catalog, including items that might not be physically present in the store.

Solutions like next-gen POS, order management systems or endless aisle can provide such a view of your enterprise stock adding different layers and details. 

However, the implementation of such technologies takes months, not weeks. That being the case, what can you do to offer your customers at least a high-level view of your extended catalog when they ask for a specific item not found at the location they are in?

Here are a few recommendations of things you can deploy ahead of this holiday season:

Daily inventory report

If a real-time inventory view is not a possibility for your company yet, work alongside your IT department to obtain a daily report of the theoretically available inventory per location. The best way to do this is to consider the inventory at the beginning of the period (last cycle count, last week, etc.) minus the sales of the period. If you are an apparel retailer or similar, your biggest challenge will be to provide this visibility at SKU (item, size, and color) level.

Add the ecommerce and warehouse inventory

Typically ecommerce warehouses and distribution centers already have an accurate view of their inventory. Making this information available to the stores is essential since your company’s main goal regarding inventory is to sell it as fast as possible, and therefore, stores should be able to gain visibility into it. There’s no point in letting a product accumulate dust when it could be sold, even more so during the holiday season.

Share the inventory view with the stores

Easier said than done due to the technological challenges this represents but there are ways retailers can give stores access to the enterprise inventory. Worst-case scenario is to share daily reports via read-only spreadsheets on a shared drive. If your IT department can enable a web-based reporting tool, even better. The point is, find a way to put this info at the fingertips of your store staff so that they can assist customers when they ask for a specific item.

Offer a path-to-purchase

There’s no point in letting the customer know that the item is in fact available elsewhere unless you offer at least one option so that the customer can actually purchase it. The obvious solution is your website and if that is the case then you should have a device in-store fully dedicated to this purpose so that the customer can purchase the product(s). Otherwise, you are burdening the customer with the responsibility of going through the shopping process on their own, which will lead to a high abandonment rate and a sort of dis-service. Instead, assist your customers as they navigate through your online store.

What’s the Business Impact?

In short, the business impact is increased customer satisfaction and sales. For this strategy, more than focusing on the potential sales increase, focus on the implications of not deploying it. 

Customer frustration is a dangerous force and, in this case, one somewhat easily solvable.

Work towards eliminating the typical “I don’t know” or “you can look for it online” answers that only help to let your customer know that you don’t take customer service seriously. If you go the extra mile to assist your customers, they will reward you with their preferences and future purchases.

Bringing it all together

Yes, this is a problem easily solved with the right technology which is why looking into options such as a next-gen POS, clienteling, or endless aisle solution is mission critical. 

Still, even with less sophisticated tools, by addressing the pain point of inventory visibility, you can significantly enhance the holiday shopping experience for your customers. Providing a 360-degree view of your catalog ensures that shoppers can find what they’re looking for, even if it’s not on the store shelves. This comprehensive approach enhances customer satisfaction, reduces missed sales opportunities, and drives increased revenue during the holiday season.

You can read more in the other blogs in our retail hacks for the holiday season series:

Learn more

While there may not be enough time to implement long-term solutions before retail’s busiest season, it is the perfect time for you and your IT department to start planning the deployment of next-gen POS, endless aisle, and clienteling solutions.

Contact us today to get the ball rolling on an amazing customer experience year-round.

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