Backing up inventory visibility with strategy
When merchants gain complete visibility over their supply chains, they believe they're inherently executing an omnichannel strategy.
Don't make assumptions
Just because a clothing enterprise knows exactly where a specific ecommerce order is located and how many designer jeans are held in a Grand Rapids, Michigan warehouse, doesn't mean it's running multichannel activities.
If merchandisers want to achieve this level of operability, they'll need to develop and initiate a retail inventory management plan. Knowing how to allocate goods in response to store demand and prioritize trucking routes to expedite ecommerce deliveries doesn't come with simply implementing a real-time tracking system.
Before having a clear idea of what decisions need to be made, it's important that distribution managers ask the appropriate questions. Retail Info Systems News contributor David Landau outlined several, all of which relate to improving cross-channel sales and creating an omnichannel customer experience:
- Do warehouses replenish stock in order to satisfy both ecommerce and regional store orders, or are they designed to accommodate one or the other?
- Do outlets possess the IT infrastructure (mobile devices, sensors, shipping label creators, inventory software) to keep fulfillment updates relevant to shopper demand?
- Do stores have shipping docks at which small trucks can quickly deliver products to customer doorsteps?
- When carrying out an omnichannel fulfillment strategy, do stores have the labor necessary to complete day-to-day operations? If so, does the workforce have the required assets to execute tasks in a cost-efficient manner?
Once these questions are adequately answered, the retailer can begin making applicable adjustments to the supply chain. While specific changes need to be made, a much-needed holistic adjustment is the dismantling of segregated processes. Any responsibilities defined by ecommerce and store fulfillment must be reconfigured to include both.
Even in omnichannel strategies, many merchants choose to fulfill store and ecommerce needs based on location. Initially, this approach makes sense because it reduces transit time and shipping expenses. However, Apparel Magazine posited an interesting situation.
Suppose an item is particularly popular in California, but a warehouse in Ohio has a surplus of that specific product. In order to liquidate as many items as possible, it makes more sense to fulfill California store needs with the inventory held at the Ohio distribution center.
That's where logistics come into play. While setting fundamental operational plans is a good measure to take, failing to make necessary adjustments simply because it's "not the way we do things" isn't conducive to implementing an omnichannel strategy.