Merchants forced to rely on low-quality inventory data face steep challenges to profitably grow their business and deliver great customer experiences. A lack of visibility comes from using disparate systems to manage orders and inventory, resulting in steep costs, dwindling profits and broken customer loyalty.
Without accurate, timely and complete inventory information, efficiently managing an inventory landscape of warehouses, stores and third-party logistics providers (3PLs) to serve your business and your customers is impossible. The only way to achieve end-to-end, inventory visibility in real time is by streamlining your business with a single, centralized order and inventory management solution. It’s what enables the inventory visibility required to deliver the perfect order.
For customers, the perfect order means delivering the right products and services at the best price, when and where customers want. For merchants, it means accomplishing this at the optimal cost and efficiency. Once achieved, merchants will operate an efficient and profitable business and deliver what customers expect: a seamless experience of buy, fulfill and return anywhere.
For a retailer, a centralized order and inventory management solution accomplishes many things. At the system’s core is a single version of truth for order and inventory information, spanning all channels. Armed with a single, enterprise-wide view of inventory, merchants can optimize critical business decisions to delight customers by avoiding the costly mistake of overselling available inventory.
That same view enables merchants to see potential problems such as underselling to avoid costly markdowns of overstocked items. They can move inventory of a slow-selling item from one store to another where demand is stronger. Or they can make that inventory the focus of a targeted marketing promotion to increase sales. A unified view of inventory is also a prerequisite for making intelligent business decisions on how to best use inventory across all fulfillment locations and for developing a plan for the future use of inventory.
Customers get real-time order and inventory information from a merchant’s website and from customer service representatives that serve them in offline environments. By centralizing order and inventory management, merchants can offer customers a combination of cross-channel, order and fulfillment options. Customers can decide where they order, receive and return products, rounding out a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.
The alternative is a traditional integration strategy that links inventory sources and commerce systems that will never meet the real-time needs of omnichannel supply chains. For example, it may only display warehouse-based inventory through a warehouse management system (WMS), while store inventory is accessible only through the front-end point-of-sale system (POS). And a legacy order management system (OMS) only gets nightly updates of that data, at best.
This creates fracture points in the customer experience such as over-promising a product that isn’t available or delaying fulfillment and shipment. A centralized order and inventory management solution, on the other hand, provides a single source of truth that is always up to date and accurate, eliminating potential customer disappointment.
By providing inventory visibility across the enterprise, merchants move even closer to achieving the perfect order with the efficiency and ability to offer more competitive shipping methods and delivery times at a profit. Customers get their products quicker and without problems, rewarding merchants with their brand loyalty and repeat purchases.
Allison Manetakis is Director of Commerce Product Management at the Oracle NetSuite Global Business Unit