The Necessity of Real Time Inventory Management

When it comes to software, we, at Black Pepper, believe that technical solutions need to address business challenges. That is why we’re also keen to understand the sectors our clients are at the forefront of and all the challenges they may face. Our brilliant Retail Account Director, Bright Masih, had a few thoughts on how real time inventory management affect retailers:

We have all been there – you walk into a high street clothing store, find something you want but you can’t see your size. You find an assistant to which the answer will be certainly the ubiquitous, ‘I’ll just go and have a look for you’. Sometimes they disappear for seconds, other times for what seems like an eternity. Equally the e-commerce nightmare exits for the retailer when online an item appears to be unavailable to a customer only for the item to be in the warehouse as the data hasn't drip-fed into the e-commerce system in time.

When was the last time you walked into a goods retailer where the assistant was able to tell you whether they had a particular item in stock without having to go squirrelling off to a desk to access an aged beige ‘desktop’ to check stock? Even worse, being made to follow them across a busy shop floor to find an available computer away from an area that was painstakingly designed to inspire you to purchase. Frankly is a desktop PC the technology you want your customers to associate with your brand when they are habitually in love with their smart phones, phablets, tablets and tech?

In-store, the benefits of providing customers and employees with real time stock data are self-evident. Primarily the engagement with the customer isn’t severed at the point the customer is deciding whether they are going to make a purchase. Instead, the assistant has an opportunity to talk to the customer and immediately demonstrate value by showing that the brand is switched on. At the back-end, the financial savings are staggering.

Retailers that disregard the impact of the negative perception are deluding themselves if they claim to value customer satisfaction, especially if attempting to provide a truly omnichannel purchasing environment interlacing offline and online purchasing. For omnichannel to work, real time inventory management integration is business critical. Evermore popular Click and Collect services which customers now expect make the necessity of real time inventory management essential in order to mitigate the eye watering impact to profits exacerbated by the unnecessary holding of ‘what-if’ stock.

The single biggest preventer stopping retailers from achieving real time inventory management is the commonly siloed and disparate state of their distributed IT estate and the associated big data. Getting logistics, transportation, warehouse management, e-commerce and in store sales software to talk to one another is fraught with complexity and a behemoth undertaking.

Frequently the task of refining, tailoring, integrating and mining data repositories is regrettably well beyond the expertise of internal IT teams. This requirement for niche expertise necessitates careful partnership with an external and highly capable software development resource, capable of tailoring platforms such as IBM’s WebSphere Commerce or SAP.

Retailers also need to carefully select and partner with additional software development houses who are capable of developing outside of these established platforms with a view to building and integrating bespoke, cloud based, open source pinned services and front end applications. Effective partnerships with Agile development experts massively reduce painful Waterfall development costs spanning into tens of millions, and the reliance on less than efficient Waterfall development teams who are only hired due to the retailers dependence on a particular e-commerce platform.

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