Consumer inventory visibility drops as omnichannel heats up
- In an omnichannel world where visibility is so important, a recent study by OrderDynamics reveals that only 44.1% of retailers worldwide give consumers access to inventory visibility online, a significant drop from last year’s report of 68.4% of all retailers.
- Charles Dimov, VP of marketing at OrderDynamics, noted that many of the retailers were choosing to show online customers passive, rather than active, inventory visibility. In other words, merchants had programmed their e-commerce systems to advise consumers only if a particular product was out of stock, not exact numbers.
- "I believe most retailers use passive inventory visibility to remove the fear that competitors will know about all their stocking positions," Dimov told Supply Chain Dive in an email. However, he does not feel that this is a good practice for retailers to follow.
While this latest report from OrderDynamics supports industry knowledge that platforms such as click-and-collect and free shipping are in growing demand from consumers, the recorded decrease in inventory visibility may come as a surprise to many.
A 2018 IHL Group study found that out-of-stocks left $1 trillion in consumers’ pockets last year and that shoppers encounter out-of-stocks in as many as one-in-three shopping trips. With the continued growth of buy-online, pickup in-store or ship-to-store strategies, the supply chain has been forced to become more flexible and clear stock level information provided to the consumer can help.
"A customer who is unclear whether retailer 'A' has an item in-stock could easily continue browsing on retailer 'B'’s site. If retailer 'B' expressly states that the product is available, and even tells the shopper at which nearby store she could immediately pick up the item, then that retailer has the advantage," Dimov said.
Last year, improved order management and inventory visibility were among retailers' top priorities, with 46% and 37% planning an upgrade within the next year, according to a Retail Systems Research benchmark report.