Stop Letting Out-of-Stocks Drive Your Shoppers Away

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Posted Apr 3, 2018 7:00:00 AM by Ryan Foust & filed under retail logistics, retail customer engagement, improve customer service

Shoppers hate out-of-stocks. Period.

First, they drive to the nearest store. They park, walk inside and proceed to search for where that item should be. If they can’t find it, they might ask an associate for help – or they might leave and repeat the pattern at the next store. But when they do find where that item is supposed to reside and they find that shelf, hook, or peg empty… well. That’s a lot of time and effort wasted. And money, too, with the cost of gas today.

Not surprisingly, out-of-stocks are a huge frustration for shoppers. If you want to minimize that frustration – earning more sales and retaining more customers – then DecisionPoint solutions should be a big part of your strategy. Our experience in retail and our focus in mobile marketing, warehousing, and supply chain technologies will enable you to:

  • Minimize out-of-stocks in store locations
  • Offer a variety of fulfillment options for almost every customer need
  • Introduce omnichannel distribution for maximum flexibility

In this article, we’ll discuss the current out-of-stock problems in retail, and how DecisionPoint solutions can help you solve them.

The “No Sale” Problem

According to Zebra Technologies' 2017 Global Shopper Study, 70% of all in-store shopping trips result in no sale. That's a huge miss on the part of retailers.

Of those where out-of-stocks were the issue, retailers could recover an estimated 6 in 10 with discounts or alternate fulfillment options like ship-to-home. The trouble is getting that feedback from the customer.

Many customers say they can't find associates when they need them (44% are not satisfied with staff availability). Others don’t bother with associates because they feel better connected than the average retail staffer.

So even if you have a variety of procurement and fulfillment options available, most shoppers will never even know it. They’ll either move on to the next store or they’ll end up shopping for it online.

You might say that out-of-stock problems are driving more consumers toward online shopping. So what's a retailer to do?

Optimize Your Inventory Levels with Cloud-Based Warehousing

One of the first – and most important – pieces of your plan to eliminate out-of-stocks is to replace your paper and legacy-based systems with a cloud-based Warehouse Management System (WMS).

A cloud-based WMS offers real-time inventory tracking, which is crucial for optimizing your operation. This real-time data will allow you to:

  • Improve inventory accuracy
  • Lower inventory carrying costs
  • Eliminate yearly inventory counts and manage inventory in real-time
  • Improve the use of storage space and reduce external storage space costs

These are just a few of the benefits of a cloud-based WMS. For a more in-depth list of the benefits you can gain from implementing your DecisionPoint WMS, click here.

The reason this is so important is that most of the strategies to minimize out-of-stocks require real-time inventory data. If you try to enable omnichannel distribution, or even blend your in-store and online inventory levels, without enabling real-time capabilities first… you’re headed for failure.

A cloud-based WMS puts the foundation in place to minimize your out-of-stocks – and maximize customer satisfaction.

Offer a Variety of Fulfillment Options Along with Omnichannel Distribution

In the previous section, we discussed how a cloud-based WMS can drastically reduce the number of out-of-stocks your shoppers encounter.

But what happens when they do still encounter one? Will they simply walk away or order it online from someone else?

According to the Zebra study, retailers could earn sales from 6 in 10 customers facing an out-of-stock product by offering the right fulfillment options.

Whether that solution is ship-to-home, store pickup, or pickup at another location will depend on the customer’s needs. Real-time inventory systems are required for the fastest delivery options. And the faster the delivery, the more likely the customer will be to accept a fulfillment offer.

An omnichannel distribution system turbocharges your fulfillment capabilities by adding a whole new layer of options. With omnichannel distribution, each individual store becomes a warehouse. Store A can order a product that’s only available in Store B and have them ship it straight to the customer’s home. There’s no need to transfer products between stores (unless that’s the option selected), or back to distribution centers. Not only does this eliminate a tremendous amount of cost from your operation, but it also cuts full days off your delivery (or pickup) expectations.

Address Out-Of-Stocks Directly

Even with omnichannel distribution and a whole menu of fulfillment options, shoppers won’t pick them if they don’t know about them.

We already discussed why you can’t rely on associates to get those options in front of customers. What you need is an “in-your-face” solution – meaning that, when customers see an out-of-stock product, the solution will be staring them in the face.

First, your store’s policy on out-of-stocks should be just as prominent as policies on price matching and returns – in other words, shoppers should know what to expect. “No Customer Leaves Unfulfilled” should be your theme and your customers should know it, too.

Second, you need something that puts your fulfillment options front and center whenever a customer encounters an out-of-stock product. This could be a sign with a brief list of options, a QR code linking directly to your online order and fulfillment page, or both.

The best solutions will make it easy for customers to see an out-of-stock product, scan a tag or code, and place their order while still standing in the aisle – without needing to talk to anybody.

DecisionPoint’s Mobile Merchandising, Sales and Delivery (MSD) solution is the perfect place to start. With MSD, you can know exactly when a product is out-of-stock. You can make sure it’s reordered if it hasn’t been reordered already. And you can trigger merchandising activities like checking on the shelf site and printing signs, if needed.

Let DecisionPoint Take Your Out-of-Stock Worries Away

Don’t let the 70% “no sale” average in retail be your downfall. Make every visit count with DecisionPoint solutions. First, minimize your out-of-stocks with our powerful cloud-based Warehouse Management System. Then, update your sales floor operations with our real-time Mobile Merchandising, Sales, and Delivery solution.

The average company can win sales from 6 in 10 customers faced with out-of-stocks by offering the right variety of fulfillment option. Be above average. Contact DecisionPoint today.

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