5 ways real-time data can transform your inventory management and customer experience
In any industry it’s impossible to escape buzzwords and hype. Retail is no different. Start talking about the future of retail and you’ll hear people mention revolutionising the customer experience, embracing unified commerce, and transforming the role of store associates.
This is no bad thing. This is, after all, what the future of retail looks like. However, there’s a tendency for this focus to be firmly on what happens in-store and online without much consideration given to the systems sitting behind this.
In order to be successful – and deliver an exceptional customer experience – one of the most important aspects retailers have to get right is inventory management. Bad inventory management will quickly see disappointed customers, frustrated store associates, and disillusioned store managers. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Good inventory management, on the other hand, has the power to transform your business. Increasingly, retailers across the globe are moving beyond their ERP system in a bid to improve their inventory management.
This is where real-time data and a cloud-based mPOS system come in – with a cloud-based platform, real-time retail is made possible and the master of the stock isn’t your ERP system, it’s your stores. In fact, with a mPOS system, stocktaking has never been easier and allows you to manage incoming deliveries, outgoing shipments and inventory directly from a mobile device.
So, as well as revolutionizing the in-store experience, a mPOS system and real-time data can transform your inventory management.
1. It allows real-time retail to happen.
Unified commerce and real-time retail are two of those buzzwords we mentioned above, everyone in the industry is talking about. But in order for them to actually happen, inventory management has to move away from being initiated in the ERP system and being a centralized operation controlled from headquarters.
Unified commerce begins in your warehouses and with your warehouse quantities. Since traditional POS systems don’t communicate in real-time with your other systems then you’re not getting one, true view between your stores and online. It’s a problem store associates face everyday. Sure, they can check stock levels in another store but they have no real idea if it’s accurate which leads to a lack of trust in the system. The same applies to customers. They can check stock online but, because it’s not real-time data, there’s no guarantee it’s accurate. By eliminating the role of the ERP of being the master of stock in inventory management – where constraints are put on the ‘omni-flow’ – you can take a giant leap forward to delivering true real-time retail.
2. It gives stores back their autonomy.
Somewhere along the line retail lost its way. Go back to market stalls at the start of the 20th century and they’d all know who their customers were, what they ordered, how much product they had in stock and how long it would take for stock to be replenished if they didn’t have anything. On the hyper-local and pop-up level, this still exists today but has been lost in larger retailers.
Through centralized models, retail has stripped away the power of individual stores. Using a cloud-based mPOS platform for inventory management can radically improve this. Power is given back to your stores and they become the master of the stock. Your stores are where everything happens and, by putting control of stock back into the hands of stores, it’s easier for them to calculate what they need and when they need it as well as stock they don’t need. With a mPOS system, your stores can carry out smaller, rolling inventory checks through the app, saving huge amounts of time, making it easier to see what’s needed and making everything easier to keep track of.
By giving stores back their autonomy, they will have full control over their store stock and, even more importantly, the customer experience.
3. It helps optimize stock.
If something is out of stock, your customers won’t purchase anything at all. By optimizing your stock levels you can increase your conversion rates while ensuring your customers are happy. This happens in two-ways; firstly, your stores will have real-time access to – and be able to sell from – all stocks, both online and from different stores. This means stores can fulfill straight away and the customer gets what they want. Secondly, you’ll be able to ensure your most popular items are never out of stock.
This can only happen with a cloud-based platform. With pen and paper or batch file transfers, it’s impossible to get a true real-time view of stock levels. With a cloud based platform, everything is also up to date and gives you a true picture of stock levels across all stores at any given time. Real-time data gives you the possiblity to have automated replenishment if this kind of functionality is beneficial to your stores.
4. It empowers store associates.
Today, your store associates can check stock levels in a traditional POS system but the information might not be correct due to two major factors:
1) It’s not real-time data.
2) Stock taking is in many cases, due to the amount of work, only done once or twice a year.
With access to all stocks and much greater trust in the accuracy of the levels presented to them, store associates are more empowered and, as a result, will perform better and provide a better service.
A mPOS platform also simplifies inventory management for your store associate saving them huge amounts of time. The time saving means your store associates can spend more time with your customers and being your brand champions. They are happier and your customers are happier – a huge benefit to your business. Everyone wins.
5. It’s cost effective.
As well as saving time by using a mPOS platform for inventory management, you’ll also save money. Because everything is run from an app you won’t have to invest in specialized hardware – it can all happen through a smartphone or a tablet. Your store associates use their smartphones to control all functions of their lives and, increasingly, they are also using them in a work setting giving more weight behind the argument of them using them in-store for work functions like inventory management.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Look out for more developments around inventory management in the near future includes the use of RFID – where the costs are being lowered and the technology is more readily available to retailers – which is set to be yet another game changer.
If you’d like to learn more about how a cloud-based mPOS platform can transform your inventory management and prepare your retail business for the future we’d love to talk to you. You can contact us here.