Inventory Management Strategy - Play Chess, Not Battlefield

Commerce is a game of strategy. As customers’ expectations continue to accelerate, inventory precision is imperative to reducing shopping cart abandonment, optimizing fulfillment, and ultimately delivering a winning customer experience.

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Commerce is a game of strategy. As customers’ expectations continue to accelerate, inventory precision is imperative to reducing shopping cart abandonment, optimizing fulfillment, and ultimately delivering a winning customer experience. Like in a game of chess, you need a clear view of the board and an understanding of the rules to evaluate how to advance. If certain areas or pieces are obstructed from view, you're left incapable of calculating the smartest next move. And although you’re likely not in the business of selling rooks and knights, varying components of your inventory have their own unique rules related to allocation and order orchestration.

Some of the questions you have about your inventory, in relation to a chess game, would be: 

  • How many of this item do I have on hand?
  • Can this piece move there, and should it?
  • Which pieces are more versatile?
  • Which pieces should be most protected?
  • How do I not back myself into a corner?

Without a holistic view of your inventory, managing a commerce department can feel a lot like a game of Battleship. Lacking a view of the playing field, locating pieces becomes a wasteful process of guesswork. (And you’re always left with a sinking feeling).

Many retailers deploy an order management system (OMS) as a strategy to win the game of inventory management. A proper OMS will collect and aggregate inventory from an unlimited number of endpoints or channels – be it stores, distribution centers, 3PLs, etc. This aggregated view enables real-time precision for front-end and back-end systems and fuels a strategic order orchestration process.

Shoot down guesswork

As a customer shops online, the most up-to-date inventory availability should be displayed to prevent oversells. An advanced OMS will aggregate inventory from all your channels and pass available-to-sell information to storefronts through real-time APIs. Many businesses opt to set aside safety stock for marketplace sales like Amazon or eBay sales through ChannelAdvisor.

To eliminate bombs in your battlefield, make sure you have accurate inventory information. Afterall, you have customer expectations and operational service agreements to uphold. Leveraging an OMS for inventory management replaces guesswork with a comprehensive view and strategy designed for any DTC business.

Managing inventory is key to long-term success, profitability, and customer satisfaction, but you need to have visibility into inventory levels. Without a robust and reliable inventory management system, it is nearly impossible to maintain accurate inventory levels in today’s omnichannel selling environment.

A study by Auburn University showed that only 13% of companies have an accurate inventory count on their website. Supply chain operations have become increasingly complex over the past few years and companies without a consistent inventory tracking solution are paying the price. Increasing inventory visibility and keeping accurate counts of SKUs can make a significant contribution to your bottom line. In another study, correcting inaccurate counts and putting in place strict protocols for managing inventory led to a sales increase between 4% and 8% across the entire portfolio. With accurate, real-time inventory across every sales channel, you can achieve the end-to-end inventory visibility you need.

Inventory visibility is important to customers when they are making purchasing decisions. They want to check the in-store availability of items before going to a physical store or know that items are indeed in stock and ready to ship when they buy online. Consumers are increasingly checking inventory as part of their buying decisions. When they see quantities available, especially when stock is running low, it creates an urgency to complete transactions.

Yet, if inventory counts aren’t accurate, you’re left with unhappy customers and lost sales.

Everything on one game board 

One of the keys to achieving better end-to-end inventory visibility is capturing data across every supply chain and sales channel. Using data and analytics, you can track every item from purchase orders, incoming items, inventory in warehouse and fulfillment centers, and across the entire sales orchestration process.

By aggregating your inventory across distribution points, shippers, and third-party logistics, increasing inventory visibility improves everything about your operations. This can be challenging, but it’s essential to maintain accurate levels. Organizations need one single version of the truth that encompasses the entire order lifecycle – it’s like having all the right game pieces on the correct game board.

House rules 

Each retail operation needs its own set of house rules. Like a game of chess, rules follow an automated workflow. Many businesses have unique product regulations, need integration with other systems, and follow specific operational workflows. The standard rules paired with your configured workflow needs establish the strategy that automatically orchestrates orders. It’s like playing chess online against a computer: The computer has the advantage because the best move is pre-calculated and human error is removed.  

It’s your turn

The world moves in real time. Your customers shop in real time. With an order management solution in your tech stack, comprehensive inventory views and order orchestration can be real time as well. It’s time to stop lobbing guesswork into an unknown battlefield, time to stop waiting for your opponent to move again. With an OMS, it’s your turn to advance.