Retailing is About Inventory and Order Fulfillment!

» 6 min read

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By TA Digital Marketing Team

In today's ever-changing digital landscape, I hear almost daily how enterprise-level organizations are investing heavily on digital transformations to leverage the brick-and-mortar presence supported by the digital channel powered by digital technologies.

Indeed, companies are "all in" on digital strategies to offer greater assortments and offerings with new "house" brands and native-vertical-digital brand (NVDB) acquisitions, for example, Walmart's acquisition of Bonobos or Modcloth. The thinking is that the future in e-commerce is driven through brand identity and greater product selection.

Companies are also investing heavily in the digital experiences with experiential driven commerce strategies to bring greater convenience and ease to their consumers. The advent of headless commerce, progressive-web-app commerce, API driven architectures, and microservices technology enables retailers to enhance the digital user experience.

Retailers are using new technologies to optimize the fulfillment and supply chain and to get orders to consumers quicker with lower cost with buy-online, pickup-in-store, store shipment, store-to-store ordering, and cross-channel fulfillment using algorithms to optimize margin, shipment cost, inventory level, and delivery times to meet customer expectations.

My shopping experience this recent Black Friday reminded me retailers have a long way to go on their digital transformation promise and meeting customer expectations.

A large "mainstream" retailer, who has spent $ 7 billion in recent years on their digital retail initiatives, disappointed me (as a shopper) on the most critical shopping weekend of the year.  Moreover, in doing so waisted 7 hours of my time trying to find my daughters gift.

My 12-year old daughters desired holiday gift was promoted with discounts and incentives to drive me to the local store; my first in-store Black Friday adventure in ten years. Upon my arrival to my local store I find the item was sold-out despite the website saying "my store" had quantity in-stock. I quickly jumped onto my phone looked up stock availability and to order the product for next day store pickup at a store 20 miles away.

The next day while driving to pick up the coveted "it" item, I received an email saying the product was out-of-stock despite my order confirmation. I quickly shifted into problem-solving mode and went back to my local store that promised a day earlier a new shipment was due the night before and my desired product would be available; however, I learned the product was not in the shipment as promised. Working with the in-store guest services agent and using the retailers "back-office" system we found stock available in two nearby stores. The guest services associate called the two stores to get a hold on the product. Regrettably, we were unable to get someone at these two other stores to answer the calls - so I decided to drive quickly to one store that was only 15 miles away.

Now in a hurry and behind schedule, I rushed into the store only to find the products were also out of stock. The department associate informed me the "back-office" system is two days behind on stock and the count is rarely accurate. I called the customer service "1-800" number in hopes to find the product either online or in a store somewhere and to place a hold on the item, only to be informed the main customer care center is not allowed to make outbound calls to stores to check availability or hold items - despite my order officially showing active (with no inventory) in the system. At this point, I had given up on this large department store and went home.

This experience is a reminder to everyone in our business that accuracy and ease for accessing product inventory is a digital transformation pillar, along with greater immersive content driven commerce experiences, multi-channel fulfillment, and greater assortments; otherwise what is the point if the systems driving inventory quantity remain archaic and inaccurate.

About the Authors

At TA Digital, Joe Brannon, develops strategies for growth, innovation, and execute commerce and omnichannel solutions for clients using digital technology to enhance the customer experience. For more than 15 years Joe has been a digital transformational thought and implementation leader for large multi-national brands across the B2C, B2B, Retail and Customer Care Center landscape. Joe has held various digital technology leadership and consulting positions at Starbucks, Oakley, Billabong, The Irvine Company, and State Street. In academia, Joe has been teaching business and project management for almost a decade. He holds a master’s degree with an emphasis in Technology Management and a B.S. Business Systems degree from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington.


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