Store managers always have their hands full, but keeping up with today’s consumer demands often involves a reimagining of their stores’ internal processes.This is no easy feat under the best of circumstances, but add to the mix staffing challenges and new and changing inventory management capabilities and you’ve got a cocktail for a supremely challenging task.
According to JDA Software Group Inc.’s second-annual “Voice of the Store Manager” survey, store managers are turning to technology-based solutions more than ever before as an omnichannel shopping experience has morphed from a nice-to-have to a have-to-have.
Putting the “Invent” in Inventory
Inventory is the lifeblood of any retail store. Until recently, brick-and-mortar stores were limited in their wares on hand by the capacity of their storage rooms. That’s clearly a model on its way out when competition includes online merchants with sophisticated logistics and shipping services and Raiders of the Lost Ark-esque warehouses packed with goods dotting the country from coast to coast. To bridge that gap, today’s stores to harness technology to create a truly seamless experience between in-store and online, because that’s what customers are demanding.
In the survey, inventory-related challenges represented more than 50% of the biggest challenges at the store level, according to the managers surveyed. Topping the list, 29% of managers cited fulfillment, and 24% pointed to inventory visibility as the most pressing issue facing their stores. Drilling down further into inventory issues in the survey, 31% said inaccurate data was the biggest challenge, and likewise 31% cited limited stock and slow replenishment.
The survey reported most managers (64%) are using some form of technology to monitor store inventory, including using real-time inventory visibility via mobile devices or wearables or a central computer system. Nearly half of the surveyed managers said their stores are offering customers the ability to purchase their items online and pick them up in the physical stores, or “buy online, pick up in-store” (BOPIS).
“The Back Room” Has Gone Beyond Stores’ Walls
BOPIS is becoming an essential tool in retailers’ in-store presence to keep pace with the ease of shopping e-commerce provides. In the survey, 65% of respondents said their store had staff specifically dedicated to helping customers place orders online to be shipped to the store. Some (36%) even reported offering some sort of discount to shoppers who take advantage of the service, an effort to cement the offering in customers’ minds (and wallets).
Jim Prewitt, Vice President of retail industry strategy at JDA told WWD that as customer expectations continue to change, “it will be crucial for brick-and-mortar stores to streamline how they fulfill customer orders and work to draw in shoppers with incentives for in-store fulfillment options like BOPIS.”
Giving customers access to a brand’s entire inventory from within the store’s walls using technology is just the latest challenged faced by brick-and-mortar retail managers as the competition with e-commerce merchants continues to pose an existential threat.