How to Present Accurate Inventory on the Storefront 

December 5, 2022
 

Imagine you’re shopping online for a dress for a wedding you’re attending this weekend. Because it’s last minute, you need to find something that you can pick up the same day. You find the perfect dress, and the product page says there are two left in your size at the nearest store. You complete your purchase online and choose buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS). However, you get to the store, and it turns out the dress is actually out of stock. 

You’re frustrated, and chances are you won’t be shopping with this retailer again. 

This scenario typically happens because a retailer doesn’t have real-time inventory visibility capabilities that can accurately present local availability. According to Harvard Business Review, 73% of consumers prefer shopping across multiple channels. And a Bazaarvoice study found that 70% of shoppers prefer a hybrid in-store and online approach. 

Inventory visibility is the foundation for a seamless omnichannel experience. Unified, real-time inventory data enables experiences like BOPIS, curbside pickup, accurate delivery dates, filtering products by location availability, and reserving products. 

By leveraging inventory visibility to present accurate inventory levels on the storefront, you can improve your conversion rate. Seeing how many items are left encourages shoppers to complete their purchase before inventory runs out. 

In this article, I’ll dive into what’s preventing companies from presenting inventory on storefronts and how real-time inventory visibility makes it possible. 

Downsides of Inaccurate Inventory Levels 

Before discussing how to present accurate inventory levels on the storefront, I’ll cover what can happen if you don’t present accurate information. 

Missed Business: If you’re not updating inventory data in real time, you could end up showing less inventory than what’s available. As a result, customers can’t find the products they need and abandon their purchase. 

Canceled Orders and Backorders: Retailers will typically need to cancel an order/backorder when they don’t have the inventory available. Promising to fulfill orders based on inaccurate inventory is guaranteed to disappoint the customer. 

What’s Preventing Companies From Presenting Accurate Inventory on Storefronts 

If you’re a retailer with multiple distribution centers, including warehouses and brick-and-mortar stores, you likely have a complex and manual process for updating inventory data and managing order routing rules. These complexities make it difficult to enable real-time inventory visibility for three reasons: 

  1. You lack inventory visibility across distribution centers: If you rely on multiple systems, warehouses, or 3PLs, implementing and managing those APIs can be challenging. 
  1. Inaccurate inventory data: This is often the case when companies manually input inventory data. The manual process leads to a lag in data and is prone to human error. 
  1. Inability to update inventory data in real-time: Maintaining a unified view of inventory requires advanced APIs from the distribution centers feeding SKU and inventory level information in real time. 

How Real-Time Inventory Visibility Enables Accurate Inventory on the Storefront 

Retailers that rely on multiple sources for inventory data often struggle to set and meet realistic customer expectations. In a hyper-competitive landscape, you can’t risk losing a customer over late deliveries or inaccurate stock levels. By maintaining a single source of truth for inventory across locations, you can confidently fulfill orders from any channel. 

As more consumers turn towards the website to start their buying journey, it will become increasingly important to accurately present inventory on the storefront. There are two areas on the website where inventory visibility comes into play: The product listing page (PLP) and the product detail page (PDP). 

Inventory Visibility on the PLP 

According to Forrester, 65% of US consumers believe it’s important to be able to confirm product availability in stores on the website. It’s critical for retailers to present accurate inventory levels early in the shopping funnel to cater to these shoppers. 

With inventory visibility capabilities, you can display inventory levels across the website, instantaneously update in-stock and out-of-stock statuses, and enable shoppers to filter products based on store location. This requires advanced APIs from your distribution centers feeding inventory data in real-time to a centralized view. By unifying inventory data, you minimize the risk of overcommitting or presenting out-of-stock inventory. 

Example of Inventory Visibility on the PLP: 

A customer needs a new grill spatula but prefers to pick it up in-store. By choosing a store location on the website, they can filter products on the listing page based on what’s in-stock at that specific store.

Inventory Visibility on the PDP 

Showing inventory levels on the PDP enhances the customer experience in a couple of ways: 

Shoppers can see how much of a specific size or color you have left in stock. You may have the flannel shirt the customer is seeking, but is it in the right color and size? By drilling down inventory level by specific SKUs, you instill confidence in the customer that the item is available, and you can also create a sense of urgency. For example, you can add messaging to the PDP saying, “Hurry, only 5 left!” to motivate shoppers to complete their purchase. 

Shoppers can see how much inventory you have across locations or at a specific store location. By allowing shoppers to see inventory availability across multiple locations and a specific store, they can easily determine where they want to shop for the product based on what’s most convenient for them and where the item is available. 

Example of Inventory Visibility on the PDP: 

A customer is shopping for a grey sweater but wants to make sure their desired size and color are in-stock at their nearest store. By presenting SKU availability based on the nearest location, the shopper can determine if they want to order online and pick up at curbside, go to the store without completing the online purchase, or have the item shipped to their home. 

How to Get Started with Presenting Accurate Inventory Levels on the Storefront 

Real-time inventory visibility requires an advanced order management system that uses APIs to unify inventory data from distribution centers, retail stores, and vendor locations. Once you have a single source of truth for inventory data, you’ll need three key capabilities to present inventory on the storefront: 

  • Real-time visibility to inventory availability on search and category pages
  • Product availability on the product details page in real-time 
  • Accurate and near real-time inventory quantities on the product details page 

Global Inventory Visibility and Management with Kibo 

Kibo Order Management makes inventory visible enterprise-wide, allowing you to track the available, on-hand, on-reserve, on-backorder quantities for each and every product. Inventory can be viewed by product or location, and for each location safety stock and floor values can be configured to manage inventory turn and mitigate markdowns. 

You can easily manage multi-channel inventory controls by segmenting your inventory for regions, purposes, and channels. By categorizing inventory records, Kibo enables you to map inventory to the types of orders they can be promised to in order to optimize your fulfillment plans and reduce costs. 

If you’d like to see inventory visibility in action, reach out to our team to schedule a demo