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Inventory Management

4 Key Principles of Omnichannel Inventory Management

by Divesh Dutta |


In today's constantly evolving retail landscape, where there is a blend of online and offline shopping experiences, the term "omnichannel" has risen to prominence as a defining factor for success. With customers seamlessly transitioning between various channels, including brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce platforms, social media, and mobile apps, retailers are faced with the daunting task of ensuring consistency and seamlessness across all touchpoints. This shift in customer patterns highlights the critical importance of Omnichannel Inventory Management – a strategic approach that involves a combination of technology, logistics, and a great customer experience.

Omnichannel Inventory Management represents more than just a set of practices; it embodies a holistic mindset that revolves around optimizing every aspect of inventory handling and distribution to meet the evolving needs and expectations of today's omnichannel shoppers. It involves the seamless integration of inventory data, the efficient allocation of inventory, and the precise execution of fulfillment operations across diverse sales channels. In essence, it's about coordinating various interconnected processes to ensure that the right products are available to customers at the right time and in the right place.

In this blog, we embark on a journey to delve deep into the fundamental principles that leads to successful Omnichannel Inventory Management. From achieving real-time visibility into stock levels to strategically allocating inventory for online orders, we'll explore how retailers can navigate the complexities of modern commerce and leverage Order Management Systems (OMS) to achieve operational excellence.

What is Omnichannel Inventory Management?

Omnichannel Inventory Management is a holistic approach to inventory control that enables retailers to seamlessly manage their inventory across all sales channels, including brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce platforms, and mobile apps. At its core, Omnichannel Inventory Management is about achieving real-time visibility into inventory levels, ensuring product availability across all touchpoints, optimizing inventory allocation based on demand and proximity to customers, and maintaining accurate inventory counts through integrated systems and processes.

Key Principles of Omnichannel Inventory Management?

1. Inventory Visibility

Inventory visibility is the foundation of effective omnichannel Inventory management. Retailers must have real-time visibility into their inventory across all storage locations, including stores, warehouses, and distribution centers. This visibility allows retailers to have a clear picture of how much inventory they possess and how much they can sell, enabling them to make informed decisions about inventory allocation and replenishment.

With an OMS, retailers can consolidate inventory data from various sources into a single, centralized platform, providing real-time visibility into stock levels across the entire supply chain. By leveraging advanced reporting and analytics capabilities, retailers can track inventory movements, monitor stockouts, and identify trends and patterns to optimize inventory management strategies.

2. Inventory Availability

In today's fast-paced retail environment, inventory availability is crucial. With the growing popularity of omnichannel retail, physical stores play a crucial role in fulfilling customer orders. However, maintaining adequate inventory levels in-store while catering to online orders can be challenging. Retailers must strike a balance between stocking sufficient inventory to meet demand and avoiding overstocking, which can tie up valuable capital and lead to markdowns.

An OMS empowers retailers to calculate Available to Promise (ATP) inventory accurately by considering factors such as safety stock, threshold levels, and order commitments. By dynamically allocating inventory based on demand forecasts and fulfillment constraints, retailers can optimize inventory availability across all sales channels, ensuring timely order fulfillment and minimizing stockouts.

3. Inventory Allocation

Efficient inventory allocation is essential for optimizing order fulfillment and maximizing customer satisfaction. After an order is placed online, retailers must allocate it to the most appropriate fulfillment location based on factors such as inventory levels, proximity to the customer's address, and shipping preferences. By strategically allocating inventory, retailers can minimize shipping costs, reduce delivery times, and improve overall operational efficiency.

An OMS equipped with smart order routing capabilities enables retailers to automate the inventory allocation process and route orders to the optimal fulfillment location in real-time. By leveraging predefined business rules and algorithms, retailers can ensure that orders are fulfilled from the nearest available inventory source, whether it's a warehouse, distribution center, or store. This streamlines the order fulfillment process, reduces shipping times, and enhances the customer experience.

4. Inventory Accuracy

Inventory accuracy is the cornerstone of successful Omnichannel Inventory Management. Retailers must maintain accurate inventory counts to prevent stockouts, avoid overstocking, and optimize order fulfillment processes. Achieving inventory accuracy across the systems requires integrating systems such as point-of-sale (POS), warehouse management system (WMS), and enterprise resource planning (ERP) to facilitate real-time inventory updates and reconcile discrepancies.

An OMS acts as a central hub that integrates with existing systems and processes, providing retailers with a single source of truth for inventory data. By automating inventory reconciliation and synchronization tasks, retailers can ensure that inventory counts are accurate and up-to-date across all sales channels. This minimizes the risk of stockouts, improves order accuracy, and enhances overall operational efficiency.

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In conclusion, the key principles of Omnichannel Inventory Management – inventory visibility, availability, allocation, and accuracy – serve as the foundation for retailers seeking to optimize their inventory management practices in today's retail. By leveraging Order Management Systems (OMS) to facilitate real-time inventory visibility, dynamic inventory allocation, and accurate inventory reconciliation, retailers can enhance operational efficiency, improve customer satisfaction, and drive sustainable growth across all sales channels.

HotWax Commerce works with retailers to provide the best return on their inventory through omnichannel retailing strategies such as same-day BOPIS, Ship From Store, Pre-Orders, and BORIS. Whether it's streamlining operations, reducing costs, or delivering superior customer experiences, retailers can find a solution in HotWax Commerce OMS to meet their specific needs and empower them in today’s competitive market.

If you are interested in learning how our Omnichannel Order Management System can take your brand to the next level by increasing conversion rates and profitability, contact our experts today.