October 10, 2023

Mounting Inventory Visibility Challenges add Pressure


Today, at its 2023 European Exchange customer conference, Manhattan Associates Inc. (NASDAQ: MANH) announced the findings of its latest international omnichannel research, highlighting how retailers are increasingly digitizing their offering in efforts to improve customer experiences and maintain market share, with inventory visibility being key.

THE CHANGING FACE OF THE STORE

Trending in the right direction, 54% of retailers reported that their customers could buy in-store and return online (50% in 2022), and if the product was out of stock in-store, 48% provided buy online and return in store options (46% in 2022). However, retailers also commented that on average they only had an accurate indication of inventory across their entire operations 70% of the time (down from 74% in 2022).

Shoppers expect all retail touchpoints to be connected, frictionless and increasingly personalised. “If you don’t know where a third of your inventory is, or what it is that you have, that’s a lot of stock that is either not being sold, marked down or at worst thrown away,” commented Henri Seroux, SVP EMEA at Manhattan Associates.

“It’s vital that retailers have solutions with the flexibility and agility to allow them to recognise and act on shifting consumer behaviour in near ‘real-time’. With access to accurate data, retailers can deliver actionable insight into the hands of their associates, enabling them to add value to every customer’s unique path to purchase,” Seroux continued.

FRICTIONLESS COMMERCE MEETS FRICTIONLESS ENGAGEMENT

It is clear consumers are keen to engage actively cross channels when looking to purchase products and 84% will start their buying journey online (82% in 2022). However, 16% (17% in 2022) of retailers still reported that their organisation’s in-store and online operations continue to run as separate functions, suggesting that while year-on-year, more retailers are offering seamless shopping experiences, there is still room for improvement.

In terms of how consumers prefer to engage with retailers before and after buying a product, overall, email (47%) remains the preferred engagement channel, followed by direct in-person contact with the store team (43%). Interestingly, social media is now the preferred channel of engagement for four in ten (40%) consumers, with this preference more likely amongst younger consumers, peaking with the age group 25-34 at 55%.

Natalie Berg, retail analyst, author, and founder of NBK Retail commented: “The research shows retailers are making progress when it comes to seamless omnichannel experiences. As the role of the physical store evolves past simply the transactional, the roles of associates must also develop beyond purely assisting the sale too. Armed with the right technologies and accurate inventory and customer data, store associates have the power to educate, inspire and ultimately create long-lasting brand loyalty, even during times of economic flux.”

PROTECTING POCKETS & THE PLANET

The perception, and at times reality, that green products come at a price premium means that shoppers are deprioritising these purchases in favour of low-cost alternatives with only 45% of consumers considering sustainability an important factor when choosing where to shop, down from 50% last year.

Younger generations are more likely to consider a retailer’s environmental/sustainability efforts compared to older consumers, with 55% of 18–24-year-olds reporting it as a top or important consideration for them. 17% of the 24-35 age bracket went further still and said they would actively avoid retailers if they were not environmentally conscious, compared to only 10% of over 55s saying they would boycott these same brands.

“The future of our planet is not something that we can or should be forced to compromise on as consumers or retailers, yet clearly, in the current economic climate, affordability is taking priority over sustainability. This year’s research highlights how important unification across omnichannel commerce and supply chain is, as an avenue to lessen the economic burden on consumers, but also, as a way to address the longer-term environmental impact unchecked consumerism is having on our planet,” finished Seroux.



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