From Shelves to Screens: Is Omnichannel eCommerce Transforming Inventory Management?

5 Jul 2024

Omnichannel eCommerce is a retail strategy that can provide invaluable optimization techniques and insights for businesses to improve the experience offered to customers. Crucially, it can also unify different channels to deliver unprecedented levels of control over inventory management.

The continued emergence of the cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technology means that stores can now access unprecedented volumes of data points to inform and even automate key business decisions.

What could this mean for optimizing inventory management? Let’s take a deeper look at how omnichannel eCommerce is proving to be a revolutionary force in optimizing stock and improving the customer experience (CX) for leads.

Defining Omnichannel eCommerce

Before we get to grips with the next generation of inventory management, let’s first define what omnichannel eCommerce is.

Omnichannel eCommerce is a retail strategy that leverages a frictionless shopping experience for customers with the help of many different online channels working in tandem.

By uniting different channels like online stores, social media, mobile apps, websites, and email data with brick-and-mortar insights through POS purchase data and returns information, brands can gain a comprehensive understanding of many facets of their operations.

These data points work in a similar way to omnichannel retail but with a clear focus on optimizing inventory management and CX for online shoppers.

The Battle for Visibility

One of the biggest innovations of omnichannel eCommerce will be felt in inventory management.

The difficulty that many eCommerce stores face when it comes to managing inventory stems from a lack of visibility in real-time.

If you don’t know what’s happening to your stock, you have no way of effectively managing it. However, omnichannel insights can help to deliver more comprehensive inventory management.

Finding Solutions in Generative AI

Generative AI is forecasted to become a $1.3 trillion market by 2032, according to Bloomberg Intelligence, and the rapid growth of the industry is certain to have significant implications for digital transformation in inventory management.

The technology will become a valuable component in omnichannel eCommerce, and capable of interpreting and providing automated solutions based on the masses of unstructured big data that consumers create when interacting with brands.

This can help to automatically adjust stock levels and action orders based on factors that would be impossible for human decision-makers to act upon.

For instance, generative AI platforms could carry out social listening to monitor sentiment toward products and increase inventories if a certain store item begins trending online to prevent possible understocking.

If the AI deems that demand for a product is trending lower, for instance, it can make adjustments on the fly to avoid understocking.

In-Store Data Informing eCommerce

Omnichannel data can also come from in-store devices like cloud-based point of sale (POS) systems.

Thanks to innovations in the wealth of insights available through customer purchasing trends and preferences, the best POS systems on the market can use purchase insights to better understand how, why, and when customers are purchasing certain products.

This can help to shape seasonal forecasting for eCommerce stores on an international scale and help to balance inventories accordingly to ensure orders can be fulfilled with ease and without the danger of overstocking by misinterpreting trends.

Optimizing Returns and Storage

Omnichannel orders can make inventory management more complex if the technology isn’t used to streamline processes.

This inventory balancing act becomes increasingly difficult throughout warehouses, distribution centers, and online stores when it comes to handling returns.

However, the implementation of blockchain technology can help to break down these barriers and optimize the returns process by mapping out the entire lifecycle of products from their inception.

This means that faulty batches can be actively monitored on-chain to isolate issues, and when a customer returns an item, the product can be easily reincorporated into its storage facility without becoming lost throughout siloed departments.

This process can help steer next-generation storage management without the hassle of incurring additional holding costs for items or depreciation expenses.

The holistic overview offered by blockchain can help strike a balance between storage costs and ensuring that returned products return to market on an efficient basis.

The Future of Inventory Management

The eCommerce landscape is evolving at a rapid pace thanks to immersive technologies like generative AI and blockchain. These transformative tools will pave the way for seamless control over inventory for brands that can improve the customer experience across different platforms, websites, and brick-and-mortar stores.

Omnichannel eCommerce will be crucial to these fresh data-driven insights for stock and can help to ensure that overstock and understock scenarios are a thing of the past. With intelligent insights steering the way for order fulfillment, eCommerce stores can operate on a more sustainable and cost-effective basis long into the future.