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How to: Use Inventory Visibility in Omnichannel

Omnichannel businesses today are struggling to maintain complex coordination of product movement among many stakeholders across multiple purchase channels. In this period of major supply chain disruption, one inventory problem generates ripple impacts, like a nudge against a massive Rube Goldberg machine. Every delivery delay or out-of-stock SKU can amplify problems as it ripples through systems and threatens your SLAs, your partner relationships, and customer satisfaction. Inventory visibility is key

Inventory visibility is key

To forge a nimble response to continuing supply chain challenges, the best place to begin is inventory visibility. Knowledge is decision-making power. Today, inventory visibility is less straightforward than it used to be, because so many things that can go wrong in the supply chain do go wrong. “Lead time” can be an evasive concept.

Can you answer these basic questions today?

  • For every SKU, what’s in stock?
  • What’s the quantity on hand right now?
  • How fast is it moving?
  • At what locations?
  • What’s out of stock—or about to be?
  • What’s on the way? When? From where?
  • What should you order? How much? When?

With the complexity of today’s supply chain disruptions, omnichannel managers are creating dynamic forecasting and merchandising strategies to cope. Based on current inventory, how many orders can be filled? Or when do you inactivate a product from eCommerce display due to low inventory? What’s your level of confidence in the next inbound delivery, when will it arrive, and what’s your back-up plan if it doesn’t?

Why real-time inventory visibility matters

If you have retail partners or customers waiting for products, you know full well that time is money. So real-time is real money. Let’s say you’ve received a shipment into Warehouse C and have waiting orders. The faster you can activate this updated inventory data into your system, the faster you can move products out.

Backing up a step, how about forecasting the number of inbound shipments you need? Or how many orders to accept before you hide a product from an eCommerce screen? Or, if you’re managing backorders, the questions might be: how many, and how long is that window? What’s at stake, and what window can you work with in compliance with your SLAs?

Omnichannel merchants may employ a range of inventory management strategies, and there’s not always one right answer to these questions. But regardless of the strategies you choose, you can only succeed when you’re equipped with accurate, real-time inventory visibility.

Visibility is especially crucial now, FIDELITONE CEO Josh Johnson points out in Multichannel Merchant (Inventory Management in 2022: Managing Disruptions), because “Truly one of the things that hasn’t returned to normal is the consistency with which freight methodologies are delivered.” The only way to mitigate unpredictability is to know where you stand at every moment in time.

Inventory integrations essential to visibility

Discrete, dynamic inventory data points exist in many applications across multiple players’ systems. This makes integration mission-critical. Look to share data effectively across systems and platforms—warehouse management systems, retailers’ platforms, eCommerce databases, order management applications, supplier systems, and anywhere else your data points live.

Real-time integrations for inventory on-hand, pending orders, and ASNs help you expose the back-end in granular detail, enabling smart decisions for customer- and partner-facing systems. Maybe your company, like many, has expanded its network or forged new channels in response to market conditions. All the more reason to ensure full data integration in a world where minutes are money.

While easy to say, tech integrations don’t happen easily or cost-efficiently for everyone. This is where multichannel companies can benefit from the partnership of a tech-forward 3PL. For example, FIDELITONE is ready with a broad array of data integration tools and APIs with diverse systems, allowing for quick and cost-effective integration. We put our experience to work for you to achieve the inventory management results you need. The sooner you achieve robust integration, the sooner you can put data to work.

Leverage the benefits of inventory visibility

“Ongoing disruption and a cloudy outlook will require companies to continually reassess their inventory planning and management, including closer cooperation with partners, investment in technology and tools, and even seeking outside help when they outgrow internal capabilities,” notes Multichannel Merchant.

Managing this complex supply chain and pivoting your actions to address challenges as they occur is no easy charge. Inventory management strategies affect both profitability and customer experience, and inventory visibility is key. Do you have the high-powered inventory visibility you need today to achieve real-time transformation of your decision-making? Get in touch, and let’s have a conversation.

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