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15 Ways Active Inventory Visibility Benefits Suppliers, Retailers & Consumers

TOPICS: Asset Tracking

Tectonic shifts in the retail landscape were already underway long before the pandemic-related upheavals and supply chain disruptions of recent years. But the impacts of global events have definitely underscored and amplified the value of effective inventory management.

As omnichannel fulfillment has become the new normal, active inventory visibility is increasingly tough to achieve—and more important than ever.

Active inventory visibility provides real-time insights into product availability for suppliers, retailers, and consumers, making it a vital factor for just about anyone with products to sell at retail and online.

Here’s why: When shoppers can see for themselves whether, where, and how many units of a given product are in stock, they purchase with confidence. If it’s an ecommerce purchase, they trust it will be fulfilled and delivered fast. If it’s buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), they can trust they won’t be wasting a trip or chasing around to multiple retail locations. In fact, 46% of shoppers confirm inventory online before going to the store to purchase.

Active inventory visibility also affects brick-and-mortar retail experiences, and many of the benefits flow back to retail suppliers. Let’s take a closer look at the data capture technologies that support active inventory visibility, and the bottom-line-boosting benefits to key stakeholders.

Supply Chain Data Capture Technologies Make Active Inventory Visibility Possible

What does it take to achieve real-time inventory awareness? Technologies vary, but a few of the most important include:

Barcodes and scanners: Barcode labels and connected mobile devices allow for quick and accurate inventory tracking by scanning.

Radio frequency identification (RAIN RFID): RFID tags and readers transmit data between the tags and the readers.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices: Smart shelves, bins, and sensors can monitor inventory levels and conditions in real-time and send alerts when inventory levels are low or when expiration dates near.

Inventory management software: Applications automatically track inventory levels, sales, and customer demand and purchasing patterns.

Cloud computing: Cloud-based systems allow users to access inventory data from any location and device, and integrate with other business software applications.

Mobile applications: Employees can use mobile inventory management apps to access and update inventory information.

Automation: Robotics and automation technologies can streamline processes like picking, packing, and sorting to reduce human error, increase efficiency, and lower labor costs.

Other technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented and virtual reality, and even drones can all be part of integrated systems that support active, real-time inventory visibility and management.

How Do Retailers & Suppliers Benefit from Active Inventory Visibility?

Active inventory visibility provides numerous benefits to suppliers, retailers, and consumers.

For consumers, it provides a better shopping experience by allowing them to know whether an item is in stock or out of stock and how many are available. This can help build urgency around supply and help the consumer make a timely purchase decision. But what about retailers and suppliers?

Benefits to Retailers

  1. Integrating in-store, online, and BOPIS experiences creates a seamless, efficient omnichannel retail environment that enables more flexible, faster fulfillment using fewer labor hours.

  2. Meeting sky-high consumer expectations is always a challenge and clear, accurate visibility helps retailers respond to fast-moving trends—not to mention same-day or next-day delivery.

  3. Coordinating SKU management across locations helps retailers ensure consistency and a uniform brand experience at every store with minimal logistical complexity and expense.

  4. Ecommerce sales can be fulfilled with fewer split or partial shipments.

  5. Better in-store experiences support more than consumer loyalty. Reducing employee frustration and fatigue can help retain and support great retail employees, too.

  6. The ability to sell down with lower risk of stockouts can turbocharge sales. It can also make for less cluttered, more organized stock and storage areas—since overstocking isn’t necessary.

  7. Optimized inventory levels also enable retailers to minimize holding costs and optimize distribution center utilization.

  8. Accurate, real-time visibility improves demand forecasting and planning. Better strategic planning and purchasing contributes to further efficiency and effectiveness improvements.

  9. When the right products are available for sale at the right time without overstocks and stockouts, retailers can sell more at full price and reduce the need for markdowns.

  10. Fuller awareness of inventory can help retailers prevent theft and shrinkage.

Advantages to Suppliers

  1. When retailers improve sales, suppliers stand to benefit by selling more of their products faster, for a positive impact on their bottom line.

  2. Demand forecasting and planning become more accurate with consistent, real-time data. Strategic decisions become easier to make.

  3. Suppliers can confidently maintain optimal inventory levels and reduce overstocking. In turn, this minimizes holding costs, optimizes warehouse space, and enhances overall operational efficiency.

  4. Tracking products through the supply chain ensures that only genuine items reach consumers, protecting the brand.

  5. Active visibility can help reduce labor and time spent on inventory management.

Retail is Complex—Start Streamlining Now

Accurate real-time inventory data can deliver tangible benefits and unlock latent potential for consumers, retailers, and suppliers alike. Retailers that have mandated RFID source-tagging of products by suppliers have already experienced the proven benefits of inventory visibility—that’s why the mandates are happening.

The good news is that suppliers have plenty of opportunities to reap their own return on investments they’ll have to make anyway. And ultimately, a stronger supply chain is in everyone’s best interest.

Learn more about how you can put retailer-mandated investments in RAIN RFID to work across your operations and achieve improvements in operational efficiency and your own bottom line. Click here or below for your free guide.