Black Friday is undoubtedly a busy period for fashion retailers and can be considered the busiest shopping day of the year, proving to be hugely profitable for apparel brands. In particular, it can present retailers with a number of significant business opportunities such as increased customer engagement and loyalty, creating jobs for store associates and opportunities to drive sales at an exponential rate.
Events such as Black Friday offer retailers vast opportunities to take advantage of an increased customer demand with the challenge of countless fashion outlets already advertising their best deals to secure sales. This November will see retailers experience an influx of customers looking to purchase clothing they’ve been holding out to buy during the run-up to the Friday. While these events encourage discount-hungry customers to spend more, it can also present a burden for retailers who aren’t prepared for the sudden increase in customer interest creating a torrent of inventory out of stocks and a wave of returns.
According to Adobe Analytics, U.S. retailers earned a record $7.9 billion during last year’s Black Friday event with clothing being one of the most popular products that consumers purchased. As this once a year event encourages customers to spend more, it can also present a burden for those retailers who aren’t prepared for the surge of customers and continuous replenishment of stock.
Selling out with inventory management
One of the most prominent reasons retailers struggle with Black Friday and the rise in consumer demand is because they cannot maintain an accurate view of their inventory. Inventory accuracies in apparel retail stores average around 70 percent. So, not only does this lead to missed sales opportunities due to out-of-stock products and a poor customer experience, but this can have long-term implications towards brand loyalty. After all, in an age where customer experience is key and Black Friday is in its prime years, why would they choose to shop with you if you don’t have the correct stock and are unable to cope with the anticipated event?
Customers are most disappointed when the items they want, in the rare occurrence of generous discounts like this, are not available. This is often due to the retailer relying on aged manual stock takes and recording incorrect numbers. With many retailers under the impression that they hold a clear view of their stock, retail staff are often unprepared for out-of-stocks in stores and distribution centers during Black Friday. The status quo accuracy levels derived from aged manual counts simply isn’t good enough when there is a sudden increase in customer demand as a result of a business critical, major event such as Black Friday.
Bag a bargain with RFID
More and more apparel retailers are turning to the latest retail technologies that have established themselves as game changers within the sector. Retailers are now able to utilize technologies such as item-level RFID to effectively manage their inventory. This results in accuracy levels up to 98 percent. The technology and solutions, when made simple, are proven and meet the promises of increasing sales (2 percent – 9 percent), reducing inventory (>8 percent) and improving efficiency of labor. Every year, thousands of stores and billions of tags are being used in the apparel and footwear industry, the technology is set and ready for mass adoption.
Due to the speed and ease of performing many stock-centric processes, an RFID inventory solution can run in conjunction with busy retail periods. This enables retailers to perform frequent stock counts as well as keep up with relentless customer demand who want the products faster. In most instances, inventory stock counts are done at least once a week. Retailers can carry out these frequent counts scanning approximately 400 tags per second per handheld device, This data, when coupled with strategic integration with existing POS systems and other processes, enables a near real-time, highly accurate inventory and therefore maximizes stock availability for Buy Online Pick-Up In Store (BOPIS) or Buy Online Ship From Store (BOSFS) or Buy In-store (BIS) omnichannel models.
Making your omnichannel a reality
Black Friday typically conjures images of hordes of shoppers filling the aisles of mass retailers, however, the truth is most of the frenzy occurs online.
With almost half of the purchases during Black Friday made on mobile phones last year, the expectation in the industry is that this number will only go up. For retailers to truly deliver on the promise of the omnichannel, it is imperative these brands have an accurate view of their inventory in order to fulfil orders across a variety of different platforms. With online shoppers in the millions, retailers need an accurate live representation of which clothing items are running particularly low in-stock to prepare customers for the probability that their items may already be sold out by the time they process their order.
Through item-level RFID technology, retailers are able to have inventory accountability at every step of the supply chain. By providing this type of insight for customers purchasing online, outlets are able to boost sales and increase a positive customer experience.
Black Friday is no doubt a blessing for retailers to maximize sales and generate profits. However if poorly prepared, these opportunities can quickly become burdens and the increased customer demand will leave retailers scrambling to keep up with rising consumer interest.
With the wide range of innovative solutions available and the cost of game-changing retail technology decreasing, out-of-stocks and bloated inventories are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. This will only be true for the retailers that adopt item-level RFID. Utilizing the right technologies will enable retailers to cope with rising customer demand, provide the correct products required and deliver an enhanced customer experience.
Currently, retailers are requesting using item-level RFID technology to create a frictionless experience for consumers at checkout and to revolutionize how retailers manage returns in stores and distribution centers. This wave of innovation will continue as more and more retailers embrace the technology, deploy solutions and uncover the ever-expanding spectrum of business value that can be captured.
Dean Frew is CTO and SVP of RFID Solutions at SML Group.