RIS: Creating a connected and seamless experience across touchpoints continues to be a challenge. How can retailers merge their physical and digital experience to produce a truly omnichannel path to purchase?
Dempsey: As brick-and-mortar retailers look for ways to improve their competitive positions, more of them are using their stores as both distribution and transaction hubs. Programs such as buy online & pick up in-store (BOPIS), buy online & return in-store (BORIS), and ship from store have proven to be popular with consumers and retailers alike because they eliminate or reduce shipping and returns costs. For these programs to be successful, retailers must tie together their supply chain, warehouse, e-commerce site and stores. While mobile technologies such as barcode scanners, voice picking, and forklift-mounted tablets capture inventory availability and location, the results can be seen on the e-commerce site or by an in-store sales associate helping customers in real time. Sales associates can help shoppers order items online that are not on the shelf for home delivery or free store pickup, satisfying customers and avoiding a lost sale. Returns are expensive to process and retailers like Target and Walmart now allow customers to use in-store kiosks to return their merchandise.
RIS: Out of stocks are retail kryptonite. How can retailers ensure that products are where they need to be, when they need to be there?
Dempsey: Out of stocks lead to lost sales. Retailers can avoid this by keeping a close eye on the supply chain, monitoring deliveries and tightly managing inventory. Shipment variances, misplaced product, returns and even stolen goods — all impact availability across both store and e-commerce channels and the ability for retailers to anticipate how to replenish items. For instance, capturing receiving data electronically using barcode scanning, using RFID technology to track inventory as it moves around, and utilizing points of sales (POS) that automatically modify inventory levels at purchase can help retailers minimize out of stock items. As forward-thinking companies equip their store associates with modern handheld devices, coupled with real-time business analytics platforms, they are better positioned to proactively respond to out of stock situations.