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BusinessRetailers Face Increasing Inventory Visibility Challenges Amid Economic Pressures

Retailers Face Increasing Inventory Visibility Challenges Amid Economic Pressures

New research from Manhattan Associates reveals that retailers and in-store associates lack accurate inventory data approximately 30% of the time, adding to the challenges faced by the industry.

At its 2023 European Exchange customer conference, Manhattan Associates Inc. unveiled findings from its international omnichannel research. The study highlights how retailers are digitising their in-store operations to enhance customer experiences and maintain market share, particularly as cost-of-living challenges have impacted the shopping habits of 89% of consumers.

The Changing Face of Retail

Retailers are making progress in the right direction, with 54% reporting that customers can purchase in-store and return items online, up from 50% in 2022. Additionally, when products are out of stock in-store, 48% offer the option to buy online and return in-store, compared to 46% in 2022. However, retailers noted that they have an accurate indication of inventory across their operations only 70% of the time, a decrease from 74% in 2022.

Henri Seroux, SVP EMEA at Manhattan Associates, emphasised the importance of accurate data, stating, “If you don’t know where a third of your inventory is, or what it is that you have, that’s a lot of stock that is either not being sold, marked down or at worst thrown away, It’s vital that retailers have solutions with the flexibility and agility to allow them to recognise and act on shifting consumer behaviour in near ‘real-time’. With access to accurate data, retailers can deliver actionable insight into the hands of their associates, enabling them to add value to every customer’s unique path to purchase,”

Frictionless Commerce Meets Frictionless Engagement

Consumers are actively engaging across channels when shopping, with 84% starting their buying journey online. However, 16% of retailers reported that their in-store and online operations still function as separate entities. While progress is being made in offering seamless shopping experiences, there is room for improvement.

Regarding consumer engagement preferences, email (47%) remains the top channel, followed by direct in-person contact with store teams (43%). Social media has become the preferred channel for 40% of consumers, particularly among younger age groups.

Natalie Berg, retail analyst and founder of NBK Retail, noted, “The research shows retailers are making progress when it comes to seamless omnichannel experiences. As the role of the physical store evolves past simply the transactional, the roles of associates must also develop beyond purely assisting the sale too. Armed with the right technologies and accurate inventory and customer data, store associates have the power to educate, inspire and ultimately create long-lasting brand loyalty, even during times of economic flux.”

Protecting Pockets & the Planet

While sustainability is important to 45% of consumers when choosing where to shop, this percentage has decreased from 50% in the previous year. Younger generations are more likely to consider a retailer’s environmental efforts, with 55% of 18–24-year-olds ranking it as a top or important factor. Additionally, 17% of those aged 24-35 would actively avoid retailers if they were not environmentally conscious, compared to only 10% of those over 55.

Henri Seroux emphasised the importance of addressing the environmental impact of unchecked consumerism, saying, “The future of our planet is not something that we can or should be forced to compromise on as consumers or retailers, yet clearly, in the current economic climate, affordability is taking priority over sustainability. This year’s research highlights how important unification across omnichannel commerce and supply chain is, as an avenue to lessen the economic burden on consumers, but also, as a way to address the longer-term environmental impact unchecked consumerism is having on our planet,”

Sam Allcock
Sam Allcock
With over 20 years of experience in the field SEO and digital marketing, Sam Allcock is a highly regarded entrepreneur. He is based in Cheshire but has an interest in all things going on in the North West and enjoys contributing local news to the site.
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