Omni-channel retailing has the potential to create incredible gains for retailers. However, optimizing multiple retail channels without first optimizing the supply chain and being able to react to real time stock levels can be costly and challenging , as mega retailer Target has demonstrated.
Since 2014, Target has made significant investments in their online and mobile ordering platforms. In order to remain competitive with other retailers and offer attractive shipping options to their customers, 350 of Target's brick and mortar stores now act as online fulfillment centers. This is expected to increase to 450 stores, a full 25% of Target's retail locations.
The Stocking Problem
Using their retail locations to both fulfill their online orders and serve their in-person customers has reportedly caused Target significant difficulties in keeping their shelves stocked. This is a drastic change from just two years ago when consumers were flocking to Target's retail locations, as they abandoned other retailers like Walmart due to the same empty shelf challenges.
It's widely known that Walmart has been struggling with this for years. They have tried to balance this problem by keeping more product stocked in the distribution centers as online ordering has increased. This results in even less stock at their stores, even though Walmart executives acknowledge that resolving their under-stocking problems could be a $3 Billion opportunity.
Why put strain on the supply chain and brick and mortar locations?
According to Target's CFO, John Mulligan, shoppers who utilize both the digital platform and retail locations shop three times as much.
The only real way to address the challenges these retailers are facing is to adopt innovative Internet of Things technologies that can enable:
- Instrumenting of shelves to monitor and report stock levels in real time
- Integrating all systems onto one platform to communicate with one another: from the front end shelves to the stock rooms to the distribution centers to the suppliers
- Ensuring that the data being reported is accessible by all necessary staff members
- Using the data collected to proactively identify and address problem areas as they arise
To find out more on how innovative Internet of Things technologies are enabling smart shelves and omni-channel retail, read our White Paper 'IoT and Omni-Channel Retailing Will Save Billions for Retailers.'