Real Time in-Store Inventory Data Is the Consumer Hook Big Retail Needs

retail inventory

Big retail has its work cut out for it.

We’re nearly two weeks into the all-important fourth quarter, within sight of Black Friday and the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

And amid the inflationary pressures and paycheck-to-paycheck pressures, it may be the case that now, more than ever, Big Data may make all the difference to retailers’ top and bottom lines.

So, too, will digital tools — not just the mobile means of transacting across devices — but technology leveraged to enhance the consumer journey across in-store settings.

The great reopening is upon us, and that means that consumers, prowling the aisles, will want to find the goods they’ve come to get. Time is of the essence. No one wants to roam the shelves, looking for that sweater or gaming console — where hope are dashed when stockouts occur. The age-old remedy, on the part of the retailer — “we can order it from (another location or the warehouse) and it can be here next week” — simply may not cut it when we’re so used to instant gratification.

And as detailed in the PYMNTS report “Big Retail’s Innovation Mandate: Convenience and Personalization,” done in collaboration with ACI Worldwide and based on surveys of 300 large U.S. and U.K. retailers, there’s an urgency to get more engaging digital experiences out into the field, so to speak.

There is a recognition on the part of retailers that an omnichannel approach is an optimal one. Roughly half the U.S. and U.K. retailers surveyed feel their mix of online and in-store experience is giving shoppers the best experiences. But that leaves half that are less than sanguine about their own offerings.

They noted that if some in-store digital features were not on offer, consumers would vote with their feet, and shift to other competitors. Mobile apps were cited by 81% of retailers surveyed; barcode and QR code scanner apps were cited by 81%; digital rewards and coupons cited by 77%; alternative payment methods cited by 76%; and self-service kiosks cited by 51%.

chart, retail, digital tools

Source: PYMNTS

Initiatives and Inventory

Big Data can prove the critical factor in getting more fluid, innovative experiences into the mix, bringing consumers into the Big Box setting — and keeping them there.

Real-time payments remain a key focal point. The PYMNTS/ACI data show that 43% of U.K. retailers and 33% of U.S. retailers plan to add real-time payments as an option for their consumers in the near future.

But none of it matters unless the desired items are there. And here it is the case that, as noted in the chart above, the digital tools being examined by retailers and expected by consumers include automatic real-time inventory checks. That feature, underpinned by real-time data, allows consumers to view in-store inventory — before they come into the store or as they browse through the physical channels.

The groundswell to keep stockouts from turning off shoppers is certainly there. Sixty-eight percent of automotive merchants, 61% of grocery merchants, 50% of general retailers and 42% of convenience stores and pharmacies plan to offer that innovation, if they have not yet done so.

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