Part 1 of our 3-part series looking at how data from Invatron’s fresh item management software can be used to enhance your customers’ shopping experience and boost e-commerce coming out of COVID-19.
Unlocking perpetual inventory data enables transparency for shoppers about out-of-stocks.
The return of shoppers to their neighborhood supermarket has given grocers the right to win.
However, it’s on the condition that food retailers quickly fix the broken e-commerce customer experience, revealed by the frustrations most shoppers encountered at the height of the pandemic.
Companies Focused on Customer Experience Performed Better During the Last Recession
Simply put, the ‘right to win’ means that a business has a better-than-even chance of success if it applies all its capabilities and systems, which provide real differentiation in its market. Revenues are up across the industry, with consumers exploring online shopping as a safer way to make their purchases. But poor customer experiences are causing shoppers to switch stores, with a recent survey finding that 17 percent of Americans left their primary store for another because of e-commerce availability.
During the 2008 recession, customer experience leaders were rewarded for their effort by rebounding more quickly and achieved three times the total shareholder returns in the long run compared to the market average, McKinsey found.
Start Adding Value by Leveraging Your Locked-Away Data
Supermarkets can more closely replicate the in-store experience and engage with their customers at a deeper level if shoppers had access to more information that is siloed in traditionally non-customer facing, in-store retail applications.
“We’re suggesting some unique ways that grocers can use their existing infrastructure to share data with customers to reimagine the customer experience,”said Invatron Senior VP of Product Management, Joe Smirlies. “This same information is also needed to improve the buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) or home delivery operations, if e-commerce is going to continue to scale.”
Real-Time Inventory Levels for Shoppers and Pickers
Online shoppers don’t want to shop blind; it’s a major hassle for what is supposed to be the most convenient trip option.
Invatron’s fresh item management solution is running in over 8,500 stores in the top North American retailers to manage the lifecycle of their fresh perimeter – from computer-generated ordering to production planning to shrink control. The solution allows retailers to operate a true real-time perpetual inventory system.
“By exporting the perpetual inventory data from Invatron’s system into their e-commerce platform, food retailers can provide customers with real-time inventory levels for center store, fresh and prepared foods,” Smirlies said. “This capability would really set a grocer apart.”
Being able to see real-time inventory levels allows shoppers to risk ordering a low-stock item (with the chance it may be sold out before their order is picked), choose their preferred substitute for an out-of-stock item, or even bookmark an out-of-stock item for another time. It can help supermarkets manage consumer expectations and create more transparency about supply chain constraints.
But access to real-time inventory doesn’t just benefit digital customers. Brick-and-mortar shoppers are planning their grocery shopping trips more carefully now and are indicating in industry surveys that they would like to be able to check in-store availability before going shopping.
For BOPIS operations, in-stock information would allow pickers to work more quickly and efficiently. Already slim margins are dependent on picking with speed. Visibility into item quantities on handhelds would enable staff to reduce pick times by eliminating unnecessary trips down aisles, fruitlessly searching for out-of-stock products.
Production Planning for Cross-Channel Demand
To understand replenishment needs when ordering or producing, stores now need to measure their ‘total commerce’ or total demand from in-store, online, and subscriptions sales. E-commerce sales are dependable, with a high likelihood of completion, while in-store sales are subject to greater variance. Knowing where demand comes from means stores can better plan production cycles and labor needs.
This becomes increasingly important for prepared items that are ordered several days in advance online. “With our production planning solution, online and subscription make-ahead orders are rolled into the production cycle closest to the pick up/delivery slot to ensure maximum freshness. Or to maximize labor utilization, stores can look at the total labor units needed to meet that week’s demand and shift production to what makes the most sense for their store,” Smirlies said.
The rise of express delivery services, ideal for hot home meal replacement, means supermarkets could soon become competitive with other food delivery services. But the standard supermarket production cycle doesn’t allow much flexibility to fill holes in shelves right before the lunch or dinner rush. Invatron’s production top-ups allow stores to fill these smaller, inter-day gaps and realize incremental sales.
Invatron is helping retailers optimize their e-commerce platforms. Leveraging previously locked-away inventory and demand data across the organization helps grocers increase basket size by driving loyalty and customer retention, ensuring more efficient picking, and increasing incremental sales by filling inter-day production gaps. And most importantly, it helps reinvent the online customer experience.