Inventory management remains top of mind for retailers in improving the customer experience.
It’s no revelation that significant changes have swept across retail. The digital disruption was already underway when the global pandemic accelerated those shifts and increased challenges no matter the specific sector. The resulting supply chain constraints, increased consumer demand, labor shortages and the emerging technology address all of them added more complexity. But for consumers, the basics — stockouts, returns and overall experience — remain their top priority.
Providing those basics, however, is more difficult than ever before with retailers dealing with 24/7 expectations and blended channels (online and brick-and-mortar). Shoppers today, after adjusting quickly to the enhancements and necessities of the previous couple of years, now expect to find and buy products everywhere, at any time. This is vital for retailers this holiday season, as a recent survey indicated that consumers expect to spend more and visit physical locations more to avoid dealing with shipping delays.
Obviously dealing with stockouts, or out-of-stocks, remains a top frustration for consumers. Zebra Technologies examined this aspect (and many others) of retail fulfillment with its 14th annual Global Shopper Study. We’ve broken down the study’s findings previously, which measured both industry and consumer perception regarding the changing trends in retail after two years of pandemic conditions and the collective response. The study polled sales associates, executive decision-makers and customers from 15 different countries in four regions across the world — North and South America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific. Today, we’ll dial in on stockouts, returns and how they impact the customer experience.
Get the complete breakdown: Learn more about retail fulfillment trends in this breakdown of Zebra’s 14th annual vision study of the industry.
Stockouts and Returns Remain Customers’ Top Concerns
Whether it’s online (eCommerce), from their smartphone (mobile commerce) or in-person, the customer experience today can take place virtually anywhere. But according to Zebra’s survey, shopper satisfaction continues to rely on convenience, accuracy and safety.
Overall, shopper satisfaction improved in 2021 but remained behind pre-pandemic levels. Specifically, retailers remain largely unaware of the satisfaction gaps that exist regarding functions of the in-store experience. The largest gap is for ordering out-of-stock items on the spot, with a 50 percent difference between customer ratings and decision-makers’ perceptions. There is a similar gap regarding online shopping and the in-store returns and exchanges process. Customers satisfied with:
- Ability to order out-of-stock items on the spot: 54%
- Return or exchange item in store: 58%
- Staff equipped with mobile devices to help find items: 59%
Stockouts Lead to Missed Opportunities
Despite frustrations with shipping delays, 71% of shoppers reported they have left a store without items they came to buy. Among those, nearly half (49%) said it was due to stockouts.
Supply chain and delivery issues that began with the pandemic remain for retailers across every sector. Inventory management and transparency is essential — especially with the increased focus on omnichannel efforts — to help retailers deal with these challenges and meet customer demand. Sales associates polled said dealing stockouts (44%) was their biggest frustration during a retail shift. Decision-makers (84%, up 5% from 2020) said their companies need better inventory management tools.
More effective solutions are needed to improve accuracy and availability counts, which increases the satisfaction of both shoppers and the associates there to help them.
Customers Want Easy Returns
Easy acceptance of online returns at a brick-and-mortar location is a deciding factor for the majority of customers in choosing where to buy from. Nearly 8 in 10 shoppers surveyed said they prefer easy returns
, whether that is by mail or in store. However, managing a seamless return process is complicated by the many methods of fulfillment expected of retailers today. According to the study, 67% of associates (up 18% from the previous year) and 86% of decision makers (9% year-over-year increase) agreed that managing returns of online orders is a significant challenge.
According to associates, the biggest problems in managing in-store returns rest with frequent returners (53%), reverse logistics (39%), and the lack of a dedicated in-store area for returns (27%).
As retail fulfillment has transformed, blended channels and overlapping processes have given customers a variety of shipping and pickup options. Retailers now fulfill orders from warehouses, off store shelves and micro-fulfillment centers. Managing those aspects, while increasing customer satisfaction regarding returns and stockouts, requires real-time inventory visibility, consistent customer communications, and operational processes that remain in sync — despite the challenges.
Retailers need a solutions-providing partner
that brings uncanny experience, trusted stability and end-to-end services to the table.
Watch the webinar on how to boost your retail fulfillment operations.
Tackle Stockouts with Zebra and TRG
At TRG, we’re committed to ‘Making Technology Simple’ — specifically within enterprise mobility, point of sale and payment processing solutions. Our complete line of Retail solutions help address shoppers’ desires for better inventory management and added efficiency in ordering and payments. All are designed to improve the customer experience, increase your operational efficiency and accelerate the delivery of goods and services.
TRG is the one provider with a global reach capable of providing solutions for everything dealing with mobile technology. We’re aligned with qualified suppliers like Zebra — which delivers industry tailored end-to-end solutions that intelligently connect people, assets and data to help customers make business-critical decisions — to give you options no matter the goal or application.
TRG will help you evaluate alternatives, develop project plans and execute technology transformations. Once a solution is decided upon, our single-source deployment solutions will handle staging, kitting and configuration to simplify technology rollouts. Once your solution is up and running, TRG will ensure it stays that way with comprehensive managed services for the repair, maintenance and logistical support that eliminate downtime.
Address stockouts and improve the customer experience across all your channels. Connect with TRG to learn how we help you improve operational efficiency and build consumer confidence.