The Forrester Wave™: Order Management Systems, Q2 2023

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Build Brand Loyalty with Better Inventory Data

Running out of stock is like a horror movie sequel: it may keep your customers on the edge of their seats, but eventually, they’ll leave for good.

How can you make sure your customers stay put? A more accurate view of your inventory.

Reviewed By Michelle Soriano

Mar 11, 2023

It’s hard to overstate the importance of accurate inventory data And no, not by tracking inventory in hard-to-manage Excel sheets or old paper logs you keep in the backroom. Those manual reports aren’t made for real-time data updates.

We’re talking about a platform that provides a real-time view across channels so you can better manage inventory data—and get a true, cross-channel view of your inventory..

Let’s examine the impact of inventory inaccuracies. Did you know poor inventory data affects your customer experience and your business? Maybe your current inventory-management tech is due for an upgrade…

Why do customers repeat purchases?

Before we shift our focus to inventory accuracy, let’s first answer a burning question: why do customers repeat purchases?

Repeat purchases can usually be attributed to a combination of three factors:

  1. Product satisfaction
  2. Service satisfaction
  3. Loyalty

Product satisfaction is fairly straightforward — did they like your product or not? If so, they’ll probably want to buy from you again, provided you nail those other two factors.

Next is service satisfaction. According to Gartner, customers that “receive value” during a service interaction have an 82% probability of making a repeat purchase.

The final factor is brand loyalty. If you’ve consistently provided great service and quality products, customers will feel loyal to you.

Maintaining loyalty and optimizing repeat purchase rates are critical to your business growth. According to some estimates, a 5% increase in retention can lead to a 25% boost in profits. That sounds like a good reason to eliminate anything that might hurt customer loyalty, right?

How does inventory data become inaccurate?

Up to one-third of your inventory records can be wrong at any given time.

Did that figure make you do a double-take? It should.

The consequences of poor inventory management are severe. Discrepancies in your stock levels can cause frustrated customers. In fact, miscounts are one of the root causes of poor brand loyalty. In other words, you’ll have a tough time retaining customers if your counts are always off.

Do you frequently lose track of inventory across all of your locations? If so, it’s probably because you’re:

Trying to use your ERP for inventory management

Enterprise resource planning software is good for tracking financial transactions. But it’s not so good at consuming updates from back-end software. When your point of sale (POS) relays data to your ERP, something gets lost in translation.

Inevitably, your ERP will be overwhelmed as it tries to update thousands of inventory counts. And it cannot move quickly enough.The result is inaccurate inventory information and angry customers.

Relying on legacy systems like Excel

Excel can keep up with the needs of a single retail store, but is it really the most efficient way to track inventory across multiple channels? Not even close.

Inaccurate inventory records become a recurring nightmare when you use spreadsheets. Keeping up with all these docs is hard enough on its own; sharing accurate information using these counting methods is virtually impossible.

Misusing middleware

If you invested in custom middleware, you probably thought your inventory control challenges were behind you. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly what middleware is designed for.

Most middleware has a singular purpose: translating data from one form to another. However, it’s not smart enough to apply logic to your inventory data. Instead, it follows a standard first in, first out (FIFO) methodology. This approach introduces all sorts of inaccuracies to your inventory datasets.

How does inaccurate inventory data cause lost sales?

According to a 2021 study, inaccurate inventory data can be detrimental to store-level performance. Researchers concluded that it could lead to stock-outs, costly restocking fees, and lost customers.

These findings aren’t all that surprising. Think about it: a customer sees your ad and excitedly orders one of your top products. But your data doesn’t match your physical count.

The customer’s order is processed, but when your team goes to select it, the requested item is nowhere to be found. Now you have to refund the customer’s order or notify them that it was delayed.

If you’re lucky, they may wait for the item to come back in stock and reorder. More likely, it’s a lost sale and they’ll buy from your competitor instead.

According to LinkedIn, each mistake could cost you between $10 and $250. And particularly frustrated customers will probably share their negative experiences with others, adding insult to injury.

What are the direct impacts of inaccurate inventory data on both the customers and your business?

When inventory data is inaccurate customer experiences will suffer. So will your business. A lack of accurate inventory information can negatively influence virtually every point of engagement on the customer journey.

Here’s how your inventory accuracy will impact the CX at key points of engagement:
Infographic about how inventory can effect the customer experience

Social ads

Social or search ads are a great way of connecting with customers on the product discovery page. If your ad hits home, they’ll click on it and may even be prepared to place an order. But what if hot-ticket item you’re advertising is unavailable?

Queue the disappointment. Not only did you miss out on a sale, but important marketing metrics will suffer too. For instance, your return on ad spend (ROAS) will be lower due to your inaccurate inventory counts.

Product listing page (PLP)

Customers won’t be able to easily search your PLP if you’re using an old-school system. You can’t empower them with filters like “available in your local store.” As a result, it will take them far longer to find the product they will need.

A poorly designed PLP can lead to lower online conversion rates. Not good, as this metric can influence your growth potential. You should strive to keep it on par or above the industry average. That means upgrading your  order management tech.

Product details page (PDP)

Antiquated tools limit your ability to share availability details online. For example, you can’t relay information about what’s available at your store or different shipping options.

Customers that need a product by a set deadline rely on this data. They may lose confidence in your brand when they can’t get it. Providing no data is bad, but offering information that’s inaccurate is even worse.

Let’s say a customer heads to your fashion retailing business to pick up an outfit for a party. Your website said it’s in stock, but the system inputs from your last shipment don’t align with your actual inventory. Consequently, you lose the sale — and possibly the customer.

Online basket or cart

Once a customer adds items to their online basket, they’re well on their way to purchase. However, a lack of accurate inventory data could still cost you the sale. Your customers want to know what’s available and when it will arrive.

If you don’t give customers the information they need, the post-purchase experience will be diminished. In turn, you’ll have fewer repeat purchases and a lower customer lifetime value, two metrics that are crucial for growth.

Canceled order notification

Canceled order notifications can alienate customers like nothing else. They placed an order and were excited to receive it, only to be notified that it was out of stock.

Canceled orders don’t just lead to reduced sales. They also hurt your brand image. Customers will also contact your support team, increasing call volume and bogging down your employees.

Delivery

Delivery delays can ruin an otherwise positive customer experience. They’ll be less likely to reorder and might even take to the internet to share their bad interaction with the world.

Delivery delays are often linked to inventory record inaccuracies.

If you route an order to a location that doesn’t have it in stock, the request will be rejected. It will then have to be rerouted to another fulfillment center. This sort of run-around increases rejection rates, decreases fill rates, and drives down efficiency.

Building brand loyalty by improving the customer experience

It’s clear poor inventory data can ruin the customer journey. However, the effects of inaccurate inventory go well beyond frustrating your customers.

Fortunately, you can improve customer journeys and protect profitability with Fluent Commerce. Our recent eBook, Digital Commerce CX: The critical role of accurate inventory data can help you craft a positive customer experience to increase sales and brand loyalty. 

That’s just the beginning of what you can achieve with Fluent Order Management. Want to experience the full power of our platform? If so, schedule your demo today and leave inventory data inaccuracies in the rearview.

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