The Rise of Specialty Stores
Nationally and regionally based department stores continue to lose market share to smaller chains and specialty stores. They are feeling the effects of perpetual deep discounts to their inventory and an overall failure to motivate customers. Many are struggling to change their product offerings, but often find that these changes no longer reflect their brand, which becomes a huge turnoff for consumers.
Specialty stores have capitalized on this market shift without losing their higher margins or superior customer experience. They know that consumers are willing to pay more for a better experience, because of their expertise and line of products.
Trends for 2019
Inventory management remains at the forefront of providing a great customer experience. How inventory affects the experience is quite simple. If a customer is looking for something and it’s not on there, then they will go somewhere else to find it. The following inventory management trends are more customer-centric and focus on productivity while delivering a great customer experience.
1. Consumer Touchpoints
The function of a store is changing and it’s taking on new roles to boost brand awareness. Faster delivery methods and automated point of sale are two major reasons for this. In response to this, some stores have begun to carry fewer products in order to provide better experiences. Now, customers can make deeper connections with the store.
Same-store sales data has always provided a snapshot of how well a store is doing. It’s a great baseline but fails to capture a more complete picture. The trend here is to concentrate on every step of the customer’s journey, then create meaningful experiences to engage more with them.
2. Advanced Sales Forecasting
Specialty stores have finally gained an advantage over the big-box stores. Now they need to make sure they have the products available, so they won’t disappoint their customers. Advanced sales forecasting lets them know what should be on shelves in a month or over the next quarter. This requires leveraging point of sale and inventory data, as well as advanced analytics that help determine what future sales may bring.
Having the right size, color, or quantity of products is how retailers can provide a more personalized experience. It’s frustrating for customers when they don’t find exactly what they are looking for. This goes hand-in-hand with forecasting, but dives deeper into point of sale data to find more detailed information about exactly what customers are looking for.
Retail associates need to do more today than ever before. They need to know how to use the latest in technology and how inventory management works. Managers need to learn new skills dealing with enterprise resource planning and reporting techniques. All of these require the investment of time and money to further their training, so they can maintain the best customer service possible.
Paying Attention to Future Trends
Consumer expectations for retailers are focused on having the right products in stock and faster delivery. This may require major changes to an inventory management system, or simple improvements to the system that make it much more efficient. Retailers will need to think strategically to understand what they need to do to make this happen, because the future of their business depends upon it.