Hector Ritondale examines the importance of robust inventory management in the omnichannel fashion industry.
In today’s ultra-competitive, high speed fashion industry, there’s no room for error. The need to deliver the right products to market at the right time and at the right price point has never been more of a challenge. With the added pressure of customers expecting a consistent, efficient experience across all channels is expected. The need for omnichannel retailing is no longer a choice for fashion businesses, with newcomers to the market hitting the ground running by offering a holistic, omnichannel experience from day one, stealing a march on some of the more established names in the industry who are yet to get to grips with providing a consistent customer offering across all channels.
Fashion brands still haven’t caught up with other retail verticals who are readily embracing and succeeding with omnichannel retailing. There still appears to be a common misconception that all that’s needed is to have a presence on different channels, with little or no thought given to how to unite these channels, providing the consistent, holistic experience that customers are used to when shopping for non-fashion products. If fashion businesses are to succeed with omnichannel retailing, they need to break down any barriers that exist between channels, treating them as one-and-the-same to secure consistency and customer service excellence across every touchpoint.
A key to achieving this is to have a seamless ERP system in place behind the scenes, systems which blur the boundaries between departments and distinct business processes to provide a friction-less platform for successful omnichannel operations. Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to effective business management, with slick, efficient inventory management the glue that holds a successful omnichannel model together.
There are no longer distinct fashion seasons and customers are more fickle than ever, meaning that businesses have to work harder to get the right garments to market at the right time, all while minimising inventory costs and maximising efficiencies. The best solutions can take inventory management to the next level, providing accurate, precise and timely inventory information and delivering this to every part of the business.
Accurate inventory information can be used to inform intelligent, precise forecasting, and vice versa, paving the way for reduced inventory levels and the associated cost and efficiency savings this brings. Sharper visibility of inventory levels can be integrated with sales, finance and production, informing strategic decision-making, safe in the knowledge that everyone is ‘singing from the same song sheet’ right across the business, with one version of the truth available across all channels. With solutions available to deal with the product complexity that’s unique to the fashion industry, with multiple product variations reflecting different styles, colour, accessories and sizes, the ability to effectively manage inventory while benefiting the wider business is there for the taking.
The addition of analytics takes things up a notch, with inventory information turned into valuable business insight. In conjunction with CRM data into what customers are buying or browsing for, this insight can help to build ‘personal’ offers and suggestions for customers. There’s little need to worry about stock-outs or surplus inventory, forming the basis of the intelligent, dynamic forecasting that underpins omnichannel retailing. It’s this amalgamation of information across all operations that enables the business to achieve the levels of agility and consistency needed to provide its customers with an effective and efficient omnichannel retail model.
For fashion businesses to thrive in this omnichannel era, technology is key, with tools available to streamline all processes while providing the information and insight needed to create a responsive, agile, truly-omnichannel business. Effective inventory management lies at the heart of every omnichannel fashion business, furnishing businesses with the information to guarantee a consistent, efficient customer offering via every channel, creating that crucial competitive advantage in an increasingly cut-throat marketplace.
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