How to Prevent Retail Inventory Shortages Using Mobile Devices

Tim Ingles
Thu, Aug 6, 2015
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Data visibility lets clerks know what products are available for customers.

Retailers need to have stock available. Customers expect advertised items to be in-store when they walk through the doors and modern consumers will not accept excuses.

To maintain complete inventory visibility and meet customer demands, retailers must obtain data collection tools allowing for inventory counts and product traceability.

The Problem
Keeping track of inventory might seem simple on the surface. The amount of products that come into a retail space is jotted down. As customers buy products, the numbers are subtracted from the total.

Business 2 Community stated traditional inventory management procedures have a variety of blind spots. Miscommunications between suppliers and retailers cause shipments of needed products to come in late, incorrectly logged data leads to faulty projections and infrequent counts may miss product degradation, damage and theft.

SME Times argued every business operating today no matter the size is in a global market. Online retailers provide customers with numerous options and poor business experiences are not easily forgiven. If a retailer doesn't have the product the consumer is looking for, it is simple enough to hop on a laptop or phone and find a competitor that does.

Software solutions are often utilized by retailers looking to gain better visibility of their warehouse or storerooms. Automatic processes can be established to reorder products as soon as inventory drops to a certain amount. Managers and sales agents are working with the same database when making offers to customers. Employees can use mobile devices to supply these software solutions with the necessary data.

Creating Proper Projections
To carry the proper amount of inventory, a retailer needs to understand the demand of its customers.

Integrated Solutions for Retailers suggested most retailers never have 100 percent of their advertised merchandise on-hand and during times of heavy promotions, that number becomes even lower. Businesses need to to create accurate projections based on different sales events or buying seasons.

Software systems need real-time data to operate at maximum efficiency. Inventory workers and sales reps who are armed with mobile devices report product distribution as soon as it occurs. This means products are ordered from suppliers as soon as the clerk makes a huge sale and inventory discrepancies are visible to management the moment they are detected.

Accurate real-time information creates a picture of what actually transpires during a sales period. Data checked and approved by management is used to create informed projections for future needs. Patterns or trends such as increased customer demand for or disinterest in a certain piece of merchandise is visible thanks to constant reporting.

Preventing Shrinkage
A modern inventory management system employs mobile devices to perform consistent inventory counts and contribute to a retailer's constant stream of data.

Performing retail inventory once or twice a year leaves a company open to unwelcome surprises. Products could be stolen or damaged, perishable items could expire, mislabeled inventory could become lost or counted twice, returned or misplaced items could go overlooked and employee errors could go unnoticed until the product is in demand.

Using mobile devices makes inventory counts much simpler. The information captured by employees walking the shelves is delivered directly to managers. Software ThinkTank recommended using devices that distinguish types of merchandise. Valuable merchandise, products in high demand or perishable items may need more oversight, so retailers should use a system that flags priorities and performs cyclical counts.

Implementation of Mobile Solutions
If a retailer decides to use mobile solutions to prevent inventory stock-outs or shrinkage, there are a variety of options they could explore.

Barcode scanners are great tools for warehouses or storerooms. Employees point and click to collect company-established data. Point of sales devices should be utilized by clerks to ensure purchases are included in the complete company infrastructure. New voice control devices provide hands-free solutions to workers who have to work quickly and efficiently.

Voice options are often utilized by retailers who employ larger warehouses forced to keep up with a rapid distribution process. The RFgen white paper "Using Voice-Directed Work in the Supply Chain" states voice-directed work options are very simple to install if businesses work with an established supplier. Retailers should contact a software partner to learn what mobile tools would be right for their store size and product needs.

READ MORE: Learn how to go from paper to barcode scanner to tablet with mobile  apps >>

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