Inventory identification, tracking and management (e.g. supply chain visibility and inventory accuracy) are the core competencies that matter most in omni-channel retailing, reports Capgemini Consulting in its new study, Are You Ready? How to Create an Always-On, Always-Open Shopping Experience. The report is based on in-depth interviews with major US apparel and general merchandise retailers whose companies represent nearly $500 billion in U.S. sales. It cites the role of new standards such as Electronic Product Code (EPC)-enabled Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) in helping retailers improve inventory accuracy in real-time. Other key findings of the report:

  • Making products “web-ready” is an important component of a successful omni-channel retail operation, but is currently a bottleneck for many retailers. Key assets such as images and product information need to be accurate across the board in order to bring products to market faster and more efficiently.
  • Leading retailers are using predictive analytics to gain deeper insight into customer behaviors, trends and the forces of loyalty and purchase through consumer data available via social data, product reviews, and online visits and purchases. Retailers taking advantage of sophisticated algorithms and data-mining activities (which analyze current social data, product reviews and historical facts to track shopping patterns) have a greater ability to create personalized shopping experience based on this data.
  • Fulfillment options need to be robust and varied for today’s “always-on, always-open” shoppers. Retailers are focused on building in-store, web-store and direct-to-consumer options and many are leveraging existing and new infrastructure in creative ways. By using their storefront locations as distribution centers, retailers are better positioned to deliver products quickly and efficiently to the customer. Standards-based technology such as EPC-enabled RFID will be critical in providing the requisite level of visibility to make this a reality.

“Retailers are transforming their organizations and market approaches to leverage the power of digital and satisfy the needs of the ever-changing consumer,” said Dan Albright, senior vice president, Capgemini Consulting. “Leading retailers have already taken significant steps in their omni-channel journey, but there are still many objectives that must be met to continue building on recent progress. As the report reveals, the imperative for 2014 and beyond is to keep the strategy moving forward by enabling an agile infrastructure and greater inventory visibility to seamlessly serve consumers when, where, and how they shop.”

“While retailers recognize the importance of the core components of a solid omni-channel strategy, many struggle with meshing them together and developing a high-level, integrated approach that can deliver quality experiences to satisfy today’s consumers and edge out the competition,” added Melanie Nuce, vice president of apparel and general merchandise, GS1 US. “The industry needs to respond to strong demand for omni-channel capabilities and adopt common standards to drive the seamless integration of these key components.”