In a seemingly ‘no win’ environment, retailers are in a sprint to get their product from manufactures to customers but supply chain challenges remain in the way. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced retail leaders to rethink traditional approaches to securing inventory.

Every part of the supply chain has been disrupted due to issues like major fluctuations in demand, labor shortages, and capacity constraints. 

Supply chain challenges “will persist for the rest of the year,” said National Retail Federation President and CEO Matthew Shay at January’s NRF Big Show

Consumers are also well aware of supply chain issues. As many as 46% of customers began shopping earlier during the holiday season. In addition, 72% said they changed their shopping habits from what they had done in the past because of supply chain challenges.

Retailers have to stay ahead of both supply issues and demand while being creative in other areas with their products until things can level off.

There are several ways a business can get through current supply chain issues with some smart retail management ideas.

1. Above All, Your Customers Come First

Customers have been paying attention and know supply chain issues have been a significant shopping concern. 

The best retail management advice is to be upfront.  Let them know on your website, or have store associates inform guests that products are delayed when they come into the store. 

Keeping customers informed takes away the shock of expecting something and then not getting it. 

Beauty company, Estee Lauder, goes much further in keeping their clients informed. The company, which offers a wide range of products, has rarely run out of stock, but they’ve created waitlists for customers when it does. When the company does get certain supplies, customers on the waitlist are first in line to receive their product. 

By keeping customers informed and at the front of the line, the Estee Lauder brand has solidified a loyal client base. In addition, Estee Lauder has a loyalty program for further savings.

Another way to put customers first is through clienteling, which personalizes the shopping experience for each customer.  Clienteling is essential for any brand, especially with the supply chain issue. As a retailer, you should know the most significant value is giving your customers a great experience.

According to Techjury, 86% of customers say they will pay more for a brand if they get a better customer experience. In addition, 73% agree that customer experience drives their buying decisions.

2. Get Ahead On Your Inventory When You Can

Retailers are savvy enough to know they should carry an abundance of products when possible and if they have the allowable storage space. 

It’s not always feasible to stock up when you can since you have to consider your budget, labor, and length of a product’s shelf life.

There are factors to stay ahead, like finding other products from your carriers that fulfill your needs.

Inventory data and reporting are essential for your retail management. Still, most importantly, it lets you know when your company or an individual location is running low on products.

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3. Maximize What You Have On Hand

Through your data reporting, you can target loyal customers who enjoy using one of your brand’s products to discover a new category. 

For example, Urban Outfitters planned to push their products other than clothing like candles and home products before the holidays, of which they had a high supply. That supply was due to the price of materials they could lock in ahead of time and transportation issues in getting clothing to stores.

While the big retailers are finding success in other avenues, nobody is hit harder than the small retailers. According to Forbes, 1 in 4 small business owners said in December 2021, they may not survive more than six months if the supply chain issues don’t ease. 

One South Dakota town’s businesses have rebounded quite well and found a supply chain solution. A health food store couldn’t get their usual supply of wild rice but could get it in bulk. So they’ve made individual packages and sold them. 

The creativity of using what you have and don’t have, makes business owners find other avenues that have yielded positive results.

4. Keep Associates Aware Of What’s Available

Retailers who own multiple locations have to rely on staff to be aware of inventory at all sites and not lose a potential sale.

If a customer wants a certain product and comes into your southside location, and the shelf is empty, your associates need to assist that customer in locating that product. 

The associate may be able to locate the product at your store’s northside location, which, as it turns out, has an ample supply of the product the customer wants. Or maybe the product is at a warehouse or fulfillment center.

Offering multiple delivery options enhances customer satisfaction. If an associate located what the customer was looking for at another company location, offer them the choice of picking up the item or having the product sent to their preferred store or even the customer’s home. We refer to this as “endless aisle.” It gets more complicated if none of the local locations have what the guest wants. If none of your locations have the product, the associate should assist the customer in the best way possible to not lose the sale. 

The associate can create a customer profile with a mobile POS solution as the customer is in the store. When the product is in stock, an alert can be sent to the customer for pick up.

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Conclusion

Supply chain issues have been ongoing since 2021, and consumers are planning and shopping earlier. You have to stay ahead of the game and order products as early as possible. 

Building a reputation with a customer is vital. This can be bolstered by loyalty programs and being upfront about product availability. Customers come first, and you have to establish a relationship and keep them informed.

A mobile POS is an omnichannel solution that keeps customers informed through endless aisle, assisted selling, fulfillment, and especially clienteling.

Mad Mobile provides a host of retail management features to help ease supply chain challenges for your brand, including data reporting and inventory management to help you through the long haul.

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