Article

Specialty Retailers: Build customer loyalty with connected inventory communication

Liam Harrington
Dec 3, 2021
4 min read

Liam Harrington / July 2021 / Inventory

Whether you realize it or not, every brand provides a promise to its customers. A promise may look something like this:

“When you walk into our stores, you will easily be able to find Product X. It will be in the highest quality. If it’s not in stock, you will receive Product X by mail in no more than 5 business days. And if we don’t have Product X, we’ll let you know quickly. We do not waste your time.”

You want your brand’s promise to be impressive, and you never want people to feel like you’ve broken that promise. You may have noticed the promise above mostly has to do with the brand’s product, “Product X”. There’s a reason for that: 

You need information to be delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible.

There is a direct link between inventory and brand promise. 

Inventory processes can make or break a brand. This is especially true for specialty retailers. These stores have specialty products, and customers typically know what they want. People ask 3 purchase questions:

  • Do you have it? 
  • Can I get it now? 
  • Where is it?

They might ask online or in person, but either way, they want accurate and timely information. You need a reliable inventory system in order to provide that information correctly and consistently. Here’s the key principle:

You need information to be delivered as quickly and efficiently as possible.

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Let’s start with the transfer of human intelligence within your company. In other words, the flow of communication. Ideally, you want to remove friction. This could be as simple as keeping your technology up to date. You don’t want to rely on dated systems to keep your business running smoothly. Secondly, (and just as important) you want to empower the people in your company so that they can make impactful decisions. Give them all the information they need to be ready for when their computer crashes or when they realize there’s an error with your inventory records. Help them get a feel for the problems that are in reach. They will then be confident enough to handle said problems, and they won’t feel bad about asking for help for the bigger ones.

When it comes to friction, or any problem in general, it might be hard to decide what issue to tackle first. If you’re having trouble choosing where to start, you should identify the issue that’s causing the most pain. Is it a tech problem? A time problem? A combination of both? Is it iterative, or is this a one-time occurrence? 

If your issue seems to be deeper than surface-level, you should perform something more thorough than a cost analysis. Get creative. Propose an experiment. Track how many times people leave your store when you don’t have a certain product and try to figure out how much it’s costing you. And, before you make any huge decisions, try to disprove your hypothesis to try to make sure it’s true. Once you prove your theory and you find that, on average, 7 customers a day leave your store in disappointment, consider what kind of promise you’re making. And figure out how to make it more impressive.

Liam Harrington, Staff Writer

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