As COVID plays a less important part in all our lives, customers are returning to stores. That’s great news for retailers. But unfortunately, supply issues are still a major challenge for many brands, especially those selling goods manufactured overseas.
Lost sales due to supply issues add up to a lot of lost revenue. In 2021, US retailers struggled to reach on-shelf availability rates of 90% and in the CPG sector alone, retailers lost $82 billion.
To add to the problem, customers don’t have much sympathy if they can’t find what they’re looking for. They’ve become used to online shopping, where they can search multiple retailers with the click of a button. When faced with an empty shelf or an unavailable product option, they will simply go to a competitor - often placing an order via their mobile right there, in your store.
- 87% of customers will go to a competitor if they can't make an immediate purchase.
This becomes even more of a problem for small format stores with limited shelf space which only offer a reduced product selection. They offer a local presence and convenience for customers who want to purchase popular items, but the flip side of this is that there’s a greater likelihood that they don’t carry specific items that customers are looking for. If they can’t see the item on the shelf, they’ll assume it’s not available.
Make the sale even if you’re out of stock
For many customers, the greatest frustration is not being able to complete a transaction. What they want is not necessarily to take possession of the item immediately. What they want is to feel that their journey is not wasted.
If they can place a purchase order for delivery or pickup, that is often enough to keep them happy. Even if they can’t have what they want right away, they feel like they’ve solved their problem. Retailers can address this in three ways:
- Check the inventory of nearby stores and see if the item is available locally. If so, it can be reserved and the customer can collect it right away.
- Check the online inventory and arrange to have it shipped directly to the customer at no cost.
- Understand the customer’s needs and recommend an alternative product that’s available immediately.
Consumer data suggests that providing this level of service not only reduces lost sales but aligns closely with broader customer desires. They actually want access to your full product range, not just the items in store.
- 69% would shop more in-stores that offer direct shipping of out-of-stock products
- 56% of consumers want to see what's available in nearby stores
- 64% of shoppers want stores to recommend products to them.
Store digitalization reduces lost sales
It’s essential to engage with a disappointed customer rapidly before they place an order elsewhere or leave the store. However, 37% of in-store shoppers will not speak to an associate if they can't see the item they’re looking for.
This is where in-store technologies such as endless aisle and guided selling can play an important role. Customers can browse your complete in-store and online inventory on-screen and see what’s available, as well as delivery or pickup options. They can also explore your full range of alternative products, and perhaps find something that actually meets their needs better.
Every store becomes a superstore
This level of digital transformation does more than simply address supply issues. It fundamentally changes the role of smaller stores by increasing their capability to give customers whatever they want. Effectively, it enables them to carry a much larger range than is physically possible in the available space.
Customers no longer have to go to a major superstore to browse and purchase items from your full range: they know that they can go to any store to buy anything. For those who live in rural areas, where a trip to a superstore may be a time-consuming affair, this offers much more convenience. This results in greater customer satisfaction and increased revenue.