The massive rise of online shopping during the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent decline are phenomena that set trends not only in e‑commerce but also in the world of retail. While more and more e‑shopping outlets were emerging at a rapid pace before and during COVID, the trend is shifting, and the concept of online-only shops is declining.
This is because customer demands for e-commerce and "bricks and mortar" retail are changing. Consumer demand is increasing, and it appears that there is no room for half-assed solutions. While e-commerce customers are demanding bargain prices and lightning-fast delivery, brick-and-mortar retailers are under pressure to set up their operations in such a way that they can always offer a sufficient selection of goods and stock availability. Thus, technology is once again coming into play.
A whole range of retail players, including the US giant Walmart, have recently closed their e-commerce-only stores almost a decade since opening. Amazon has also closed dozens of its brick-and-mortar stores, and various fashion chains such as C&A, H&M, Orsay, and Zara are re-evaluating their approach to physical stores. It turns out that stores that serve primarily as pickup locations for e-commerce customers are not profitable enough. In addition, customers prefer to use pickup networks and self-service boxes, which are often conveniently located near their place of residence or work, so they do not have to travel far to pick up their goods. Furthermore, returns are easily processed at these locations, reducing customers' motivation to visit a particular retailer's store.
Retail must change and arm itself technologically
Retail is not dead, despite the decline of physical stores. However, it faces several challenges, such as the need to respond quickly to changing customer needs, promote sustainability, and demonstrate social responsibility. A fundamental customer demand in the retail sector is a satisfactory selection of goods available in sufficient quantities in the store. Customers are no longer willing to tolerate having to reorder missing items or make another trip to the store. Retailers face significant challenges in meeting these demands, particularly in the areas of supply, distribution, and stock management.
"The path to efficient and sustainable inventory management involves leveraging smart technologies that can continuously balance stock between individual branches. Retailers can use the data they already have to evaluate where goods are overstocked or understocked, and efficiently redistribute them to where they are needed. Store-to-store transfers also enable stores to avoid unnecessary sales or disposal of goods in locations where they are not selling," says Roland Džogan, co-founder and CEO of Ydistri, a company that develops and implements a smart inventory redistribution system.
Today's customers expect to find what they need, and if they are unable to do so, they may not return.
Roland Džogan, YDISTRI
Targeted redeployment of goods between individual stores is an effective way to maintain a balanced amount of stock and avoid creating excess inventory that cannot be sold. This allows retailers to continuously optimize their cash flow and inventory at minimal logistics costs, leveraging custom redistribution schemes designed by today's technology to meet the needs of individual retailers and the segments they serve. Continuously optimizing and redistributing inventory is crucial not only for sustainability, but also for maintaining customer satisfaction.