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Survey: Inventory poses challenge to digital grocers

mother and child shopping
Grocery retailers are working to provide seamless customer experience.

Inventory visibility remains a top priority to enhance the online grocery experience, according to a new survey.

According to a recent survey of grocery executives from Incisiv and Toshiba Commerce Solutions, inventory visibility remains a top priority to enhance the digital grocery experience. Roughly four in 10 (42%) of respondents stated they have access to accurate online inventories, while slightly more than half (52%) are in the pilot phase or have it on their roadmap to add this capability.

Despite publicity around micro-fulfillment and dark stores, 41% and 56% of respondents, respectively, have no plans to implement these supply chain solutions.

In other findings, only 18% of respondents can show product availability by fulfillment type on their digital channels. Even smaller percentages can perform omnichannel functions such as allow items to be added to digital cart via voice (7%), or show expected availability of out-of-stock items (3%). Nearly half (47%) of respondents said they either already have shopper messaging enabled or are currently piloting it. 

[Read more: Online grocery adoption grows]

Unified commerc
The survey also examined trends in unified commerce (a centralized framework that enables retailers to collect and merge first- and third-party data for seamless, personalized shopping) among grocers. Findings include:

  • More than three-quarters (77%) of respondents do not have a unified commerce platform in place.
  • The ability to experiment quickly and learn came up as the most important capability (82%) when building a unified commerce platform. Following were the ability for high performance in any conditions (73%) and flexibility to respond to new market dynamics (71%). 
  • While only 21% of respondents currently enable store associates to access a unified customer profile, 42% are in pilot or have this capability on their roadmap.

“As visits to brick-and-mortar stores become increasingly pre-planned (e.g., increase in click & collect), it will be critical for retailers to convert fleeting physical transactions into long-lasting relationships,” said Giri Agarwal, chief strategy officer, Incisiv. “A disappointed shopper is one click or swipe away from abandoning engagement with a retailer. Retailers cannot afford to have channel-locked experiences and capabilities anymore. That’s why they must embrace a ‘unified commerce’ approach to succeed in this new era.”

“These findings show that the industry is ready to deliver experiences that truly unify the physical and digital, meeting customers where they are so they can drive their own journey to create memorable experiences for shoppers across channels,” said Fredrik Carlegren, VP marketing & communications, Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions.

Incisiv and Toshiba Commerce Solutions conducted an executive survey, “State of the Industry: Unified Commerce in Food & Grocery Retail, across retail segments such as national grocery, specialized grocery, regional grocery, wholesale clubs, and supercenters. Retail executives were asked to evaluate their level of satisfaction with their current commerce platforms and rank the importance of various features, as well as rate the importance of certain requirements from their next unified commerce platform.

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