A Smarter Model for Accurate Fashion Inventory Data

Understanding what you have in your inventory, and where it is, has always been critical for fashion retailers.

To succeed in a highly competitive and fluid market, anticipating trends and what consumers want is vital. But keeping inventory data up-to-date, visible and accessible across channels is time-consuming and capital intensive.

And even pre-pandemic, fashion retailers often maintained excessive inventories which led to widespread markdowns, creating billions of dollars of lost revenue as just 60% of items were purchased at full price.

60% of garments were sold at full price by the fashion industry

Then in 2020, the combination of the closure in physical stores and the huge shift in consumer behaviour towards online orders and delivery made this challenge even harder.

Fulfilment operations that were just coping 12 months ago are now battling with the speed, scale and accuracy now required to handle the acceleration of eCommerce. Meanwhile, stock is stranded in shut stores where it can’t be sold.

Failure to adapt operations is leading to rising costs and lost sales. And while conditions remain tough and unpredictable, building in more operational agility and greater visibility of inventory will help make fast, informed decisions.

Luckily, many hands make light work. Here we will show how giving your employees one powerful tool – the smartphone and scanning-enabled mobile apps – for all their daily tasks can help keep your inventory current, one mobile scan at a time.

Learn:

  • Why moving to a single device strategy for retail operations is good fashion sense.
  • How using a one smart device for multiple essential tasks keeps your people happy and productive, while improving inventory accuracy.
  • Why selecting the right mobile computer vision scanning software is crucial to a successful shift.
  • Key use cases showing how smartphones adapt and enhance workflows, without disruption.
  • Why smartphones help to create a better digital shopping experience and future-proof retail operations – without breaking the bank.
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1. Traditional inventory management won’t cut it in today’s digital world

When it comes to operational efficiency, accurate inventory data is a key factor separating the success stories from unfashionable brands. When you get it right and you can:

  • Fulfil orders more effectively and shift stock between online and offline channels as needed.
  • Avoid stock outs and increase customer satisfaction both in stores and online.
  • Prevent overstock, keep carrying costs low and reduce the need to tie up vital capital in things like storage space and insurance.

But inventory management isn’t an easy task – and the work is never done. To tackle it, many fashion retailers traditionally use handheld mobile scanning devices with inventory counting apps to scan the items barcode. This eliminates manual data entry, which is slow and error-prone, and adds the information into your inventory management system.

Each store will typically have a pool of barcode scanners devices shared by staff. This may even be supplemented by pen-and-paper processes in smaller branches or during busy seasonal sales. But often stock accuracy using traditional methods can be as low as 65%.

Using traditional inventory counting methods in the fashion sector, inventory accuracy can drop to around 65%

This approach has a number of issues:

  • Expense: The high price per handheld scanner means they are typically shared, with less devices than employees in stores and require a higher upfront investment.
  • Single function: Dedicated scanners offer high scan performance, but are inflexible and only support limited workflows. Staff may need to carry or utilize multiple devices to accomplish different operational tasks throughout their shifts.
  • Hygiene: Shared devices are less desirable currently in COVID times to prevent transmission amongst staff, while carrying around bulky scanners or having to go and locate one when switching to another task isn’t ideal.

So what’s the solution? Many fashion retailers are adopting a single device strategy. By deploying more cost-effective, flexible smartphones for store employees, they are able to seamlessly and safely complete a range of retail tasks, including inventory management, using just one individual device.

And with Scandit’s barcode scanning software powering employee mobile apps, the scan performance can match the speed, accuracy and reliability of dedicated barcode scanners, even exceeding it at times.

So fashion retailers can not only be assured that every scan during a stock check is captured, but smartphones also offer incredible potential to transform workflows, efficiency and user satisfaction.

2. A smartphone puts a scanner in every employees hand

So why a single device strategy, why smartphones and how does this influence inventory accuracy?

Scandit has helped many of the world’s largest retailers to add efficiency and flexibility into store operations, while removing cost and boosting employee satisfaction with smartphone scanning. Check out just a few of our fashion customers below.

Scandit Fashion Customers

Providing a single, powerful device for all employee tasks with enterprise-grade barcode scanning and augmented reality apps unlocks many benefits. And because smartphones are typically cheaper to procure than hardware scanners, you can put a device in every employee’s hand.

Just some of the benefits our retail customers have achieved include:

  • 34% time savings: by having personal smartphones for every employee to complete multiple operational tasks, rather than shared devices.
  • 50% step reduction per shift: created by employees having a device in-hand (or pocket) at all times, so they never need to track to the backroom looking for a scanner, to enter data into a terminal or look up product information.
  • X3 lower TCO than hardware scanners: the cost of smartphones enabled with the Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK is typically three times lower compared to dedicated scanning devices.
  • Contactless for safer operations: giving every employee an individual device boosts not only job satisfaction, but morale and peace of mind during COVID-times where touching fewer shared devices is reassuring.

Ultimately we can only carry so much. Smartphone scanning means your staff are not weighed down with different tools. In addition to scanning, they can use the phone for other information-related tasks.

And what about inventory accuracy? Simply put, having a scanning-enabled smart device at hand for all store employees at all times, integrated with your backend stock management systems, means your stock data is kept up to date in real-time. With Scandit, you can be sure your scanning performance on smartphones is just as reliable as a dedicated hardware scanner. Let’s dig into this further.

3. Why a powerful scanning engine on smartphones drives inventory accuracy

After a challenging year to say the least, further disruption and investments are the last things most retailers want.

However, the cost of not taking action now, adapting to the current situation and preparing to capitalize on the pent up demand post-covid is almost as high – and accurate stock data will be a critical tool here.

But making changes comes with perceived risk, especially when you have legacy systems to work with, which can be troublesome to integrate with new technologies.

That’s why scanning-enabled apps on smart devices with Scandit make sense.

  • It’s an available, proven technology that can be implemented rapidly and without major disruption to streamline operations.
  • Put more devices in more hands. With greater numbers of people updating inventory levels, the more accurate your data will be.
  • Employees are already familiar with smartphones, so training requirements are minimal.
  • Plus it’s cost-effective compared to hardware scanners, even more so if you adopt a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) approach, empowering employees to work on their own personal smartphones (see more BYOD insights here).

And with Scandit, you get top scan performance on even lower-end devices, with easy implementation and enterprise-level support so deploying it doesn’t need to be a headache.

So every scan during stock takes or replenishment is reliable and the data seamlessly captured into your stock management systems, helping keep track of inventory across your store network and boosting accuracy levels.

For some retailers, a real-time view into inventory data resulted in significantly improved stock accuracy levels

With our extensive experience helping fashion retailers, our solutions consultants can offer insights on the best integration path for adding barcode scanning capabilities into your IT ecosystem to put that data to work.

So whether you use Oracle XStore, IBM Sterling, SAP Hybris or many more, Scandit takes the heavy lifting out of integration for you. Deploying barcode scanning into your native mobile app can be completed in as little as 4 weeks.

Look at the video below to see the various ways we make it simple to add barcode scanning to any app or IT environment.

4. Smartphones seamlessly slot into retail operations

So now let’s take a look at some of the specific ways fashion retailers have used Scandit-powered smartphones to support retail store operations and boost inventory accuracy.

And remember, any employee can seamlessly switch between these tasks using just one powerful smart device.

Use case – Inventory Counts

Rather than pricey shared hardware scanners, empower employees to use smartphones with inventory counting apps to scan and capture barcodes to update stock data. By deploying scanning-enabled smartphones to all store staff, anyone can support stock counts at any time.

Scandit’s scanning performance helps keep efficiency high, capturing barcodes with speed and accuracy, even in badly lit stock rooms, when products are at a distance on high or low shelves, or even when the barcodes are torn or damaged.

Many stores were forced to close during lockdowns. As a result, many retailers turned store locations into local fulfilment centres (or dark stores) to handle surging online orders with ship-from-store services, rather than shipping from central warehouses. But for this to work, knowing what stock is stored where is crucial.

By enabling any employee with a smartphone to update stock data, awareness of the specific products in each store location helps better fulfill online orders. And with Scandit, employees can even scan multiple barcodes at once with our MatrixScan technology for an even speedier inventory count.

World famous clothing retailers turns stores into local fulfilment centres with Scandit

A US fashion retail customer of Scandit was able to leverage scanning-enabled smart devices to bring forward the launch of their ship-from-store service to handle pandemic demand.

It took them just 6 weeks to launch a new in-store fulfilment app to underpin this service. They were able to bring forward their planned launch due to the fact they had:

  • The app-based technology and know-how to build it.
  • Smartphones already deployed to store employees and an inventory management system that gave them the crucial visibility of stock.
  • Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK delivering high performance scanning.
  • Employees already used to completing multiple workflows on their smartphones.
  • Flexible IT infrastructure to support the deployment of another scanning-enabled app.

So rather than being reliant exclusively on picking from warehouses, they could operate from the stores that were closed due to lockdown, rapidly launching their new ship-from-store service to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on sales.

Of course, you don’t need to have all of these elements in place to launch scanning-enabled smartphones with Scandit. We’ve helped hundreds of retailers tailor the perfect solution for their specific requirements.

Use case – In-Store Picking

When the flood of online orders come in, employees armed with smartphones can rapidly pick and fulfil orders. They receive the order on their phone, then head into the store to pick the order items, scanning as they go and then getting the order shipped out.

With Scandit, employees know the scanning will work seamlessly as they progress through the aisles and stock rooms. Pickers with mobile apps can confidently gather and arrange multiple customer orders quickly, even deploying in-app navigation tools to optimize pick paths, minimize errors, and work more effectively.

This means the product availability is automatically updated in the retailers systems, keeping the real-time inventory accuracy, which is so crucial to meeting customers expectations for availability and delivery.

Use case – Click and Collect

Retailers are nothing if not adaptable. Many fashion retailers pivoted during 2020 to offer a click and collect service when stores weren’t able to be physically open. So customers who want to buy online, but pick up in store, can still obtain the item exactly when they want it, while still avoiding queues and unnecessary content.

Any employee with a scanning-enabled smartphone can identify the specific customer’s click and collect orders when they arrive at the store with a quick scan, then use the smartphone to scan multiple orders at once to find the correct order in no time.

In a solution where efficiency and lack of friction are key to repeat business, this process can help avoid queues, keep customers safe and service speedy.

Use case – Stock Checking

Stores won’t be closed forever, and re-opening is just around the corner in some countries. When they do so, another key use case is stock checking. Here employees can use their smartphones to scan any product’s barcode on the spot and see if there are extra items in stock back of house.

This helps avoid overstock and helps employees understand what you have and leverage all the items that are in stock. Scandit-powered augmented reality overlays can add this contextual information at a glance on the employees device screen to make it even more intuitive.

5. Future proof your retail operations

In the hopefully near future, as physical stores fully reopen, retailers will need to incentivize and attract customers with new and better shopping experiences. So how can smartphones help you to build these?

You’ll still need to help staff and shoppers be more contactless. Social distancing means smartphones have become first-choice in terms of keeping staff and customers safe.

So beyond operational tasks, smartphones can be the beginning of a whole new way to handle other customer-facing tasks in store, such as clienteling and mobile Point of Sale (mPOS) as with the same smart device from anywhere in stores.

For example, using a smartphone app enabled with Scandit’s enterprise-grade scanning software, store assistants instantly inform customers if it is in stock or can be sent to them from another store.

Ultimately, by providing expert advice to customers via a mobile clienteling app, and then processing the transaction and payment in-aisle, avoiding a queue, the in-store experience is both enhanced and friction-free. Another benefit of the single device strategy.

Augmented retail reality

In 2020, we saw years of digital progress achieved within months. In 2021, if you are looking to the future, there’s no better way to take your operations to the next level than by adding augmented reality (AR).

It can make life easier for your store, staff, and ultimately your customers.

As we’ve seen in some of the use cases above, Scandit’s Barcode Scanner SDK integrates with some useful additional features like augmented reality (AR) and our MatrixScan functionality. Scan multiple barcodes at once and overlay essential product information on screen. This could be stock availability or product information (colour, size, sustainability etc) on the spot – instant answers to customer questions, no need to trek to the back room.

Clienteling Augmented Product Info

AR can really help fashion retailers to rethink operations, simplifying time consuming tasks such as stock taking when items are received by scanning multiple barcodes at once and making sure stores operate seamlessly.

Conclusion

The past year has put operations under strain with extreme uncertainty and rapidly shifting consumer behaviours. Accurate stock information is a key tool in helping agile retailers react to change and seize opportunities for stealing a march on the competition.

Savvy fashion retailers are switching to smartphone scanning and a single device strategy to create flexible, efficient operations which also keep staff safe and satisfied. But this is only possible if you go for a robust scanning solution that ensures top performance and reliability on everyday smartphones.

So don’t just look to return to normal operations, look to achieve better.

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