Closing the Customer Expectation Gap with Inventory Visibility

By Amanda Nadile - February 8, 2019

More than five billion people have mobile devices. This has opened up access to information unlike ever before. And it has fundamentally changed retail. Consumers who are more connected and more informed are also more demanding.

The increase in consumer demands has helped usher in today’s instant gratification culture. As a result, we have companies like Postmates, Instacart and Doordash. These services make it easy for consumers to order and get a product delivered from anywhere – and fast.

Have retail brands similarly figured out how to close the customer expectation gap? Can shoppers easily and efficiently find what they’re looking for, and once found, is it easy to access? We call this “Search & Discover” in our Omnichannel Leadership Report. It’s a key category to successful omnichannel retailing, as people begin and end a purchase journey in many ways.

This is also why mobile is so critical. In fact, more than half (58 percent) of all retail sales will be digitally impacted by 2023.

Our research of 150 luxury, lifestyle and apparel brands looked at how retailers are connecting consumers, store associates, product and inventory information, and stores to each other. Where does the industry stand? Here are some of the highlights.


28% of brands have customer-facing devices

36% of brands show in-store inventory online

We live in a mobile-first world. Despite this reality, less than a third of retailers today offer customer-facing devices in-store that access their website. While this number has doubled year-over-year, most retailers still aren’t applying a digital perspective to the in-store experience. Shoppers today don’t see in channels. They won’t remember that they bought from a remote inventory. What they’ll remember is that they purchased the product they wanted.

For many shoppers, online or on mobile is the first step in the path to purchase. In fact, a Bazaarvoice report found that 82 percent of smartphone users consult their phones on purchases they are about to make in-store. It is important, then, that customers have visibility into which products are available and where. After all, 62 percent of consumers still want to “see, touch, feel and try” product before they buy. So, let them! Give them what they need online to experience your brand in-store.


55% of store associates can’t access their store’s inventory

61% of store associates can’t access inventory at another store location

Store associates are a retail brand’s greatest asset. They are at the forefront of delivering superior brand experiences and make many omnichannel programs possible. However, if they don’t know what is on a shelf or in a warehouse at any given point, it’s hard for them to do their job – fulfill demand and exceed customer expectations.

More than half of store associates can’t access their store’s inventory with a mobile device, and an even larger number can’t access inventory at another store location. This puts store teams at risk of losing a sale and makes it more likely that a customer will walk out unhappy. There are unlimited upsides to store inventory visibility – from loss prevention to merchandise optimization. Most important, it makes store associates more productive and stores more profitable.

Industry Leaders

The industry overall scored a 52/100 in the Search & Discover portion of our research, but there are several top performers in this category.To see who they are and to learn what they’re doing right, download our report today.