As more brands seek ways to sell direct to consumer, it requires an overhaul of underlying infrastructure.
In the past, merchandise displayed online was typically based on product availability in-store, but there are often local disparities (REI merchandise in Florida will vary greatly from that in New York).
More companies, however, are striving for an enterprise-wide view of inventory spanning offline and online, and accounting for local inventory needs.
“We were helping retailers who had a web store, but who didn’t have a ship-to-store option or other ways to capture incremental demand,” Hartmann said. “It gets down to your ability to forecast inventory levels accurately and adjust – in real time – based on unique conditions.”
Retailers want more flexibility in the supply chain, and that impacts everything from marketing promotions to delivery and fulfillment.
Consider an outdoor gear retailer that experiences a glut of winter apparel inventory in the wake of a December heat wave in the Northeast. Ecommerce teams may need to pull less cold-weather merchandise from physical stores and adjust creative in online product listings or shopping ads to reflect available promotions.
The company also provides services, such as helping retailers navigate the benefits of ship-from-store versus pickup in-store.
Often, shipping from store is operationally easier than giving a consumer a window of time to pick up their purchase in-store: What if a consumer shows up three hours later than their scheduled pickup time and a store associate can’t find the merchandise?
“It gets down to demand generation through better inventory management and order routing,” Hartmann said. "We want to help brands and retailers understand supply and demand on a specific SKU of physical inventory and generate as many orders as possible in the most logical place. Retailers don’t just want to do ‘pack and ship’ for the sake of it.”