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6 tips for managing omnichannel grocery inventory

The recent growth of omnichannel grocery shopping has pushed grocery retailers to rethink how best to manage operations. Now that many consumers prefer to buy their groceries online, grocery store systems and processes must be updated to account for the e-commerce side of the business. One of the key changes grocery retailers need to consider is how to take an omnichannel approach to grocery store inventory management.

In this article, we’ll address why omnichannel grocery store inventory management is important and how to do it effectively. Read on to learn more about:

Key considerations for managing online grocery inventory

Grocery inventory management isn't a new priority for stores, but doing it effectively is more complicated when handling orders through multiple channels. Creating a system that works as well for your online customers as for those who shop in-store requires addressing a few essential areas:

  • Product selection. Offering the broadest possible selection of inventory in your online catalog shows customers that they don’t have to sacrifice choice when they order delivery. Plus, on third-party marketplaces like Uber Eats, a large selection can promote discovery by giving your store more opportunities to appear in item searches.

  • Fulfillment. Delivering incomplete orders due to out-of-stock items will cause your fulfillment rates to take a hit. This can translate directly to a loss of revenue and trust with your customers—discouraging them from placing future orders. To prevent this, integrate your online catalog to accurately reflect which items are out of stock, and have enough SKUs to offer customers suitable substitutions when their first choices aren’t available.

  • Store navigation. Items that are popular online need to be easy for shoppers to locate and package. When you integrate your catalog, be sure to include the precise aisle location for each SKU to help shoppers navigate your store and pick orders more efficiently.

  • Inventory visibility and forecasting. Keeping the right quantity of each product in stock at all times can become more complicated when customers are ordering across channels. To ensure you have accurate visibility into your inventory, it's important to use software that allows you to integrate your inventory across all channels. This will also help with forecasting and can provide a window into consumer shopping habits by channel.

The benefits of effective omnichannel grocery inventory and catalog management

Updating your grocery inventory and catalog management processes to better accommodate e-grocery can produce notable benefits across your business. In particular, it can help:

  • Protect your bottom line. When you have a large selection of items available online, you can increase order volume and fulfill larger orders.

  • Improve customer satisfaction. When a customer can get everything they want each time they place an order with you, it creates a better experience for them. Satisfied customers are more likely to stick with you for all their future grocery needs.

  • Streamline shopping operations. When shoppers have access to accurate inventory information and can easily search for items that a customer ordered online, they’ll pick orders more efficiently and make fewer errors.

6 strategies for improving online inventory management

To update your inventory management approach so that it incorporates both the e-commerce and brick-and-mortar sides of the business, consider a few main strategies:

Integrate your catalog

To start, partner with a third-party delivery platform and/or identify an e-commerce software that allows you to seamlessly publish and manage your catalog online. Integration should accommodate a broad inventory selection, easy modifications and updates, and an effortless experience. Ideally, your online catalog will integrate with your existing inventory management system to ensure that the information reflected, such as item availability, stays up to date.

Send details to third-party partners

Provide your third-party partners with as much information as possible about your store inventory. This includes individual item SKUs, nutrition and allergy information, and in-store aisle location. With robust data, your partners can help you build a catalog that promotes a seamless shopping experience for everyone: customers can evaluate item-level specifics to inform their buying decisions, and shoppers can reference aisle details to pick orders more efficiently.

Incentivize fresh items

Many grocery products have a short shelf life. You want fresh items to contribute to purchases, not waste. To keep your fresh inventory moving, make sure your e-commerce software lets online customers buy items priced by weight (like fresh fruit and deli items). Then layer on promotions to drive trial and purchase.

Monitor product category behavior

When evaluating inventory data, try to identify categories of products that are in high demand. For many common grocery items, customers may not have a strong preference for a specific brand. If your online inventory offers a range of suitable replacements for popular items, you can maximize customer satisfaction and improve fulfillment rates.

Use replacement technology

Identifying replacements for out-of-stock items shouldn’t be a guessing game. When picking orders, shoppers need access to technology that recommends items from a deep catalog or allows them to easily search using a range of methods such as SKU search or barcode scanning.

Enable efficient inventory navigation

Seek out technology that can help shoppers who are picking and packing online orders navigate your in-store inventory. Look for tools that offer capabilities like digital store mapping and barcode scanning, both of which can help improve efficiency and order accuracy.

How Uber Eats can help

Grocers partnering with Uber Eats gain access to a set of tools that can help improve the omnichannel grocery experience. Joining the Uber Eats marketplace adds an online channel that your store’s customers can use to place orders with you—and that introduces relevant features they appreciate, such as:

  • Catalog integration. Seamlessly integrate your catalog with the Uber Eats platform to offer more options to your customers and drive more revenue. Our product and engineering teams can work closely with you to increase the number of SKUs available (to drive larger orders) and enrich your catalog with images and descriptions (to improve the shopping experience).

  • Item replacements. When an item is out of stock, Uber Eats offers customers smart replacement recommendations to find the best match to complete their order. Customers can then accept the suggestion or counter with a specific item. And shoppers can search for items by SKU or scan the barcode to complete the order accurately and efficiently.

  • Weight-based pricing. Online customers don’t want to feel like they’re getting a limited selection or less flexibility when compared with the in-store shopping experience. Uber Eats’ features ensure that customers can select products from the deli, produce, and dry foods sections that are priced by weight and sold by unit or weight. This helps create a better overall experience because it ensures more accurate pricing and flexible shopping.

Working with Uber Eats can help you reach more online shoppers and equip you with tools to meet their needs. Get additional information about growing your grocery business with Uber Eats.

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