Retailers data only 75% accurate, warn industry specialists, while chatbots reveal most common customer enquiries to be about stock availability

Detailed analysis by retail tech specialists at Detego has confirmed that the average retailers data is only about seventy-five percent accurate when it comes to knowing exactly what inventory is actually in stock at any particular time.

The problem is often compounded by retailers continually managing stock across multiple channels and increasingly having to stay on top of consumer demands for up-to-the-minute, reliable information. Detego, which has been monitoring its own chatbot service that allows consumers to engage with retailers via their smartphones, found the most common enquiries to be about stock availability. It found data inaccuracies around inventory to be most of an issue in fashion retail where ever shorter product lifecycles, fast turnarounds of stock and multiple style, size and colour combinations can play havoc with the supply chain and in-store operations.

"Customers, above all, want instant and accurate information on product availability," says Dr. Michael Goller, CTO at Detego. "If youre shopping for clothes, you want to be sure of getting the exact size and style youre looking for. But many retailers fall by the wayside here their systems might tell them that a particular size is available; yet, theres a one in four chance that this isnt the case."

According to Goller, continually relying on manual processes for something as vital to the retail business as stock - usually by shutting up shop once or twice a year for store or warehouse staff to do a stock-take - is madness. And especially given that smart technologies abound, including RFID and mobile devices which ensure continual monitoring and lead to near hundred percent accuracy and operational excellence in the stores.

Research by the University of Parma in Italy has shown consistent sales increases in RFID-managed apparel stores and deduced that "RFID item-level tagging is a powerful tool for improving inventory accuracy, which is a prerequisite for both omni-channel strategies and store floor replenishment from the backroom."

Thanks to technology that helps increase the availability of products on the shopfloor - such as using wearable devices that rely on alerts and images to guide staff and speed up the replacement of missing articles and gaps on the shelves - the industry is starting to see a gradual shift towards more connected technologies in retail. IDC Retail Insights predicts that eighty percent of retailers are due to spend on visibility platforms powered by RFID and IoT over the next few years.

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