Autonomous Data Integration & Inventory Synchronization Ensures Accurate E-Commerce Product Availability For A Large Online RetailerSupply Chain & Operations
- Data Integration
- Ecommerce Storefront Support
- Multi-Warehouse, Multi-Channel Inventory Synchronization
- Customer Order Fulfillment Assurance
- Out-Of-Stock Order Avoidance
- 3PL Implementation & Integration
- Customer Experience
A consumer products retailer with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual orders through their ecommerce storefront had problems keeping online storefront inventory accurate given their multi-channel, multi-warehouse operation. The inventory inaccuracy led to out-of-stock orders, increased expenses, lost time by operations and customer service personnel to resolve the issues, and negative customer experiences.
Even after switching to a technology-capable 3PL that frequently works with ecommerce order fulfillment both the client and 3PL had problems getting accurate inventory data to the client’s online storefront. The multi-channel order receipts in combination with the client’s ERP/EDI architecture and the 3PL’s WMS challenges made getting accurate inventory to the ecommerce storefront unusually challenging.
Ventura Group designed and implemented system that conclusively resolved the problem by autonomously and rapidly synchronizing inventory between the online storefront and multiple warehouses so that ecommerce customers are presented with accurate, near-real time product availability.
The client recently transitioned to a new 3PL partner who was adept at technology integration and ecommerce support. However, the limitation of the 3PL’s warehouse management system (WMS) combined with the client’s decentralized B2B and DTC (direct to customer) order receipt processes created challenges that even the 3PL and their integration partner had trouble accommodating.
- Multi-channel, multi-warehouse, multi-party, multi-ecommerce storefronts:
DTC and some other types of orders would come through the online storefronts managed by the client and were quickly transmitted into the 3PL’s systems for fulfillment while B2B orders arrived via both EDI and non-EDI methods. Additionally, a second brand, fulfilled out of a different warehouse, was eventually brought online and needed to be served by some of the multiple e-commerce storefronts.
- Multi-channel orders were not reconciled in a single ERP:
Because DTC orders were transmitted directly to the 3PL for fulfillment and B2B orders would often also be received by the 3PL before being cleared through the client’s ERP, there was no single point of reference by which to rationalize the inventory quantities. The client’s eventual plan to transition to a different ERP further complicated the resolution.
- Inaccurate inventory resulted in orders for out-of-stock and unavailable product which drove extensive resolution time, cost, and negative customer experiences:
Because inaccurate and excessive latent inventory quantities were being sent to the client’s ecommerce storefront, customers were presented with items that were not actually in-stock or were claimed by another order that arrived through a different channel. Operations and customer service personnel spent significant amounts of time to resolve these situations by adjusting B2B orders after-the-fact where customers permitted or by offering DTC/ecommerce customers alternative products, free accelerated shipping due to fulfillment delays, or discounts and other compensatory measures. In some cases, customers simply canceled their orders.
- Both the client’s and 3PL’s planned IT improvements that might help correct the problem were expected to take several months to over a year:
The client planned additional and improved EDI/ERP architectures that would help better manage inventory but those would take at least several months. The eventual decision to switch to a different ERP further complicated the solution. Meanwhile, the 3PL expected improvements to their WMS that might help better address the problem would be available in upcoming months. In either case, the issue was already driving cost, negative customer experiences, and even lost sales.
With only a few days remaining before a major shopping holiday, Ventura Group rapidly stood up a system that resolved the issue and eliminated out-of-stock orders from ecommerce customers by reconciling the inventory and regularly updating the storefront with accurate, near-real-time inventory values.
- Highly secure, economical, customer-dedicated VPN and servers:
An extremely secure, customer dedicated VPN and was setup to receive and reconcile inventory data, log inventory activity, and to serve as a hub for the reconciliation and storefront inventory updates. Servers, databases, and processors were setup within the VPN manage, log, and process data as needed.
- Secure connections from the VPN to 3PL warehouses and customer storefront:
We worked with the client and 3PL through multiple options to provide the simplest, secure, and most reliable ingestion of warehouse inventory levels and data on pending B2B and other orders. Likewise, we arrived at the most client-satisfactory and secure approach to regularly update the client’s ecommerce storefront with the synthesized inventory values.
- Synchronization that ensures near-real-time inventory accuracy around the clock:
Developed, tested, and operationalized in under 3 days, the system autonomously tracks and reconciles inventory among sales multiple channels, warehouses, and ecommerce storefronts. This ensures that ecommerce customer orders are truly in-stock products that can be quickly and seamlessly fulfilled.
- Ongoing monitoring and maintenance:
Given its critical purpose and autonomous, round-the-clock operation, the system is designed to log, monitor, and actively notify the Ventura Group team when any operational anomalies are detected. Our team is likewise prepared to step in to rapidly correct any system problems could threaten the accuracy of inventory data and product availability presented to ecommerce shoppers.
In a matter of days, the system was working as needed and it has since been continuously managing the client’s ecommerce storefront inventory. The outcomes include:
- Online shoppers see accurate, near-real time product availability
- Eliminated out-of-stock orders due to inaccurate inventory
- Eliminated time and cost by operations and customer service personnel required to address unfulfilled orders
- Maintains positive customer experiences by enabling rapid, reliable fulfillment