How To: Distributors and Omnichannel Forecasting

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distributors and omnichannel reportingDespite the seemingly never-ending swarm of digital solutions at our fingertips, inventory management is an increasingly challenging enigma. The unique convergence of customer demands, fulfillment speeds, and omnichannel shopping gateways has put immense pressure on distributors. How do you predict and react to demand-side inventory in an environment where 30 percent of items purchased online are returned, 55 percent of people want same-day pickup, and 84 percent of people are leveraging promos to purchase their goods?

As a distributor, these are all your problems. When one retailer runs a promo, it’s up to you to predict how that promo will impact your inventory. If customers want same-day pickup, it’s your job to accurately predict those cravings and deliver goods to them on time and at will. Forecasting was difficult in the linear brick-and-mortar environment. In today’s digitally-soaked shopping ecosystem, it can seem impossible. 

In fact, 61 percent of enterprise-level supply chain executives agree that e-commerce “greatly complicates” demand planning, and a mere 31 percent of them consider their forecasting capabilities as “excellent.” In other words, even revenue-drenched Goliaths are quivering against the torrential storms of modern shopping.

So, how do you not only enable omnichannel inventory, but leverage it in your forecasting and demand-planning ecosystem? Welcome to the future of distribution. It’s messy. It’s headache-inducing. But most of all, it’s hinged to the right tech stack.

Winning With Omnichannel Forecasting

Let’s poke the elephant in the room: many companies believe forecasting is complicated by the seemingly unlimited stream of product lines pouring out of every manufacturer and retailer. In fact, item line increases are a common excuse made to help companies avoid the realities of omnichannel forecasting. Across the United States (despite COVID-19), inventory levels rose by 2.2% last year. When distributors approach forecasting, it’s easy to blame the SKU avalanche for woes. But SKUs have little to nothing to do with accurate forecasting. Most modern forecasting issues are caused by one of three issues:

  • Poor omnichannel forecasting tools
  • An inadequate tech stack
  • An over-reliance on canned ERP algorithms

If you use the right forecasting solution, an increase in SKUs shouldn’t ever impact forecasting accuracy. Instead, most of the $1.1 trillion lost in revenue due to stock-outs and overstocks are due to inefficient algorithms unable to handle the pressures of omnichannel forecasting and cross-retail promos. Because, here’s the honest truth, omnichannel is no longer optional. And it’s absolutely impacting the accuracy of your forecasts.

Virtually every distributor has dipped their toes into the ice-cold waters of digital supply-and-demand. There’s no turning back. Over 2 billion people are shopping online, and that impacts the way you handle inventory. Suddenly, you need to ship products to retailers based on a variety of criteria that didn’t exist a decade ago. Customers are buying products on mobile devices, desktops, and apps, and they expect nearly instant access to those products. 

In return, retailers that rely on you to deliver goods have higher expectations. You need to keep inventory in tip-top shape regardless of promos, returns, and faster shipping. But you can’t simply adopt a “stock more” attitude. Expiration dates, dead inventory, and excess can quickly destroy profits.

When we built StockIQ, omnichannel forecasting was front-of-mind. The digital landscape has intersected physical locations in a very real way. You need intelligence to evaluate appropriate stock levels, predict seasonal demands, and forecast against in-the-moment promos run against any SKU or batch in your facility. Better yet, you need these capabilities in a real-time, dynamic environment that relies on speed, accuracy, and pitch-perfect inventory management. So, what does that look like in action?

How StockIQ Enables Omnichannel Forecasting

StockIQ is an incredibly advanced supply chain management tool, and forecasting is at the forefront of our capabilities. Not only can StockIQ help you manage inventory across any channel, but we provide the tools, resources, and intelligence you need to capture demand forecasts and S&OP across every channel, vendor, and partner — whether they’re digital or physical. At the core of our solution lies a hyper-intelligent hierarchy-level forecasting engine. 

You can drill down to the item level to make forecasts, or you can forecast across bins or specific item lines. This is incredibly important in the context of omnichannel forecasting. You need insights into every nook-and-cranny of your inventory, not just a broad view. Since you’re now dealing with a convergence of vendors and supply lines, a single promotion from an online vendor can completely invalidate a forecast at the item level.

Unlike traditional forecasting tools — which often leverage top-down forecasts built on conventional algorithms — StockIQ leverages intelligent smoothing algorithms capable of predicting demand from the bottom-up. Our intelligent engine even monitors for new promotions and changes depth and frequency for each new addition — ensuring that promos never catch you by surprise.

In other words, StockIQ provides both data-driven forecasting capabilities that are intelligent enough to navigate an omnichannel landscape as well as the tools and resources you need to establish and maintain vendors in both digital and brick-and-mortar locations. Our platform generates entire order schedules based on each item every single day, and our vendor and supplier tracking capabilities keep you abreast of any and all vendor and supplier-related frictions.

In addition to vendor management and hyper-intelligent forecasting, we also provide a state-of-the-art replenishment engine that makes ordering easy, instant, and headache-free. You need an enabling platform capable of handling an omnichannel ecosystem of orders and replenishment. We’re ready. Are you?

Are You Ready to Embrace the Omnichannel Revolution?

Omnichannel inventory management is here to stay. When demand dries up in one supply chain stream, you need to quickly pivot to a new one, and it may be digital. StockIQ is purpose-built for the modern supply chain. And we lay our solution on top of your favorite ERP. Don’t let omnichannel inventory management sap your liquidity and outdate your forecasts. We can help you build transparent, accurate, and intelligent forecasts to meet every channel, every time. Contact us to learn more about how StockIQ bridges the gap between brick-and-mortar and digital forecasting.

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