Digital complexity: thriving in unpredictable times

As retail becomes more complex, businesses need to be able to better manage their inventory to ensure they are optimising sales and offering a great customer experience
John Schnobrich Flpc9 Vocj4 Unsplash

Today’s retail world is highly complex. With access to product better than it’s ever been, consumers are choosing to shop across a range of channels, and opting to receive goods in more flexible and diverse ways.

Complexity around multiple demand and fulfilment sources requires a real-time view of inventory data. But, for many businesses, it’s impossible to get this single view as the data sits in many different legacy systems. These systems often weren’t designed to aggregate stock data, control what’s available to consumers or serve it up across available digital channels in real-time.

In a global survey conducted by Incisiv and commissioned by Fluent Commerce, commercetools and Contentstack on the challenges of managing a digital business conducted last year, three of the top five issues for ecommerce businesses were inventory related. These included store inventory inaccuracy, lack of inventory visibility and an inability to get the correct inventory information online.

The benefits of a distributed order management system

A distributed order management system can help with this. This flexible technology architecture offers new capability that can be integrated to improve or replace existing systems. It enables retailers, direct-to-consumer brands and wholesale distributors to receive an accurate real-time view of all their inventory data. This means they can increase fill rates, reduce cancelled orders and cut down on rejection rates which, in turn, offers consumers a better experience.

The technology also enables businesses to be more efficient around order fulfilment, optimising operations to reduce delivery costs, be more profitable in fulfilment operations and manage inventory availability and fulfilment processes by region or channel. This helps them to sell across a range of different channels and marketplaces, enabling international growth while supporting local needs. The ability to focus on areas where the business needs greater operational efficiencies, scale or growth, bolting on the technology to support this, enables the delivery of projects at speed.

Greater efficiencies also mean greater cost savings, says Jamie Cairns, chief strategy officer at Fluent Commerce, a global software company focused on inventory data management at scale. One high street retail client the company works with has experienced a 52% fall in call centre costs as a result of a reduction in their cancelled order rate.

A distributed order management system enables retailers, direct-to-consumer brands and wholesale distributors to receive an accurate real-time view of all their inventory data

Cairns explains: “Retailers have challenges around over-selling and disappointing customers when stock is not available that not only lead to a negative customer experience, but also huge operational cost. In 2023, we’re looking at far more successful business cases being derived from operational efficiency than sales growth, so there are some significant cost benefits to managing inventory and orders more efficiently.”

Cairns encourages prospective customers to not just look at the capability of the technology platform but at the ongoing operational cost and set the time to value. By way of example, he cites a project with one of the world’s leading luxury fashion brands. It took six months to roll out to 13 countries, as opposed to a two-year roll out that had been quoted by a large, legacy provider.

“There was no degradation in capability or reduction in scope. It’s just that modern software is easier to use, frankly, and quicker to get up to speed with – that’s one of the advantages we have. If we just approached the market in the same way that everyone had done it previously, I don’t think we’d have a business,” he adds.

It is clear that a flexible, distributed order management system, like Fluent Order Management, can offer digital agility and a better customer experience, while ensuring cost efficiencies across the business. “There are no failed business cases that we’ve experienced,” says Cairns. “We have extremely loyal customers because they’re seeing great return on investment.”

But what does the future hold? “Big inventory is the next phase of innovation in order and inventory management,” explains Cairns. This means having an inventory hub that adds value to a range of systems, both on the customer experience side and in the planning and allocation. These could include updating ad platforms with inventory availability to make them more efficient.

But as the market continues to rapidly transform, Cairns says, the proof will be in the pudding.

For more information visit