The replenishment process works to avoid cumbersome overstocking in the home and business. Movement of inventory from upstream reserves to downstream consumer locations such as stores, restaurants and the home has been fine-tuned to maintain efficient order and precise line fill rates.
Traditionally, auto replenishment has been a tool for those who don’t have time or staffing resources to keep and report a thorough inventory, but under the traditional model, it has a lot of problems. Without accurate inventory data, vendors ship on a regular calendar cycle, often leading to overstocking or gaps in product availability. Overstocking can be expensive and wasteful, and gaps can lead to halts on the manufacturing line or dissatisfied customers.
Internet of Things (IoT) leaders recognized that this was not only a solvable problem, but that IoT-driven auto replenishment solutions could drive sales. With IoT, you can automatically track inventory based on actual data, ensuring that replenishment is performed based on actual need.
In the Home
As we examined in two recent posts, Amazon has charged ahead as the leader in selling, making, and supporting IoT devices for the home. With the release of the new and slightly controversial Amazon Dash and Amazon Dash Button, home auto replenishment for items such as fabric softener, paper towels and cat food is quite literally as easy as the wave of a wand or the touch of a button. The home consumer no longer has to stare at a wall of options at the grocery store or even try to remember which brand he or she got last time. Amazon Dash and the Amazon Dash Button connect directly to your Amazon Prime account, reordering the item and sending it directly to your door.
This IoT shopping experience relies strictly on convenience. No shopping around, no couponing, no deal hunting. The Amazon Dash user knows what brands they want and are not as worried about price. But we’re willing to bet Amazon will innovate to bring in their deal-hunting user base.
While auto inventory apps like Egg Minder have been available for some time, Amazon has taken us from auto inventory to auto replenishment.
For the retailer, restaurant owner, or any customer service provider, IoT auto replenishment creates efficiencies, saves money and has the potential to increase sales. Managing inventory requires staff resources and if done poorly, causes overstock or gaps in service. Companies who charge ahead of the game and work with business partners to offer and utilize auto replenishment will enjoy a level of convenience and cost savings that puts them ahead of competitors and increases sales.
Large institutions such as hospitals also stand to see great savings in utilization of IoT auto replenishment, and customer satisfaction in health care is a growing business imperative. Currently connected medical devices can proactively replenish supplies before they are needed. For example, connected lab devices that require specific chemicals and compounds to operate can be monitored and tracked in real-time and trigger an alert before supplies are depleted. This can enable automatic replenishment systems to deploy and limit downtime and improve patient and caregiver satisfaction.
But does it drive sales?
For retailers and other customer-facing companies, the sales benefits of well-managed inventory and auto replenishment have been realized, and now are being strengthened through IoT solutions. In a B2B marketplace, manufacturers and vendors who don’t innovate to accommodate the fast-changing auto-replenishment expectations of business partners and consumers will surely flatline.
Companies who partnered with Amazon upon launch of the Amazon Dash Button took a bold step into IoT auto replenishment in the home. Upon scanning the list of products available through Dash, you will notice that most of them are items that one usually purchases in the store. While consumers claim to enjoy shopping online, a recent survey suggests 29% of them made their most recent purchases elsewhere. Companies with an Amazon Dash Button remove the active “shopping” portion of the online experience and replaces it with convenience, brand presence and brand loyalty. We look forward to seeing the first round of data come in post-launch.
In a B2B marketplace, vendors and manufacturers who offer the convenience of IoT auto replenishment will be providing their clients with a higher level of customer service and helping them to create valued efficiency, thereby increasing their own sales and client loyalty. In B2C, both online and in retail, consumers will come to rely on the availability and convenience of their preferred products, building brand loyalty through convenience, and thereby driving sales.
How do I adapt my business?
The key is to innovate and be ready to change the game. IoT is raising the stakes and presenting new opportunities. Partner with a trusted and tested vendor who understands your industry and can help decide how your company can best navigate the landscape and innovate to provide your clients, customers and consumers with the best available products and service.