Retailers, picture this: you’ve got a big flash sale about to go live. The good news is you expect a huge spike in online sales. The bad news? That spike makes it near-impossible for you to get a real-time, accurate picture of how much inventory is available to sell. Inaccurate inventory can mean underselling forcing you to mark down later, or worse, overselling, creating furious customers who can't get what they think they bought!

Flash sales — as well as new product launches and holiday seasons’ heavy loads — are business-critical events that highlight the challenges retailers face with real-time inventory visibility. That’s why Salesforce is readying a pilot of its new Inventory Availability Service, a massively high-scale microservice service integrated with Commerce Cloud that can support millions of requests per minute.

Accurate, up-to-the-millisecond inventory availability is crucial to retail success and helps retailers meet the demands of modern shoppers. Why?

  • Activating inventory across all channels ensures merchants can leverage all inventory positions

  • Inaccurate inventory counts can lead to disappointed customers and a poor brand experience

  • Lack of accurate availability counts contribute to issues with overstocking and/or understocking for specific products and locations

  • Launching programs like browse by store and buy-online-pick-up-in-store require an accurate view of availability

Inventory Availability Service is a horizontally scalable microservice that gives retailers up-to-the-second visibility into millions of items and tens of thousands of fulfillment channels. That means retailers can track and expose which products are available at each location in every channel, creating a true omni-channel shopping experience at scale.

Availability: Commerce Cloud Inventory Availability Service will begin pilot tests in May, and is projected to be generally available late 2019.


Why it’s different

Salesforce’s Inventory Availability Service sits at the center of a retailer’s customer-facing transactional website and its backend Order Management System and acts as the glue between the selling and the fulfillment experience. Most retailers today are managing inventory with order management, ERP, homegrown systems and/or a point of sale system, but those “solutions” fall far short of meeting retailers’ needs. They don’t sit close enough to the actual selling channels, which prevents real-time visibility into sales activity, nor do they scale to meet the needs of high-volume retailers.

With Inventory Availability Service, companies can import massive quantities of inventory, and segment it within one simple view instead of multiple, manual uploads of predefined inventory lists. Further, the new service will enable location-level inventory so retailers can easily surface what products are available on every channel. For example, shoppers can see that there are six pairs of the black suede pumps in size 8 at a downtown L.A. store, which makes it easier to provide customers with the most accurate view of what’s available to buy.

Integrating Inventory Availability Service into Commerce Cloud accounts for real-time change in inventory across every location, and provides an aggregated view (or “hub”) of inventory availability. This, in turn, empowers retailers to maximize the value of their inventory, ensuring they never miss a chance to sell.


Inventory visibility is a widespread challenge

Despite all the advances in ecommerce technology, some of the biggest brands in the world still struggle with real-time inventory visibility, particularly during high volume events. The massive scalability of Inventory Availability Service means that retailers can launch sales and campaigns knowing that inventory will be updated up to the millisecond.

The planned rollout is as follows:

Phase I

  • Accurate inventory availability across millions of records

  • Support for high-volume requests for up-to-the-millisecond availability

Phase II

  • Activate store inventory in digital channels; track and expose which products are available in every shopping channel

  • Track and expose which products are available in every shopping channel

Want more from the Commerce Innovation Series? Find out why 62% of millennials want visual search more than any other search technology.