Out of stock: Ensuring on-shelf availability in a pandemic


This post is sponsored by Always Marketing.

The new economic reality

Since the worldwide spread of COVID-19, we have witnessed the dawn of a new economic reality. Governed by the renewed commitment to public health and safety, businesses have had to migrate to digital (and remote working) or risk financial loss, or even closure. This change, it seems, has ramped up our outlook on digital transformation.

However, this digital mandate is no overnight sensation. Rather, it is a paradigm shift which had been in the works since the turn of the 21st century – when the world wide web was introduced – and merely accelerated by the onset of the pandemic. Thus today, we have come to equate digital transformation with business longevity.

The consumer behaviour paradigm

Likewise, as to how businesses responded in a crisis, consumers on the other end responded with a shift in their buying behaviour, altered drastically to prioritise the essential categories. 

Worldwide, sudden spikes in demand, largely owing to herd mentality and panic buying, have seen shortages in medicines, masks, and other consumables, not forgetting the infamous toilet rolls. Naturally, the sight of empty supermarket shelves has become a common occurrence. Though, however unsightly, this extremity does bring the importance of on-shelf availability into a sharper focus.

The out-of-stock problem

Ensuring high on-shelf availability is essential for brands, for at the most fundamental level, it is a measure of their performance. When a product that is sought after is not available on their shelf, there is a possibility of a sales loss and a decrease in consumer loyalty.

But certainly the out-of-stock issue does not discount the brands’ efforts. In the case of such an unprecedented crisis, the extent of surging demands simply exceeds their ability to accurately predict and respond with enough products through their supply chain and onto their shelves. 

What’s more, the detection and measurement of stock-outs are still heavily reliant on manual audits, susceptible to human error, and the availability of products.

Conclusively, the problem at hand attests to the fact that bricks-and-mortar supermarkets are still very much in favour in this digital age, as nothing can quite replace the experience of visiting a store, scanning aisles, and selecting goods. This is particularly relevant to the fresh food category purchasing behaviour. 

But while such physical stores (and the brands they carry) had eluded the digital migration to a certain degree, the systems which support them will greatly benefit from digital transformation.

A digitally transformed solution

Despite consumers now spending less time in-store, courtesy of COVID-19, they are spending more. This poses a profitable opportunity for brands if fully exploited. As such, on-shelf availability is in their best interests (as well as retailers), and thus their responsibility.

always feb 1

A possible solution to this is the automation of brands’ retail execution.

For one, the modern-day industry is running well on metrics and data, thus why should FMCG be left in the dust? On the other hand, amid the range of social distancing measures, government regulations, and retail policies and procedures, any retail execution strategy (that is, a stock check) is made painstakingly difficult for the field teams.

always feb 2

*Using RetailAIM Business Intelligence and Analytics to track out-of-stocks, sales loss, and stock level (figures are for illustrative purposes only).

With RetailAIMbrands can monitor on-shelf availability and inventory status via visual analytics. This feature not only allows them to rectify stock-outs or address the issue before it occurs, but it also ensures that any strategy decided is well-informed from insights gained.

Furthermore, a better record of stock levels makes for greater planning capabilities, especially in such unpredictable times when the extent of Malaysia’s lockdown is ever uncertain. With real-time information sourcing in the supply chain, brands are afforded total visibility to give them an edge on the competition.

RetailAIM, developed by Always Marketing, is a comprehensive field-force automation system application that has a built-in stock check feature, aided by a barcode scanning function, pricing and promotion analytics, and more. 

It’s easy, reliable, and drives productivity at every stage. A real-time mobile business intelligence application with an interactive dashboard and visual analytics – gain control of your retail business, all at the touch of a finger.


To find out more about how RetailAIM can help your field team work smarter, visit retail-aim.com.

To discover what other services and solutions Always Marketing has to offer, visit alwaysmkt.com.my.