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A major inconvenience for online grocery consumers occurs when the products they want and need are out of stock at the store. Some delivery services suggest replacement items or just apologize for not being able to supply it. But it remains a hindrance, because consumers cannot make the decision in the moment, while in the store, to skip or replace the item for themselves. A promising solution, being tested by Instacart, would add low stock alerts to the app, to inform consumers in advance if an item they have added to their list is indicating low inventory levels at their local store. In a study involving 840,000 randomly selected shoppers, the low inventory alerts prompted most customers to switch to an acceptable alternative, with higher stock levels, before placing their order. As a result, the per customer revenue earned among this sample increased by 5.3 percent. In addition to this immediate benefit, the customers who received the information indicated greater satisfaction and more intentions to use the online service again. Thus, the solution is evident. But another challenge remains: Currently, inventory systems are not sufficiently accurate to support real-time updates for every customer, shopping at every grocery store, throughout Instacart’s vast domain. Without precise, accurate information about stock levels, alerting systems cannot provide the desired benefits for customers.

Sources: Tom Ryan, “Would Online Grocery Benefit from Low Inventory Alerts?” Retail Wire, February 22, 2023