Achieving near real-time stock availability in a multi-channel environment

How PASàPAS built a solution to track product availability across multiple channels, in near real-time for very large transaction volumes.  

Excellent customer experience is as critical to retaining customers in online sales as it is to bricks-and-mortar shops.  Customers now expect to see whether an item they want to buy is in stock.  Fulfilling that stock promise is a crucial part of the overall customer experience. 

A pure-play online retailer may only have one pool of stock and their online shop is the only source of demand upon that stock; for them ensuring accurate stock availability to the customer is relatively easy.  But, for those with multiple sales channels the picture is much more complex.  For example, anyone offering a click and collect service online has to be confident that the website knows the in-store stock position even though customers are buying from that same store stock through the tills.  

With SAP at the core, it is easy to see what stock is available (not just present), the challenge is providing the stock availability data to the customer-facing systems, with low latency.  Latency, i.e. the time between an event that changes the stock availability and the effect being visible to the customer, can mean selling the same item to two customers – disappointing one of them. Latency damages customer experience and so goodwill.   

To minimize this latency, PASàPAS has developed a real-time availability solution, designed and implemented for a large retailer.  The solution exploits SAP’s standard availability functions known as Available to-Promise (ATP) and is therefore consistent with the ATP configuration.  It achieves low latency by only performing the ATP calculations when needed.   

The current SAP solution  

SAP is fully aware of this need for retailers.  The SAP solution to this challenge is SAP Omnichannel Article Availability which requires a minimum SAP Retail release of EHP7 SP11.  

The solution created by PASàPAS works on any ECC system without a specific EHP upgrade.  This opens up multi-channel availability to all retailers currently using SAP ECC or S/4HANA.  

The PASàPAS method to calculate real-time availability 

It’s important to remember that physical stock is not available stock; availability factors in commitments upon that stock.  Therefore, the availability needs to be reassessed and published across channels after every change in commitments as well as change in physical stock. 

The PASàPAS solution uses event-based technology to communicate fresh availability data following all data changes that could affect ATP: sales orders, stock receipts and adjustments, stock transport orders, master data, and more.   

Event-driven ATP

Once calculated, the availability updates can be distributed as needed by the specific landscape; by way of just two examples, it could be sent via SAP PO to a RESTful  API in the web domain, or stored in an optimised table to serve real-time queries.  

The solution has been live with our retail client for over 10 months, handling millions of ATP events per day.  It can be implemented for you in a matter of weeks.  

This solution is not just reserved for large retailers. It is useful for any business with multi-channel sales.  Lower latency in-stock availability information will always improve the customer experience, which is relevant for businesses of any size.  

Learn more about real-time availability

You can watch a video of Richard, the solution’s developer, explaining the process here.  
For more information about implementing real-time stock availability in a multi-channel environment, click here to talk to our team about your needs.