Product availability information from online stores
The Problem


It is challenging for businesses to ensure sufficient inventory to meet consumer demand for advertised products.  This challenge to anticipate and match customer demand is exacerbated by the nature of e-commerce.  For example, the number of customer orders is not limited in the same way as in brick-and-mortar retail sites.  Items for which inventory has been depleted can be presented as available at the online store front.  Customers may attempt to place an order for such items.  Some systems do not even have mechanisms by which customers are notified that specific products are currently unavailable.  This can be a frustrating customer experience.  To be successful, online stores must provide up-to-date and accurate product availability information to customers.

The Solution 1


Our solution can provide up-to-date product availability information to customers in real time.  To ensure accuracy, for a product advertised on the store front, our online store front not only keeps track of its quantity physically in inventory, our solutions also monitor a number of other factors, such as quantities ordered but not yet shipped, quantities shipped on the day of determining availability, and quantities scheduled to arrive from vendors.  For certain products, their availability information also depends on a holiday date (e.g., for seasonal items), or an expiration date (e.g., for items with limited shelf life).  For some products, their availability is assumed because either the product is always available, or the delivery date is far enough out that the product is determined to be reliably available by that time.


When a consumer selects a product for viewing at the store front, the product's availability information will be presented.  For example, the availability information can be that the product is not currently available at the selected delivery date, the product will be available on a later date, or the product is available until a specific date if the product is only available for a limited period of time.


Our solution can also divide up a customer order into multiple orders with different delivery dates if the order includes items unavailable by the selected delivery date specified by the customer.  For example, items determined unavailable on the selected date are placed in another order which is assigned a later date upon which such items will be available for delivery.  Or, the customer is given a choice to consolidate all of his items in the order to be delivered at the later date.


There can be many customers ordering the same product from many different computers at the same time.  There can be many servers responsible to the different customers (or many instances of the availability information on many computers).  It is difficult to synchronize information in all of the servers all the time.  Our solutions can provide a product quota in each server.  When the quota in one server is exhausted, availability information of the products in all of the servers would be synchronized at that time.

The Solution 2


Our integrated solution can accurately determine product availability at customer-selected delivery time.  Our store front is integrated to a warehouse management system, a product delivery system and a vendor system.  The vendor system issues purchase order of products to merchants.  The warehouse management system keeps track of product arrival into a distribution center from merchants, and the capacities of the distribution center.  The product delivery system monitors the delivery vehicle capacities.  By simultaneously keeping track of the multiple systems, our online store can more accurately provide product availability information to customers.


Many customers can be trying to order the same product at the same time.  Since the online store also can keep track of the multiple customer interactions, their activities can dynamically change product availability.  For example, there will be more of the product if another customer previously with the product in his shopping cart either logs out of his e-commerce session before finishing his transaction, or removes the product  from his cart.  Also, there will be more of the product available if another customer returns such product to the online store.  Based on such information, the online store can dynamically and instantaneously change product availability information.


If a customer has pre-purchased a product that is not yet available, the online store can allow the customer to access current information regarding the product from its store front.  For example, when the unavailable product finally becomes available, such as has arrived at the distribution center, such availability information is reflected on the online store front for the customer.

Online Order Fulfillment