Welcome to the era of what I’d like to call ‘Thinventory.’ This is an era where retailers are so scared that the economy is going to leave them with unsold products on their hands that they would rather carry too little stock than too much. It is also the era where even hot products like the iPhone are deliberately understocked. It is of course the smart way to run a retail business – match inventory to demand. For the shopper it is frustrating when they are using traditional retail outlets but almost invisible when they are shopping online. The smart retail operations are the ones that can blend this online shopping with the traditional environment and have the product you want shipped to your home overnight. This problem is particularly troublesome for sellers of say shoes and clothes, where the same product comes in multiple sizes. Carrying enough of every size is expensive and risky but if they can provide a thin level of inventory in each store and then hold a further amount at a central store to either replenish store stocks or service customers online they will likely do better than having every store hold all the stock.
If like me you occasionally poke around on YouTube for research reasons, you may have noticed an increasing number of videos of things that are for sale. This includes items like cars and houses. This of course makes complete sense as it becomes clear that if you want to buy a big ticket item it might be nice to have more than a few pictures, which is typical on eBay. It would seem logical therefore that Google, as the new owner of YouTube, may just look at adding an eCommerce engine to YouTube to enable people to actually buy the items shown on the videos. YouTube purists may say this will make it even harder to find good content but I suspect the guys in Mountain View could find a solution if the site really does fill up with sale items. Of course, the other alternative is that eBay adds YouTube like features to its site. Watch this space.