The Future of Distributed Inventory

Allison Champion
4 min read
May 1, 2020
Modified: March 20, 2023

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we can say that the future of distributed inventory is almost certain. With mass quarantines in place, e-commerce is no longer just facet of your distribution strategy, it IS your distribution strategy until the Coronavirus passes and stay-at-home orders are lifted. 

In this blog post we analyze how the Coronavirus is predicted to affect the future of distributed inventory; discuss the trends you can expect to see in the coming year and explore the facets of inventory management and physical distribution that will likely never be the same again. 

Distribution Trends to Watch in 2020

If you had asked us about the future of inventory management last year, you would have likely received a different answer than asking us now. COVID-19 kind of threw a wrench into everyone’s best laid plans for 2020 but that doesn’t mean we can’t predict the future of distributed inventory. 

All we need to do is consider recent events and apply what we’ve learned to our fulfillment strategy for the coming year.

Increased Emphasis on Risk Mitigation

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s the importance of risk mitigation. Though few could predict the speed and scale the Coronavirus would ravage the global supply chain, we are certain that the companies who emphasized risk mitigation prior to the outbreak have so far fared better than those that did not. 

So, how do you practice risk mitigation in a post-COVID world? Looking forward, the best way for retailers to mitigate risk to their distributed inventory is to:

  • Implement alternate sources of supply
  • Enhance supply chain visibility
  • Develop alternate inbound and outbound logistics options
  • Focus on production scheduling
  • Conduct global scenario planning.

Condensed Forecasting Timeframes

When the Coronavirus hit, many retailers were left with products sitting on the shelf that expired due to spoilage and/or obsolescence. Politico reports, billions of dollars in revenue were simply tossed in the trash with the spoiled product.

As the world fortifies itself against the next global epidemic, we can expect retailers to minimize the timeframe of their forecasting models to mitigate the effect of spoilage and obsolescence should another COVID-19 like pandemic occur. 

Shift in Consumer Behavior

There are thousands of indicators that determine the viability of a retail trend but the ultimate determining factor for all things retail is consumer behavior. As it is, consumers have made it very clear that digitally enabled convenience is important to them and that is unlikely to change in the post COVID-19 world. 

Though consumers will assuredly rush to patronize their favorite establishments when stay-at-home restrictions are lifted, they are unlikely to relinquish the convenience that e-commerce grocery, subscription services, and at-home kits provided. 

Shorter Supply Chains 

Think of COVID-19 as the catalyst that finally forced the e-commerce, retail and distribution industries to rethink their supply chain models. 

Now the Coronavirus is actively disrupting the global supply chain and, as you might expect,  the companies most affected by the COVID-19 outbreak are those which relied too heavily on parts and materials sourced from factories in China, South Korea, and Italy and those who depend on distribution centers in China to fulfil their need for raw materials and/or finished products.

As we move into the post COVID-19 world, one thing is certain – the vulnerabilities of the global supply chain are too obvious to ignore any longer. Therefore, we can expect companies to shorten the length of their supply chain by bringing their suppliers closer to home via a process called nearshoring.


Contrary to offshoring – where a company outsources goods and services to a country like China or India – nearshoring is the practice of outsourcing goods and services from countries a little closer to home.  

For example, if an American company wanted to practice nearshoring, they would first try to source goods from Mexico or Canada, rather than China. Nearshoring has several benefits, the greatest of which is proximity. 

The closer your suppliers are to your customers, the shorter your supply chain. The shorter your supply chain, the faster you can react, adjust, and adapt to changes in the global paradigm, like epidemics, natural disasters and geo-political factors. 

Greater Need for On-Demand Warehousing and Fulfillment

If the last few months have shown us anything, it’s that the future is far from certain. In fact, one of the few things we can say for certain is that the future of distributed inventory will look nothing like its past.

If retailers are to survive the coming years, they need to adapt to the leaner, shorter, more agile supply chain. In the new world of uncertainty, retailers, wholesalers, and manufacturers can no longer rely on farsighted forecasting models to dictate their distribution strategy.  

They need a solution that enables them to respond to shifts in demand and adjust their distribution network quickly in the face of global crisis. On-demand warehousing and e-commerce order fulfillment is that solution. 

Flowspace: The Future of Distributed Inventory

If you look at the future and fear the uncertainty that lies ahead, then you’re not alone. Every link in the global supply chain is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak. In the face of an uncertain future, the best thing you can do is enhance your ability to react to change. 

As the premium on-demand warehousing on e-commerce order fulfillment provider in the country, no one can ensure the future of your distributed inventory better than Flowspace. 

Even when the Coronavirus pandemic passes and the world goes back to normal, our dependence on e-commerce order fulfillment will only increase. Now is the time to bring in the experts on distributed inventory.  

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Written By:

flowspace author Allison Champion

Allison Champion

Allison Champion leads marketing communication at Flowspace, where she works to develop content that addresses the unique challenges facing modern brands in omnichannel eCommerce. She has more than a decade of experience in content development and marketing.

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