It’s not another buzzword – How item-level data has changed retail for good.

Item-level data: What is it, and what does it mean for retailers?

If you’re always reading about item-level data or item-level inventories but aren’t sure what all the fuss is about, we’re here to explain. It’s not just another retail tech buzzword, it tells the story of an industry transforming, the first step in a global shift from analogue to digital retailing (and we aren’t just talking about Ecommerce here).

When a retailer’s IT systems work on an item-level, they can identify, count, track and trace each individual product. While it sounds simple enough, in theory, it’s harder to do in practice and has only recently been made possible by new technology like RFID.

The benefits are huge, and while we will explore them in more detail, they include running leaner and more efficient stores, stronger supply chains and powerful data and insights.

Before we do that, lets briefly cover the current (or old, arguably) alternative to this: a stock keeping unit or (SKU).

What is a stock keeping unit?

A Stock Keeping Unit uses a basic code that specifies the identity of a product – for example, a plain white t-shirt, size L.

One of the main differences here is that an SKU can (and should be) logged and counted multiple times, for example, if you are counting those 10 white t-shirts, you are counting the same SKU 10 times.

Barcodes tend to operate on SKU’s, and you can scan the same barcode over and over.

  • Specifies the product type and size
  • Is counted multiple times

What does item-level data mean?

For retailers, working on an item-level simply means treating each item as a unique, identifiable piece of merchandise.

On the technical side, that means each item must have a unique code – called an Electronic Product Code (EPC).

Effectively, item-level data means being able to tell the difference between 10 medium white t-shirts. With EPCs, you could replace one of those 10 with another of the same item and be able to identify the new one from its unique code.

This might seem arbitrary, but it is one of the key drivers of transformation and change in the way retailers manage their stores and supply chains in recent years. Removing the human error element is one thing, but the unique ID’s open the door to much more.

These unique product codes are what makes RFID possible, as hundreds of radio signals can be emitted and read at once. Since each item has a unique ID there is never any risk of counting something twice. This means its possible to do store stocktakes in a matter of minutes, and verify items going through the supply chain without even opening up the box!

Additionally, the item-level data makes the world of difference when it comes to the supply chain.

If you were to track items on an SKU level within the supply chain, it would only tell you how much of each product passes through. Even this is too time-consuming, however, as it would require opening boxes and scanning individual bar codes, so instead DC’s and factories scan boxes, and operate on a carton level.

With item-level verification inbound and outbound at DCs, the individual contents can be counted and checked (via radiofrequency). These unique product IDs mean another whole layer of data, individual items can be tracked and traced from source to store.

  • Can’t count items more than once
  • Makes rapid inventory counts possible
  • Individual product codes mean you can track and trace items across the supply chain
  • More accurate data across the supply chain

The benefits of item-level retailing

 The Detego Platform – Delivering item-level data to retail

The Detego platform is the definitive solution for delivering and utilising item-level data for retailers. The RFID platform covers every step of the item journey, from factories to distribution centres, to stores. Track and trace individual products across the supply chain, perform store stocktakes in minutes and take the guesswork out of retail. If you’re a retailer with several or even hundreds of stores, the Detego platform is purpose-built to get the most out of your stores and supply chain.

Detego Retail Store Application

Cloud-hosted RFID software

Stock accuracy, on-floor availability, and omnichannel applications in stores.

Detego Store is a cloud-hosted RFID solution which digitises stock management processes, making them more efficient and more accurate. Implemented within hours, our multi-user app can provide intelligent stock takes and a smart in-store replenishment process. Later, you can scale the solution to offer omnichannel services and effectively manage your entire store operations with real-time, item-level inventory visibility and analytics.

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