Using automated solutions to pursue item-level inventory can benefit C-store owners in a number of ways.
Using automated solutions to pursue item-level inventory can benefit C-store owners in a number of ways.

Inventory management is among the most essential back-office tasks for any convenience store. Ensuring you have sufficient stock of in-demand products is central to customer satisfaction – but it’s not the only inventory-related factor that owners must address.

A study by consulting service AlixPartners found the three most-cited reasons customers had for choosing a particular C-store (after No. 1 answer location) were:

  • Product price.
  • Merchandise selection.
  • Promotions and discounts.

All of these variables fall under the inventory management umbrella; and considering their importance to successful operations, C-stores need to realize the era of clipboards, pens and manual checklists is well in the past.

Item-level inventory and automation are the emerging industry standards owners need to consider, as they can deliver significant benefits. The inventory management efficiency gains businesses can net by investing in convenience store retail software impact not only the back of house but also customer satisfaction.

What exactly is item-level inventory?

While not necessarily new, item-level inventory continues to gain traction among C-stores as software solutions advance in capability and usability. Item-level inventory refers to the process of tagging individual items (using technology instruments like RFID scanners) and collecting data that can be organized, tracked and reported on by C-store staff.

It’s a lot more efficient than traditional inventory management methodologies and allows C-stores to be more:

  • Responsive to customer demands or industry trends.
  • Accurate in pricing and displays.
  • Knowledgeable on their operations (thanks to the increased visibility and control).

While physical product counts are a fundamental part of any inventory management scheme, item-level builds on traditional setups. This is done by granting owners insight and transparency to enhance their operations by gathering granular data that relates to:

  • Margins per item.
  • Vendor price compliance.
  • Current promotion or discounts.

“Automated item-level inventory helps store owners improve both the back office and the front of store.”

The automated aspect of item-level inventory is yet another draw to such a strategy. While staff might be able to collect nuanced information points on their own, it could take them hours, weeks, even months, to gather, organize and present data on hundreds of constantly shifting products. This manual work not only drags on C-stores and saps them of any ability to quickly and effectively tackle inventory but also opens them to the costly risks of human error.

Customer experience and operational visibility benefit from item-level inventory

Having a centralized back office system that boasts the most up-to-date inventory data is a competitive advantage for C-stores. If location is dismissed, the key criteria by which customers judge their experience involve inventory: price, selection, discounts. Item-level inventory (supported by automated retail software solutions) helps C-store owners gain visibility into all those categories with unprecedented ease and access.

Consider the disappointment a customer may feel if they visit a nearby location, only to find a favored product out of stock. Imagine their further discontent if a price they encounter in-store isn’t available with the coupon they have. Automated item-level inventory helps stores avoid such negative experiences that damage customer loyalty by ensuring you’re neither understocked nor out of sync with your central price book.

On the operational side, being overstocked can be just as costly as its inverse. Having a system of automated controls and alerts can help C-store owners keep their stores properly stocked and eliminate the costs of dead products.

Item-level inventory supported by automated retail software helps C-store owners improve both the back office and the front of store: a dual advantage.

Did You Know: Your Source for PDI News provided by PDI, the leader in enterprise management software for the convenience retail and petroleum wholesale markets.