RFID back as the future of retail technology?
In the early 2000’s RFID tags were anticipated to be the future of retail technology, revolutionising supply chains. The tags with chips that can be scanned 25 feet away enable stores to check their stock, continually maintaining stock accuracy between online and offline channels. Nearly 20 years later the revolution never materialised but now the explosive ecommerce growth has brands revisiting the tags for omnichannel fulfillment. The cost of the tags has also reduced dramatically over the past decade driving retailers to upgrade the retail technology for their in-store and online inventory.
We previously reported on the RFID systems and the benefits for customers retail experience. The technology can be used for better operational efficiency, personalisation read the full report here.
Back in 2015 Target reported it would be rolling out the technology to create seamless, stress-free shopping experiences for customers. Two years later in partnership with Avery Dennison, Target has deployed RFID across over 1,600 locations.
M&S has already been working with labelling specialist Avery Dennis on RFID since 2003 and in 2014 became the first retailer to move to 100% RFID tagging across all merchandise. Mega retailer Walmart also announced it was requiring all vendors to place RFID tags on all shipments to improve supply chain management. Building the tags directly into products helps improve the omnichannel offering. In the UK, department store John Lewis began rolling out RFID earlier this year, using handheld readers in all 34 branches. The deployment comes after piloting the technology in 2014 and 2015.
Department store Macy’s was one of the first retailers to embrace the technology, committing to tag every item with RFID by the end of 2017 and even requesting all of its vendors supply merchandise pre-fitted with ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags. With retailers seeking more convenient fulfillment options, RFID implementation becomes more of a requirement. Brands need to track inventory not just for customers but also for employees looking to find the items.
River Island recently announced it will be attaching radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to every item of clothing it stocks. The fashion retailer is using the tags to more accurately track stock to ensure the items customers want is available both in stores and online. The chain first began experimenting with RFID tags four years ago and now plans to roll out the technology across 280 stores and warehouses. The retailer can now quickly carry out inventory, something previously only conducted twice a year and now does weekly.
Retailers are finding other diverse uses for the tags outside of inventory, including combining the technology with fitness trackers and smartwatches to interact with customers in-store. Disney introduced the MagicBand in 2013, a Disney-branded RFID bracelet to make theme parks more interactive.
Other uses for the retail technology include queueless checkout, if RFID readers are linked to payment systems retailers can use smart bags connected to customers accounts for queueless checkout. Amazon has already demonstrated this with its Amazon Go store concept.
Interactive fitting rooms
Designer brand Rebecca Minkoff opened its first connected store in 2014 which incorporates RFID into the garments creating interactive fitting rooms. When customers bring garments into fitting rooms the mirror automatically recognises the tag and pulls up the product in other available sizes or colours.
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