Why RFID in Retail Is at a Tipping Point

If you’ve been paying attention to retail technology lately — especially in the apparel industry — you’ve likely heard people talking about RFID. Recent research found that the number of retailers using radio frequency identification (RFID) tech in 2017 increased 39 percent over 2016, a substantial increase. So why are so many retailers getting on board with RFID? Because the future of omnichannel retail could be built on this technology.

RFID tags and readers can provide many insights into what’s going on in stores and help keep customers happy at the same time. RFID adoption is a trend that’s likely to continue, as it presents many benefits for business including the ability to know what’s where at all times, to staff stores wisely, and to improve the bottom line.

Improved Inventory Accuracy

Brick-and-mortar retail stores have a lot to track. Stores are full of products, and new merchandise keeps coming in. Having accurate inventory is critical, not only to keep operations running smoothly but also to keep customers happy. If a customer can’t get the item they want in a store, they’ll likely head to another retailer to find it. Even worse, imagine a customer saw on the business’s website that a store had the product they wanted, but arrived at the store to discover that information was inaccurate.

Real-time, accurate inventory prevents these kinds of mishaps. When retailers have accurate data, they can quickly find more of an item in the back, confidently post items online even if they only have a small amount of inventory on hand, and enable buy online, pick up in-store — the growing trend in takeout retail. With accurate data, retailers and customers both gain flexibility in when and where purchases happen.

RFID Is Becoming More Affordable

The concept of RFID technology isn’t new, but we’re seeing substantial growth in retail now in part because the price might finally be right. In 2003, an RFID tag cost about a dollar (not an insubstantial amount if you consider retailers need to put a tag on every item), but now the price is down to about 10 cents. The goal for technology companies is for RFID tags to reach a penny each, which could lead to even more widespread adoption.

Retailers can also choose from a variety of scanners and sensors for reading RFID tags. Handheld devices are usually less expensive than stationary sensors up front, but fixed RFID solutions often prove more cost-effective in the long run because they can help fully automate processes and reduce ongoing labor costs. Retailers can select the most appropriate RFID devices from these options based on cost, ease of use, and store layout.

Employees Can Spend Time Wisely

Employee time is valuable, so having store associates spend time on the most important tasks (such as assisting customers) is preferable. Because RFID technology speeds up inventory and can instantly track down items, it frees up associates to spend time interacting with people in stores.

The insights gained from RFID technology can also help employees do their jobs better. RFID data can inform retailers about the most effective product placements, suggest ideal store layouts, and reveal which products are most popular. All that information will help store associates make the store the best it can be and sell products to shoppers.

A Better Omnichannel Business

The most successful retailers tend to be the most agile. They’re prepared to interact with customers wherever their customers shop, whether that’s in stores, on the website, or via a mobile app. RFID technology and related responsive retail technology make it possible for retailers to track everything faster and more accurately, a key capability in an industry where customers expect the items they want to be available when and where they want them.

By reducing inaccuracies, reducing costs associated with monitoring inventory manually, and pleasing customers by providing the items they’re looking for quickly, retailers can see improved ROI for RFID, in addition to improved agility. These improvements can lead to transformed retail businesses.

Learn more about the future of RFID in retail and the Intel® Responsive Retail Platform at our website. And don’t forget to stay up to date with retail technology trends at the IT Peer Network.

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Joe Jensen

About Joe Jensen

General Manager, Retail Solutions Division (RSD), Intel Corporation: RSD is bringing the Internet of Things to retail by developing the hardware, software and analytics technologies that will enable brands and retailers to deliver the perfect personalized shopping experience. RSD owns point-of-sale, ATM, Kiosks, Digital Signage, Intelligent Vending, and Micro Digital Signage for Intel. In prior roles Joe directed the Strategic Planning, Marketing, and Operations for Intel's Consumer Electronics Group. Before that he was the General Manager of the Embedded Intel Architecture Division within Intel Corporation. Intel’s Embedded Intel Architecture focus is the development of new market segments and applications for Intel core PC and Server technologies. These market segments include communications, point of sale, industrial computer, and educational computing. Joe has a BS in Electrical Engineering from South Dakota State University and an MBA from Arizona State University. He started with Intel in 1984 in engineering and has worked in all aspects of the semiconductor business from product design, through manufacturing and to marketing.