Item-Level RFID technology

From the Principal’s Office

This is the second of a series of short articles focused on a specific retail technology that we feel is underutilized, underestimated yet very powerful. Marshall Kay contributed to this topic. We hope you can make practical use of these short articles.

Please let us know if we can assist you to make these happen for your business!

Item-Level RFID – Bob Amster, Principal – RTG & Marshall Kay, Founder – RFID Sherpas

Item-Level RFID technology has been in use since approximately 2001. For a technology that has been around so long, RFID Item-Level tagging is woefully under-deployed.

Over the past 5-7 years there has been a “quiet revolution” afoot in apparel, footwear and other soft goods categories. But most retail experts and journalists still know virtually nothing about this. The world’s largest specialty apparel retailers all embraced RFID, as did best-in-class leaders like Target, Nike and Lululemon. All of Walmart USA’s apparel is now being tagged in factories too.

RFID makes it possible for a store’s employees to efficiently and accurately perform a complete inventory count, with whatever frequency the retailer wishes. This helps them keep salesfloors properly stocked, and it helps retailers maintain on-floor product availability with less capital tied up in fleetwide inventory.

As it applies to omni-channel strategies, having an accurate real-time view of each store’s inventory lets a retailer expose 100% of its in-store units to online shoppers and make 100% of units available for important programs like BOPIS, curbside pickup and same day delivery. Why would any retailer send an online customer to pay for and pick-up an item that may no longer be there?

Traditionally, retailers have played it safe, often requiring that a store have at least 3 or 4 units of a SKU on hand before making it available for BOPIS or curbside pickup.

With RFID, the retailer can instantly reserve the product, receive confirmation that the unit has been already put aside with that customer’s name, and quickly confirm to the customer that the item is now waiting in a dedicated ‘customer order pick-up area’, or “curbside” as is now, and will for a long time, be the new modus operandi.

An overlooked benefit of hand-held RFID devices is that they have a product locator feature, which acts like a Geiger counter and beeps as one gets closer to the item for which one is searching. Employees use it when they are having trouble locating a product in the stockroom or on the salesfloor.

Maintaining an accurate real-time picture of each store’s inventory is also helpful to Loss Prevention professionals working at corporate headquarters and in the field, even if the retailer chooses not to invest yet in RFID hardware at the entrances to their stores.

There has been a misconception that RFID has been too expensive for small and mid-sized companies. But tags have been cheap for many years. Today, they cost about 5 cents, making it easy to see why Target hopped on this train in 2016 and Walmart has too. The hardware is not expensive and can be amortized. Several affordable software offerings are available, including many SaaS solutions.

RFID is not solely for soft goods. It is increasingly being used too in the consumer electronics, housewares, and sporting goods categories.

Why not begin the journey with RTG and RFID SHERPAS, with a well-thought-out proof of concept, followed by a pilot and eventual full deployment?