For years now, bar codes have been a staple on merchandise of all shapes and sizes. With an incredibly low costs, bar codes have been the go-to method for tracking inventory in retail. However, RFIDs (radio frequency identification) are quickly rising in popularity. RFIDs can be read without a direct line-of-sight, and because of this, they are already widely used in retail for security reasons, despite costing three times as much as bar codes (fifteen cents compared to five cents).
RFIDs are advantageous for stores, of course; the retailer gains the ability to combine their customers’ online and offline shopping data for a more unified customer view. But customers benefit from RFID technology too. For example, retailers such as Burberry have experimented with fitting room and sales floor applications that trigger interactive and video content that shows the tagged item being made and then modeled on the catwalk. Burberry’s in-store RFID data also syncs with their shopper loyalty program to give customers a more personalized experience.
Macy’s also utilizes RFID technology to identify individual items without the line-of-sight. RFIDs let a huge Macy’s store identify items, cases, or pallets with richer data, despite the items not being in eyesight. Macy’s calls this “omnichannel” sales, which allow the buyer to close the sale on their own terms, whether it’s in the store, on the Web, or over social media. The customers also get flexible buying options; for example, he or she can buy an item online and then pick it up in store, while a store associate can sell an item to a customer by replenishing inventory from another nearby store.
One final example of RFID technology and retail interacting can be found in Microsoft’s “smart” fitting room. This prototype solution, developed by Microsoft, Accenture, and Avanade would be equipped with an RFID scanner, which would suggest similar items or alternate sizes or colors for the specific customer, based on past shopping data. As for the store, they could then use the data to identify potential sizing discrepancies, cross-selling opportunities, and even give insight on when and where extra staff might be needed.
Bar codes may be cheaper, but with RFID technology, you get what you pay for- and the insights gleaned from RFID technology make it invaluable for stores.