With the integration of RFID, brands are finding ways to gain greater real-time insights beyond the store shelf via on-site and off-site inventory visibility, allowing them to improve inventory accuracy, product return efficiency and loss prevention. According to Accenture, research showed 73% of retailers have implemented or were currently implementing or piloting RFID, almost double the number from 2014.
A top trend driving implementation continues to be RFID as the engine for visibility in retail as it’s a critical enabler of improving efficient uses of assets and inventory management, as well as improving the productivity of employees’ time utilization and retail execution. However, benefits don’t stop at visibility, as consumer engagement scenarios are also proving to drive consumer engagement, education and omnichannel experiences.
Overcoming The “Out Of Stock” Pain Point
It’s no secret that the most broadly known and used application of RFID in retail continues to be the minimization of out-of-stock situations and visibility into real-time merchandise location data on products, by allowing retailers to track their inventory throughout the retail supply chain — from the warehouse shelves all the way to the sales floor. And through its implementation, brands also are powering more efficient omnichannel experiences to their customers. When lululemon, which won last year’s “Best RFID Retail Implementation Award,” realized there was a surplus of inventory sitting in their warehouse vs the sales floor, they invested in using RFID technology to solve their customer’s pain points by enhancing “guest experiences.”
The company’s inventory accuracy improved to 90%+ as a result of their implementation and they improved efficiencies in their receive-restock and daily count activities. It not only helped them improve a customer’s experience by opening options to customers, it shed light on areas of serious inefficiencies. For example, they learned they were keeping old, dormant styles in store much longer than they should — some up to five years old. Employees are now equipped with handheld devices and an app that allows them to check inventory without having to leave the customer’s side.
Connecting With Product/Asset Location
Other brands are following suit with RFID investments, and each is working to tailor the benefits to suit their specific needs. The RealReal, the leading luxury consignment company, announced the launch of their platform RealReal 360 this year. Their solution offers a unified, real-time view of inventory, product and customer activity across all platforms as they actively increase their brick-and-mortar footprint while their digital presence continues to grow. With their 360 solution, the brand has a centralized view of their customers and inventory across desktop, mobile, stores and warehouse. Key features include granular insights into customer profiling, seamless inventory management and business intelligence.
Driving In-Store Experiences To Upsell Your Customers
According to a recent survey by Retail Economics, 43% of shoppers are likely to spend more money with retailers that offer a meaningful shopping experience in-store. RFID is helping retailers create targeted experiences that not only enhance the customer journey but improve the bottom line. Pepe Jeans, which has a flagship store on Regent Street in London, uses a tagging system to create an interactive experience on the show floor and in the dressing room, enabling shoppers to instantaneously request different sizes and styles for delivery. When a customer hangs an item up in the changing room, a large screen on the opposite wall instantly detects the sizes, colors and styles of those items and displays them. When a customer tries on each item, it is highlighted on the screen in fully styled looks and with the option of requesting other sizes or ordering alternatives to home.
And Pepe Jeans isn’t alone with their investment in implementing interactive mirrors. MemoMi memory mirrors, which are triggered by RFID tags in clothing have been implemented at Neiman Marcus, allow shoppers to get a 360-degree view of what they’re trying on with simple gestures. Coded into the tag is a number of attributes, including the items’ color options and sizes, which is why the mirror shows you not just the size you picked but all the additional sizes and colors you can choose from, and request, in the store. On average people only go into a dressing room once and get undressed once, so capturing their attention and interests before they leave the dressing room makes the investment in improving the try-on experience worthwhile.
Connect At The Moment Of Purchase Intent
Last year Clark launched as part of a partnership with The Lionesque Group and GGP at the concept store IRL. By using a digitized personal shopping key, in-store visitors were able to save products by tapping their RFID integrated key to a virtual wish list, just as if they were browsing an online store. It enabled them to easily reference back to the exact products they had interest in and even text their cart items to friends for opinions or gift requests.
Over the four-month period, conversions via the Clark platform saw cart values that were almost 300% higher than the average in-store conversion, and it enabled the brands to attribute an incremental increase of online sales due to in-store visits. In addition participating brands gained powerful insights into the customer’s in-store journey, product interest and most importantly, purchase intent.
Redesigning The Checkout Experience (Mastercard & Oaklabs)
When you have a captive customer, one crucial element to customer service and converting a sale is always ensuring that a consumer knows immediately whether the product he or she is trying on is available in any color or size, and then offering them the flexibility of taking it with them or having it sent to their home — all through a few clicks or swipes from the dressing room. With Oaklabs and Mastercard, they are taking connected glass (and mirrors) one step further by embedding payment capabilities into their solution. Once the items to be purchased have been selected, one moves those items into his or her cart in a digital app environment to complete the purchase, and decide in real time what items they want shipped or to take home, and a sales associate awaits outside the fitting room with your items packaged and ready to go.
According to Stephane Wyper, Senior Vice President of IoT Partnerships at Mastercard, from their latest deployment Mastercard saw “significant customer adoption and engagement and cited that customers loved having a real-time view on product availability,” and cites that the industry as a whole needs to continue to build an ecosystem of partners to test with easily and quickly in live environments to prove viability, because this is way of the future to meeting customer expectations.
Creating environments that maintain an emotional connection while checkout is as seamless as possible is the next wave in retail. We are seeing examples of this with connecting the customer experience closer to inventory options, but as the cost of hardware declines and the ecosystem of partners to test, iterate and deploy continues to increase, the possibilities will be come endless.
Where we once thought people would also run stores, we are already seeing unmanned stores start to come to market, notably with JD.com and real estate developer China Overseas Land & Investment Ltd. They have launched stores that allow consumers to walk in, pick up the items they want, and walk out without going through checkout, through sensor fusion technology that uses facial recognition technology to identify customers, as well as image recognition and heat mapping to track their movements and item selections. Not only do these examples inject ease into a consumer’s shopping experience, retailers are able to capture actionable data around customers’ preferences and how inventory moves, allowing them deliver more personalized communications.
A former Wall Street Executive, Melissa Gonzalez is the founder and CEO of The Lionesque Group, a firm of retail strategists and pop-up shop experts who have produced more than 150 retail experiences in major cities across the United States. Most recently she and her team launched an innovative retail format irl (In Real Life), which is the latest concept in bridging online retail to in-store mall real estate and which was nominated for a Best Pop-Up/New Concept Store via Glossy Awards. In 2017, she also launched Clark, an interactive platform for physical retail that empowers consumers to truly connect the online and offline worlds while giving brands real-time transparency into store performance. Some of her clients include major brands such as COTY/Marc Jacobs, Carbon38, Leesa, Raden, M.Gemi, Puma and Penguin Random Hose. She reflects on her work in her book, The Pop-Up Paradigm: How Brands Can Build Human Connections in a Digital Age.