Gaylene Meyer on Retail Remix
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Episode 22

How RAIN RFID Powers Next-Gen Customer Experiences

Featuring: Gaylene Meyer, Impinj

In the wake of the pandemic, flexible fulfillment and contactless commerce both came to the forefront. To enable great experiences in these areas, retailers need to bridge the gap between their online and digital inventories, and ensure real-time visibility into product availability and location. This is an area of great struggle for retailers, and it’s something that RAIN RFID can help address. During this episode of Retail Remix host Alicia Esposito sits down with Gaylene Meyer, VP of Global Marketing and Communications at Impinj to discuss how:

  • COVID-19 uncovered ever-present supply chain and inventory management issues;
  • RFID supports greater inventory visibility and, in turn, better fulfillment and contactless commerce experiences; and
  • Retail teams can quantify the value of investment and get support for implementation.

The lack of visibility about inventory
makes it difficult to make agile smart
business decisions during normal
operations
and this is really amplified by the
current crisis
so like as shopping moved from in-store
to online or curbside pickup
retailers needed visibility into their
inventory in the store so that they
could fulfill the orders
and those trends were happening before
the pandemic
and we’ve been talking about these
changes to shopper behavior for years
but what’s happening now
is really a dramatic change
you’re listening to retail remix your
inside access to candid conversations
with the people shaping retail’s future
here’s your host alicia esposito
hey everyone we got another great
episode lined up for today
i recently had a chance to speak with
gailey meyer who is the vp of global
marketing and communications at
impinge and for today’s conversation we
really
peeled back all of the layers so to
speak around rfid
and depending on your priorities you’ve
probably seen rfid fall into two
different buckets
one of course being the real-time
inventory visibility benefit
being able to see where products are in
the store
and and being able to trace that back
all the way through the supply chain
the second bucket is more experiential
right companies and
high touch brands like rebecca minkoff
have used rfid to power the smart store
experience we’re obviously in very
interesting times right now
retail executives are thinking more
critically about their
investments so we really wanted to dig
into
where’s the value today how does it
scale in the future
and how can retailers determine if they
really need to be
placing their bets on rfid as soon as
possible
so listen in hopefully this will give
you some clarity around the trend
and how it can benefit your business
[Music]
gailene thanks so much for taking the
time to join us on the pod great to have
you
thank you alicia it’s really great to be
here so to start off our conversation
let’s start high level why don’t you
share a little bit about impinge and
what you do personally as part of the
company great
so impinge is working to connect
everything to the cloud
our vision is a boundless internet of
things where trillions of everyday items
are connected to the cloud so that
people can more easily and efficiently
track and manage
all of the things that matter to them
today’s internet of things mainly
connects electronic devices to the
internet and this internet of things is
bringing a digital transformation to
businesses and making it easier and
faster to centralize device management
and data collection
impinge extends the boundaries of the
internet of things to include
any and everything that matters and we
call this a boundless internet of things
so for a retailer these things could
include every single item in their
supply chain in stores
for a logistics company these things
would include each shipment or package
moving through distribution
and for a consumer these things include
the suitcase that they check at the
airport
the package arriving at the front door
or the prescription medication that they
pick up at the pharmacy and then
purchase at a self-checkout stands
when all of these things are connected
to the cloud they can be identified
located and protected these things that
are connected to a record in the cloud
and that’s where more information about
those things are stored
so you might be familiar with nfc rfid
technology from contactless payment
stations at retail stores
impinge uses rain rfid which is another
type of rfid
that can scan up to a thousand items per
second at a greater distance from very
close to up to 30 feet
rain rfid tags need no batteries and
they last indefinitely
so as the vp of global marketing
communications i lead our marketing and
communications teams at impinge a
terrific team of people who
share this exciting story with our
customers and partners that’s excellent
and i know
there’s been a lot of conversations over
the years around iot
and you know the connected store the
connected experience
and obviously the number of
opportunities to connect those different
devices i mean
it’s growing exponentially i’m sure so
i’d love to hear your take on
essentially the current situation right
a lot of change going on a lot of
disruption but at the same time
i’m hearing a lot about new
opportunities new ways
for retailers to be more efficient and
effective but also you know find new
ways to
engage and serve their customers so what
kind of conversations have you and your
colleagues been
having with retailers at this time you
know we can get into the opportunities a
little bit later so if you want to start
with you know the challenges what
they’re really trying to
navigate at this time i think that’ll be
great to unpack
sure well obviously the retailer’s
primary pain point right now is the
economic disruption and the dramatic
changes to shopping behavior
that are happening due to the impact of
the coronavirus
but fundamentally the challenges that
retailers face before the pandemic hit
are really the same now they’re just
amplified by this crisis
so this is the challenge of getting
accurate inventory data across stores
and supply chain
the lack of visibility about inventory
makes it difficult to make agile smart
business decisions during normal
operations
and this is really amplified by the
current crisis
so like as shopping moved from in-store
to online or curbside pickup
retailers needed visibility into their
inventory in the store so that they
could fulfill the orders
and those trends were happening before
the pandemic
and we’ve been talking about these
changes to shopper behavior for years
but what’s happening now is really a
dramatic change
so nearly all retailers were operating
an online channel
and for many retailers this is now their
only or their primary channel
and yeah many retailers were offering
some version of click and collect
but today’s customers are expecting
curbside pickup
and inventory visibility is necessary to
be able to promise items at a particular
location
and then verify that order was prepared
correctly
beyond that as retailers prepare for
customers to return to stores
making those store environments safe for
both the customers and their staff is
critical
and self-checkout is one area that
retailers are looking at closely right
now
oh that’s excellent gail i think we’re
definitely going to want to get into all
of these different layers right because
it really speaks to
i think how connected all of these
different components
truly are i mean as a media company
we’ve always said you know we focus on
the customer facing touch points of
retail strategy and execution and
over the years that has expanded right
and i think in these times especially
we’re seeing that
the once considered operational things
are now really impacting the customer
experience and i think that the biggest
one or i guess the kind of
heart of all of that is supply chain
just making sure
we’re getting products as seamlessly as
possible
to our customers in a way that’s best
for them and
at the start of kovid that was a
huge issue i mean even the most
mature companies like amazon even were
having
issues you know fulfilling that promise
so to speak
so would love your take on where those
issues are today meaning
are retailers effectively responding and
adapting to that core
issue around supply chain and you know
ultimately its impact
on the customer yeah like you said from
you know grocery stores to hospitals you
know we’ve all seen weak supply chains
exposed
from the chaos that’s been occurring
across the globe and the lack of
inventory and visibility
that keeps an organization from getting
the things that are needed to where they
need to be
now retailers who have already adopted
rain rfid technology have been able to
pivot
because of the inventory visibility that
they have and we’ve seen some retailers
like nike and lululemon adapt very
effectively
and be able to move shoppers quickly to
online shopping and that’s because of
the inventory visibility that they
have that is enabled by rain rfid and
this has allowed them to know what they
have
where it is and gives them the
visibility they need to react to
changing demand
and to use that inventory in stores for
example to fulfill their online orders
yeah i think those use cases from nike
and lulu i mean those two companies i
think
even just like a high level have really
been
spotlighted as companies that have been
able to
adapt successfully you know as the
situation was unfolding and i mean we’re
still
in in the midst of constant change so i
think that kind of
helps make the case which leads me to a
follow-up question
around the case so to speak for
rfid because i know we’ve been talking
about it for a while
both from a logistics standpoint of the
value of you know having that
transparency into real time
availability the impacts on customer
experience we’ve seen you know some
connected store
use cases that have been really
effective
and powerful but i’m wondering if
we’re seeing heightened awareness around
the value
of rfid especially in cases like this
right where there is that greater need
to
adapt and pivot and is it leading to
increased urgency
around adopting rfid because i feel like
this is something that has been in this
space for so long but we’ve never
seen it reach that level of adoption
where it’s almost a standard right or
table stake so
where do you think this is right now and
where do you think it’s heading
uh that’s a good question i think like
those who’ve been watching the retail
industry
and specifically technology adoption no
you know it’s
pretty typical that retailers are slow
to adopt new technologies and rightly so
because
disrupting the store operations is
something that they’re really loath to
do
they will need to keep things running at
current pace or at current levels and
well you know we saw the disruption
caused by the change out
of the payment systems in retail stores
a couple years back and that that had a
big impact
so i think it’s right that retailers are
careful when they adopt new technologies
but i think today you know nobody really
it’s easy to say nobody saw this coming
but to see
the impact across the globe
in so many different ways and then to
try to figure out your way through it i
mean this is really
it’s really hard but i think to me it
seems like it’s a time to take a look at
what is
the foundation and i have a hard time
thinking of very many
retail applications that don’t rely on
accurate inventory data
so i think that retailers and especially
those who’ve already deployed
rfid and already seen the benefit of
accurate inventory visibility
are really in a point right now where
they can take a look at reacting
appropriately to keep their businesses
running in new and different ways
um extending the value of those existing
investments into new applications
and those that aren’t i think are really
questioning what they
where they need to start and what they
need to do and i i empathize with their
place it’s
challenging right now to know what is
the right next step but
i think coming back to the foundation is
is really where organizations need to
start
yeah i think that’s such a great point
because i know
in our coverage as we were starting to
unpack all of the
issues that some retailers were having
it all
resided at that foundational the nuts
and bolts of
operations right getting that
omni-channel foundation so to speak
in place and making sure that it can
enable or support
all of the different tactics or
offerings so i do want to
get into some of the other use cases or
value drivers
of rfid especially in these times
because i think right now
we’re thinking about what trends will
extend far beyond this period and you
mentioned
flexible fulfillment right curbside
being a huge thing right now that i
definitely
could see that being a new standard or a
new
norm so let’s unpack flexible
fulfillment first and i’m sure we’ll
want to get into others so what does
that look like from an rfid application
standpoint why is it so essential to
ensuring that that type of experience
goes without a hitch or or
is as seamless as possible for the
customer yeah
and let’s just take a quick step back
even further up so thinking a little bit
about
readying stores and store employees and
and operations employees to do flexible
fulfillment
just starting with that touch free
automation that comes with brain rfid
so simply put with renar friday you can
identify an item without touching it
and you can identify many items at the
same time without touching them
and without needing to see them with a
direct line of sight that you would need
for example
to scan a barcode so that’s a
big advantage to keeping employees safe
in addition you can count the things
inside of a sealed box
to confirm that what’s been received is
what was expected
and so this sort of touch-free
automation space is really going to help
stores operate both safely and
efficiently
to prepare for flexible fulfillment
you know next it’s um the things that
we’ve been talking about already
which is you know as the retail stores
pivot to curbside pickup or buy online
pickup in store
and maybe even some touch free checkout
or combination of those things to keep
sales up
getting that data is really again that
foundation
to be able to execute and so with that
visibility into inventory employees can
reduce unnecessary contact with
customers because they can find things
more efficiently
they can speed up checkout times and
reduce the amount of times that people
spend in stores which i know something
that’s important to me right now
and they can increase overall customer
satisfaction by reducing cancelled
orders because of course when they know
what they’ve got they’re able to confirm
that they can fulfill
and deliver on those orders so it really
is about those foundational operational
aspects of the business
to get the right things to the right
location at the right time yeah i like
that you
mixed in some of the newer
imperatives or realities for retailers
so reducing time in store
minimizing contact between the
employee and the customer i mean that’s
so top of mind
right now as stores reopen but then
there are still like those foundational
elements as well such as reducing those
cancelled orders which has always
been a problem i think you know as far
as inventory
visibility goes right i mean when you’re
placing an order
online you want to have that confidence
that
it’s going to be there you know when you
go to pick it up and you’re not going to
get that
far too late email or text update saying
oh sorry
you know we didn’t keep track of
everything so we sold you know the
product that you bought i mean that that
is
a big point of tension and and
frustration for the customer so
it’s great to see kind of all of these
values and benefits
kind of layer on top of each other but i
do want to go into
the contactless commerce side because
that is such a hot topic right now but i
also feel like
there are so many different ways to go
about it i mean obviously
the first early stage type approaches
you know just wearing gloves or you know
having a touchscreen pen
instead of making people touch keypads
but then it can get more tech enabled it
can get more
mature so we’d love to
get into how rfid kind of supports that
contactless commerce
experience and what that really looks
like especially as
stores continue to reopen and i think at
this point retailers are kind of
thinking about
how does our long-term vision for the
store experience need to evolve
so would love your take on the role that
rfid plays and maybe what that
experience
looks like sure yeah actually you know
and i think
those of us who work in the retail
business are not only studying the
business from
the business perspective but also
everybody’s a shopper right
so i’ll just share a little personal
story which is that i’m raising two
teenage boys so when i go to the grocery
store
my cart is never half full it is always
totally full
so you know and and i’m familiar as most
people are with the self-checkout kiosk
at the local grocery store
you know but mostly what we see today
with self-checkout applications
is that the cashier’s job has been
shifted over to the customer
well the problem is is that if i have
more than one or two items which is
always
i find self checkout to be really slow
and frustrating and i fumble to find and
scan barcodes
look up and type skus like i mean it’s i
rarely choose it quite frankly it’s
really challenging for me to use those
self-checkout
stands during his existence today but
what rain rfid can offer is that it
really can take contactless commerce or
that self-checkout experience that
touch-free experience that we’re all
looking for right now
it can take it to the next level by
enabling a touch free
application that automatically scans
multiple items simultaneously
without needing to line them up with the
barcode reader
and this makes it not only faster but it
really is a much more natural and
convenient process for customer you just
put things in the bag and the red as
they’re added
a lot less fumbling and so i really do
think that better and easier self
checkout applications will help maintain
social distancing
in stores and i think offer long-term
benefits to retailers in streamlining
that checkout process so i think it’s
something worth investing in
and i’m just going to put a vote here as
a customer that i would personally love
to see more of that
i think it’s also worth mentioning that
we’re seeing some of our partners begin
to introduce new solutions for social
distancing using rain rfid
in ways to help count people that are
entering a store
or to give feedback about the number of
people that are collecting in areas
within a store
and i think we might be seeing more of
these types of applications in the
future
but these are pretty emerging at this
point but really i think
in my opinion that stores need to look
at self-checkout
because that is the point where you’re
always coming in contact with store
employees
and i think it is a focus area that’s
worth improving oh that’s great
yeah and i think we already talked about
a lot of
key benefits use cases but i do want to
ask you know is there anything else that
maybe i
haven’t thought of yet i mean i think we
touched about touched on inventory
visibility
a little bit of the contact less
experience are there any other
experience oriented examples possibly of
rfid i know
you know many retailers may not be
thinking about
experience so much right now like as in
you know bells and whistles
but after this question i do want to get
into
some of the investment challenges or the
buy-in challenges that come with rfid so
i want to make the case as much as
possible here
is there anything else in terms of use
cases that we haven’t gone through
yet well sure yeah you know and as we
think about
the touchless or automated self-checkout
lines
and we you know as i just talked about i
think that they will be impactful to
speed up checkout times and minimize
contact
so an application for today and for
tomorrow but you know really the next
challenge
is for many retailers is to address how
self-checkout works with a loss
prevention
system and the equipment that’s in place
today
and evolving that into something that’s
going to work better tomorrow
so you know as you might imagine it
doesn’t help much if customers use a
self-checkout stand
but then need store employees to come
and remove the security devices from
those items
but when self-checkout is integrated
with the rain rfid loss prevention
system
that experience can be very seamless so
with rain
a retail loss prevention system can
identify every individual item
that wasn’t purchased as it exits the
door
and this is new this is not something
that you get with the
current hard tags with those you just
simply get an alarm
but with rain it allows a retailer to
deploy a system that doesn’t just alarm
at the door it gives them data about the
specific item that’s left the premises
and it provides new insights into the
causes and occurrence of theft
as they happen so especially when that
data is correlated with images from
cameras time of day
trends across the enterprise then
retailers can go to work at
understanding what’s happening to
prevent future loss
so this is a way i think that retailers
can really think about evolving
into a new and more integrated
experience for customers that does
support their operations on the back end
both rain rfid for loss prevention and
checkout
are actually enabled by a new feature in
our latest tag chip that we call
protected mode
and i’m just going to explain that
really quickly it’s pretty simple but it
might sound complicated at the beginning
so
this is a feature that lets a retailer
control when an impinge tag
is either visible or invisible to any
rain reader
so here’s how it works at the checkout
the rain rfid tag is set to protected
mode
which allows it to pass by the rfid
readers at the exit without alarming
that tag can be returned to normal
operation and made visible again to rain
readers using a secure pin
that the retailer controls or they can
transfer control of that pin to the
customer
so what happens is that this gives
retailers the opportunity to remove a
purchased item from
inventory at the point of sale at that
self-checkout stand for example
and then that same tag is part of an
integrated loss prevention system
that allows items that are paid for to
exit without an alarm
nobody needs to take something off
because it doesn’t set off the alarm to
begin with
unpurchased items are then identified at
the door not just alerting that
something has happened
but giving more data about that unique
item to the loss prevention systems
when that item is brought back and
returned the system can reset that same
tag
to be used then thereafter first in the
store
for their inventory or other
applications so not only is this feature
enabling a seamless self checkout
that’s supporting the kind of retailing
that people want to do
today but it does then open the door to
the future of an integrated loss
prevention
and return system that also offers
privacy to the consumer so this is a
real win-win today
and for tomorrow when we return
hopefully soon back to the normal world
that’s great galen i’m really i’m really
glad you kind of brought up the
overall lifespan or the overall value
of the investment in the long term
because my next question for you
is around the struggle that some retail
executives may be dealing with now
around figuring out where to put their
chips so to speak right
you kind of noted earlier that you know
you empathize with what the executives
that are trying to figure out where to
prioritize where to focus
their not just time and you know the
bandwidth of their people
but also their investments right
especially now that
everything’s kind of being a bit more
closely scrutinized you know budgets are
being cut in some areas so
a lot of different forces at play here
so
what challenges do you foresee you know
retail executives kind of facing right
now and trying to get that buying and
support for investing in rfid
and do you see this being an
ongoing thing or does this kind of tie
back to the fact that this is like a
long-term
scalable investment and that as you
start to kind of unpack the value
that it’s pretty it’s pretty clear and
those conversations should end up going
you know
well in the long term so i think it’s
important to recognize that many
retailers are struggling right now to
stay afloat
and adopting a new technology like arena
rfid just might not be feasible
but it’s also worth mentioning that
impinging our partners we often work
with businesses to right-size
deployments
to address the key pain points that
they’re facing today we’re where they
really need to get the most benefit and
i think it’s
well rfid benefits are well known i
think it’s worth mentioning that
there’s a big impact when you can count
inventory
25 times faster than you do with manual
counting in stores i mean that’s a big
deal improving something by 25 times
really matters
or you know studies show that using rfid
raises inventory accuracy from an
average of 63 percent
to 95 or more and many retailers are
seeing above 95 percent
accuracy in their inventory and so i
think that when you can calculate out
the value of these kinds of
improvements it helps when you’re making
those decisions about where to
prioritize both your investment
and your attention right now which is
which is hard to come by
yeah i think that’s a great point and i
guess you know as we close out our time
together
galen obviously just given
the time of year that we’re at now in a
typical year
i i know that retail touch points would
be starting to
think about and cover back to school and
most importantly
holiday obviously we’re not as focused
on that right now just given the
circumstances
but would love to hear you know if
you’re starting to have any
conversations
with retailers around how they can best
prepare
what they should be thinking about and
and if you really have any
advice for the listeners who may be
struggling to
find out how to get things up to par so
i guess going back to that foundations
component that we’re talking about
earlier how the foundational components
are so important to success
you know what can they be thinking about
right now
that’s a really great question you know
one of the things that i’ve been
thinking about both in
at work because we’re of course facing
challenges at impinge like every
business is
and my team is working from home we’re
adjusting the way that we engage and
interact with each other
and also of course i’ve got impacts to
my personal life my family life
relating with my extended family but
really what i’ve been thinking about is
to take a new look at what is essential
so there’s a lot of clarity that can
come from a crisis
and i think this is a really good time
to shed the things that are not
essential
and to refocus on the things that really
matter
so just speaking about impinge and what
we’re doing we have a great deal of
clarity
across our organization that the safety
and well-being of our employees our
partners and our suppliers and customers
is our top priority and i think when
your team knows that they are essential
and that they are important
they’re going to have the confidence to
do their job well in any circumstances
i think the same thing goes for
consumers so speaking for myself from
that point of view
i find myself being very loyal to the
companies that i know value me
value my safety and value the safety and
well-being of their own employees
because that really does matter to me
and so i think that retailers have
already deployed
rain for inventory are really in a
strong position
to leverage that investment to add
automation
and to do the things that they are
looking to do
to keep their employees safe their
customers safe
and build on the investments that
they’ve made in the past
to offer a new level of automation
and safety and experience in the stores
i think that those retailers that
haven’t yet adopted range should take a
close look
at how that accurate inventory data
would help their businesses run more
efficiently
and what the value having accurate data
would bring to their organization
thinking really around how automating
inventory
can help them in the ways that are the
biggest pain points for them today
so you know not all retailers are facing
the same challenges and each one is
unique
but to really prioritize that list and
think about what
inventory data would enable across
multiple different applications that
show up on that short list of pain
points
yeah some great points they’re gailing
some good action items there
thank you again so much for taking the
time out to talk rfid with me like i
said earlier
it’s an area of coverage for rtp we’ve
talked about a lot of different use
cases some success stories
but given how the current situation has
been unfolding i think there
are a lot of opportunities i think we
dug into a lot of those today
before i let you go do you have any
closing
thoughts words of advice calls to action
for our listeners
right now now i think it’s hard for
anyone to really predict the future
today
and so i don’t think we know yet what
retail will look like in 2021 but i
would say from across the board
in every industry that impinged touches
that we’ve really seen an acceleration
of digital transformation over the last
several months
and i don’t see it slowing down anytime
soon so
i think that for organizations that
haven’t yet considered adopting
iot technologies like green rfid i think
it’s time now to take another look
because i think that the strength in
operations that these kinds of
technologies afford and the visibility
that you gain
is really going to help get through what
is happening today and what may come in
the future
yeah that’s a great closing point i i
think galen because
like iot and rfid digital transformation
is a topic that we’ve been hearing a lot
about but to your point earlier
this current situation has really
accelerated a lot of these
trends and has built urgency around some
of these topics that we’ve seen
ever present but not really get as much
attention or movement
so although there are some challenges
right now and some unanswered questions
i i’m
excited to see what new opportunities
and new use cases unfold and what
retailers really
embrace digital transformation and go
through that process so
again thank you so much for taking the
time out it was really an insightful
conversation
yeah thank you so much alicia it was
really great to talk with you today
and of course thanks everyone out there
for listening
be sure to join us next week for another
candid conversation with a retail expert
and if you have any feedback or
questions regarding this episode
please do reach out to us on social
media you can reach us on twitter
at our touchpoints thanks again everyone
and enjoy the rest of your day
thanks for listening to this episode of
retail remix be sure to subscribe so you
never miss an episode
you can find us on your favorite podcast
player until next time
keep mixing it up

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Retail Remix

The rules of retail are constantly changing. Today, we're in an exciting new era where brands can differentiate through experience and use technology to connect with customers in new and exciting ways. Retail Remix is a new podcast series brought to you by Retail TouchPoints, the industry's leading source for news, insights and research for all things customer experience. Bi-monthly, we sit down with someone who is helping put a new spin on the retail experience. Hear from the top practitioners, analysts and innovators in retail, and see what new engagement opportunities await.

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