November 2nd, 2017

How RFID Can Reboot Your Retail Operation This Holiday Season

Originally posted on

With every product from toilet paper to diamond rings available online, brick and mortar retailers are struggling to keep customer attention. Physical stores are closing their doorsat an alarming pace. JC Penney is poised to close up to 140 stores this year, and Moody’s Investors Service report warns that 18 other big retailers are at risk.  A new era in retailing is needed.

To retain ever-demanding shoppers who have come to expect same-day delivery, dazzling customer service, and pinpoint targeted marketing that seeks to anticipate what the customer will want next, traditional stores need to step up their game. Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) can help traditional retailers make it happen.

An RFID device is a small tag or label programmed with information that retailers can attach to anything. Unlike a barcode, a passive retail RFID tag or label enables every item to have a serial number and can be scanned from a variety of distances, typically over 10 feet. The technology has been around for about 50 years, but only recently became affordable enough for common use.  About 8 percent of retailers have fully deployed RFID and are experiencing measurable results and ROI.

You’ve seen a similar concept, electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags in action; those big, clunky tags that set off alarms when the sales clerk forgets to remove them from an expensive item. The new breed of retail RFID tags are small, cheap, disposable, and their functions are more complex.

I spoke to Dean Frew, CTO of SML Group at a speaking event this week, about ways brick and mortar retailers can use RFID to revitalize sales. These are the three best ways according to the industry veteran.

1. Rethink delivery options

“One example of this approach is offering customers with confidence the option to order online for in-store pickup, also known as ‘Click and Collect’, which has increased significantly among major retailers,” Frew explained. In fact, a recent survey of consumers found that more than 75 percent of respondents want to pick up online purchased in-store.

This is great news. Not only is the retailer able to solidify the omnichannel brand experience with ‘Click and Collect’, they can also capitalize on the additional point of purchase (POP) sales while the customer is in the store.

In 2016, Walmart introduced grocery pickup. Customers order online and pick up their groceries the next day, without getting out of their car. Last month, Publix rolled up its sleeves, said “hold my beer,” and announced groceries delivered to your home in an hour. Place your order online and, in about the time it takes you to do your own shopping, your groceries show up at your door. Delivery is not free, but

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