September 22nd, 2016

The Importance of an RFID Pilot in Retail Applications

rfid pilotToday a growing number of brand owners and retailers are well aware of the proven benefits of implementing a radio frequency identification (RFID) system in retail: increased inventory accuracy, supply chain visibility, increased sales by reducing out-of-stocks, reduced shrink, omnichannel enablement and more. Before in-store deployment begins, however, it’s important to pilot an RFID system to get a clear picture of how exactly it will benefit you, as well as work through the processes so that you can get the most out of it with your unique retail environment. An RFID pilot may also reveal unexpected benefits that you hadn’t considered in the first place.

RFID providers that do not pilot solutions prior to deployment are preventing their customers from utilizing the system to its full potential. With the right piloting, an RFID system can be deployed seamlessly and will more quickly begin to provide a great ROI.

What Factors Are Evaluated and Measured During the Pilot Phase?

Each retailer may have specific factors they are concerned about, such as stock count, intelligent replenishment, tag encoding and more. However, an effective RFID pilot focuses on multiple processes that require user engagement very early on in the implementation. By allowing user engagement early on, there will be less of a need to refine the system or processes in real time.

Evaluating and measuring the following factors during the pilot phase provides the metrics and other information needed to ensure the success of an RFID deployment:

  • Inventory accuracy: This is easily the most important piloting measurement, as many of the other benefits of RFID begin with inventory accuracy. If inventory counts are accurate and the retailer trusts the data, businesses are able to make positive decisions about process and technology changes. Most retailers are surprised at the discrepancy between accurate RFID inventory and inaccurate enterprise systems.
  • Retail associates’ feedback: Feedback from users is specifically important due to the high number of processes that can be evaluated and tracked within a store, including omnichannel picking, variance and more.
  • Out-of-stocks: Reducing out-of-stocks directly results in sales lift, making this an essential part of an RFID pilot.
  • Excess inventory: Evaluating and measuring excess inventory through the use of stale inventory and flow metrics allows retailers to determine more accurate replenishment shipments from the distribution center.
  • Retailer system integration: Integrating RFID with a retailer’s existing system can reveal any needed changes in the deployment while also ultimately creating more value. Integration can be quite simple and turn out to be very valuable when done during the pilot phase.
  • Distribution center implementation: When RFID is implemented in the retailer’s distribution center for receiving, packing and shipping during the pilot phase, it can quickly provide important metrics on the error rates of the center’s core processes. In Pilots the RFID tagging for the product is often performed in the distribution center at value add stations.

During the pilot phase, there are several tests that should be completed. When these tests are skipped, retailers may not be open to seeing all of the places where RFID will add value. Retailers that do allow the key pilot processes to provide data are often surprised at the discovered value of RFID.

SML RFID Provides Real-World Piloting

SML is a full-service RFID solution provider and a trusted partner to top fashion brands and the world’s largest retailers. SML will work with you to design a custom deployment plan that meets your company’s unique needs. SML has RFID Solution Innovation Centers throughout North America, Europe and Asia that offer service and expertise in three main areas: demo and application use case testing, lab technology testing, and core RFID technology R&D. These centers are located near Dallas, Texas, Raleigh, North Carolina and Corby, England, and New centers are due to open in Mettmann, Germany and Shanghai, China in 2016.

The SML RFID Technology Centers offer a wide range of testing for products, solutions and real-world processes, as well as demonstrations and training opportunities for retailers, suppliers and integrators. In addition these centers are used to test the latest RFID technology in real-world use cases and in combination with a full spectrum of solution components. For SML customers, they provide workshops, seminars and additional training. The knowledge that SML customers gain by working with these centers gives them unique competitive advantages that cannot be realized by other RFID providers. To schedule a visit to an SML RFID Innovation Center, contact

Curious about how retail is changing with RFID? See it in action for yourself in London on October 25th and 26th. Click here to learn more and to register for the event.