RFID Transforms Customer Service, Retailing and Consumer Goods
First time round, it ended in tears. Six years ago, some of the leading consumer goods companies and some of the retailers they supplied said that billions of RFID tags would shortly be applied to pallets and cases. However, it transpired that this was tricky to do at the UHF frequency chosen and, although the RFID suppliers and consumer goods companies lost several hundreds of millions of dollars trying to make it happen, it only benefitted the retailers. And the retailers were very reluctant to invest much money or even staff training into the opportunity.
Fast forward to today, and only a modest number of pallets and cases are tagged but, at last, a price rise for the tags has stuck and the RFID tag makers can see losses reducing even if major sales remain elusive. The system integrators have made a little money on the enterprise throughout.
Wrong to generalize
As with many false starts in industry, this has led to a generalization that RFID is of no use in that sector. However RFID is now being adopted very rapidly for retailing, consumer goods and customer service. It is just that it is happening in a completely different manner—tagging items, using RFID enabled mobile phones and RFID cards for payment, improving the consumer experience in other ways and reducing crime.
Tagging the items
Tagging the items themselves benefits everyone in the value chain so even jewellery, artificial fire logs and knives are being tagged before appearing on the shelves. Most dramatically, about 100 retail chains have apparel tagged at manufacture, including full range general supermarkets.
The business case is so clear and compelling that the number continues to rise rapidly and the result is better stock control, particularly reducing the number of stockouts. Imaginatively used, it is also providing many secondary benefits such as recommending accessories using a “magic mirror.”