Picture this: You walk into a store and spot the perfect top for your upcoming interview, you sift through the rack, perform a double check, but nope — your size isn’t there. You then scour the sales floor for an associate to help you, and when you finally do find one, the employee searches the stock room for what seems like hours. After all that effort, the perfect top is nowhere to be found and you leave discouraged — and empty handed. Enter shoppers’ remorse! This has been a common and regrettable retail scenario for far too long, especially since it doesn’t have to end this way. There is a solution that can offer retailers the inventory accuracy and visibility needed to provide an enhanced consumer shopping experience, and that solution is RFID.
RFID is a hot topic in the retail industry, however the average consumer isn’t aware of the potential impact this technology has on their shopping experience. RFID provides answers to common consumer problems like wanting to actually try on a garment before making a purchase, even when it’s easier to find the right size/color online. RFID technology ensures the right product is in the right place, at the right time. This results in reduced out of stocks and better merchandise availability, which in turn can drive increased sales and also frees up more time for associates to focus on the customer.
Today’s educated, connected consumer expects the item they want to be available in their size, at the moment they way to buy it. However, this isn’t always the case, because some retailers still rely on outdated barcode technology to manage their global apparel supply chain and it’s just not up to the task. A large part of this problem comes from the limitations of barcode technology for item tracking and hard tags to prevent shrink. When barcode technology matured in the ‘80s, it represented a dramatic improvement in checkout productivity, and gave new insights into what was being sold. However, barcode scans are only as accurate as the person operating the scanner to process checkout and returns, so they are prone to ongoing human errors. Barcodes don’t provide any insights into manual restocking operations, and they were never designed to support rapid cycle counts.
While hard tags may prevent some inventory loss from shoplifting, they provide limited data when shoplifting occurs. A sales associate may hear an alarm, but has no idea what was stolen, so the item isn’t restocked. They also don’t deter large amounts of theft by employees. Thus hard tags only address 43% of overall retail shrink. The combined human errors and losses drive inventory accuracy way below where it needs to be to deliver a great shopping experience and full profit potential.
RFID is the catalyst in the next-generation retail experience; the experience today’s omni-channel consumer expects. RFID is a proven, ready-now technology that improves inventory accuracy and visibility, reducing out-of-stocks that frustrate customers and drive lost sales for retailers.
RFID helps elevate the consumer shopping experience, turning a retail outlet into a destination where shoppers feel they can always find their size. A single retail associate using a hand-held RFID reader can take a complete inventory in just a few hours, yielding 99% or more inventory accuracy, enabling the retailer to detect and address stock-outs so that goods are available when customers are ready to buy. It also enables better availability of a store’s merchandize, which frees up associates to focus on the customer vs. the stockroom, creating a better shopping experience that ultimately fosters customer loyalty. It also improves employee satisfaction by reducing or eliminating altogether the dreaded after-hours all-hands-on-deck inventory checks — the bane of retail associates everywhere.
RFID also provides numerous benefits beyond the consumer-facing store floor. This technology improves efficiency by offering retailers, manufacturers and brand owners heightened product visibility throughout the end-to-end global supply chain. Unlike traditional track-and-trace technologies, RFID provides a unique identifier for each tagged item and requires no visual confirmation. Garment factories and DCs are also able to use RFID to ensure all outgoing shipments are accurate, without the increased cost of labor for manual validation. As cartons arrive at the Distribution Center (DC), RFID gives visibility into one-hundred percent of incoming shipments vs. the ten percent inspection typical at many DCs today, allowing retailers to identify and address discrepancies between what was ordered and what was received. As these shipments arrive at the store, they can be quickly and accurately received, and store associates can get alerts about incoming items that need to move to the sales floor immediately to prevent stock-outs.
Mark Hill is vice president and general manager, Global Innovation and Solutions Development, Retail Branding and Information Solutions for Avery Dennison Corporation. He leads the Information Solutions and Branding Solutions organizations, where he oversees innovation and new product development. In Information Solutions, Hill directs and guides Inventory Accuracy, Visibility and Loss Prevention, which includes the RFID product and solutions development, and the commercial team that provides RFID inlays to converters and integrators. He also leads solutions teams for Price Management and Global Compliance. For Branding Solutions, he leads product line management and engineering teams for Point of Sale Branding and Permanent Branding Solutions. Prior to joining Avery Dennison, Hill served as executive vice president at Bain Capital, leading profit improvement initiatives at private equity portfolio firms. His earlier experience includes vice president, Net Solutions Group at Novell, and vice president and general manager at Xerox Corporation.