With the adoption of item-level RFID solutions rapidly growing, this year SML, a global leader in retail RFID technology and solutions with a presence in 20 countries, and PervasID, a company providing UHF RFID reader systems for automating inventory and asset tracking, partnered to deliver a combination of PervasID’s passive RFID reader technology and SML's Clarity enterprise software solutions for retail. The new tech allows retailers to capture hands-free data regarding the movement of goods within a store or a specific zone, without requiring staff members to conduct manual inventory counts via a handheld reader.
Retail Leader spoke with Dean Frew, chief technology officer and senior vice president of RFID solutions at SML Group and founder of SML RFID, about how RFID solutions allow retailers to gain a return on investment (ROI) by reducing labor time and theft, preventing errors and ensuring the on-shelf availability of inventory.
Retail Leader (RL): How are RFID-based technology solutions revolutionizing the retail industry?
RL: More than a quarter (29%) of retailers claim that poor visibility of inventory is one of the major challenges to providing a seamless customer experience. How does RFID improve the customer experience?
Frew: Today’s customer expects to shop at their own convenience, whether that is online, in-store or a mixture of both. With RFID technology, retailers can create this convenience by facilitating seamless experiences through omnichannel purchasing options, such as BOPIS and BORIS.
On top of enhanced omnichannel capabilities, with item-level RFID deployed, staff in-store can gain accurate product information in seconds. Rather than physically leaving the customer and finding products to determine whether items are available in-store, associates can check stock levels in seconds through a tablet or mobile device. With less time spent locating items, staff can significantly shorten the time customers have to wait for their items. Instead, they receive quick, accurate information. Moreover, with clear inventory visibility, associates can suggest alternative items if a particular product is out-of-stock, only further contributing to an improved in-store experience.
RL: How will retailers see enhanced ROI with RFID? How will they realize this return?
Frew: When retailers adopt RFID technology, they often experience the same three tiers of ROI. The first tier focuses on enhanced inventory management — enabling retailers to better employ their workforce for the most effective functions for a business. Secondly, loss prevention and delivering an enhanced customer experience lead to overall increased revenue. Finally, they also tend to see improved more comprehensive store operations, such as a more effective omnichannel offering and increased checkout speed.
RFID technology can significantly impact a retail business in a range of areas — each helping the retailer to become more productive and efficient as a business. Not only does the technology drive sales and deliver improved profits, but it also enables retailers to deliver a high-quality customer experience, which is crucial for long-term business success.
RL: Where do you see the greatest potential for grocery, drug and convenience retailers to use RFID?
Frew: The use of RFID in the grocery and quick-service restaurant market is one of the next big vertical markets that will develop. Government regulations with penalties in Europe and U.S. are requiring food traceability and reduced waste. There is no plausible way to address these mandates at scale without the use of automation. RFID is the only technology that will assist in automating data collection and inventory management.