RFID Is The Retail Industry’s New Friend.
A race is on, and it’s hardly visible to the naked eye. It’s the one that is prompting fashion retailers to jump onboard with a technology that has earned its fair share of criticism.
Privacy concerns about the use of RFID at department stores, where men, women and children try on clothes, is countered by retailers’ thirst to gain as much information as they can from the moment you enter the door.
And as smartphone technology becomes increasingly sophisticated, formerly dubious consumers just may keep pace with sellers’ absorption of the technology.
“It’s about the analytics,” says Lou Modell, VP of sales for Identiv. Retailers are becoming more and more concerned with recording inventory accurately and quickly, and RFID and NFC are the way to do it.
His company has enjoyed “a handful” of clients in the retail space including fashion, and he’s seen the innovative ways RFID is being employed, including on sports jerseys and jewelry.
Modell dismisses the backlash: “RFID technology has been around a long time – so why is it only becoming more and more popular today? There will always be naysayers. I am sure there were people who bet against Ford and said, ‘Who needs the car?’”
Modell’s colleague Nick Lukianov, director of business development, says that retailers have known RFID’s advantages for some time.
“First, take a look at Burberry — that really has probably been a leader as far as implementing a system, a customer education/loyalty system that allows someone to pick up a piece of clothing and approach a …display screen and get additional information, such as video information on a specific product.”
He says Burberry is the model that keeps coming up with the retailers driving implementation of this technology “from a loyalty and education perspective.”
“Retailers are driving [RFID] adoption in the fashion industry,” Lukianov says. “They are saying, ‘We need this to bring our consumers into our brick and mortar store to get past Amazon.com’.”
Of course, Amazon is just part of the problem-ur, challenge-for retailers, which is the Internet itself. That is why RFID players are finding a way to make it not only worthwhile but fun for the customer.
Not RFID (yet), but QR-code coupons and other draws are luring customers into a local Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks.
Modell says that small transactions are being captured by such retailers “and that’s what folks like American Express, PayPal and others want to capture; [it’s] the five-dollar or less transaction.”
He says that while the industry is going through a “consumer adoption phase,” and a QR code isn’t the same as RFID, “it still requires a resident app.”
“It’s a short stepping stone from that and we’ve done some retail rollouts for replacing the QR code with tap-and-pay technology from smart phones,” says Modell. Those have been very successful, so he and his colleagues are bullish.
“So if you are wearing a necklace, ring or bracelet and you [the retailer] can get information on that particular piece of wearable [technology] simply by [your potential customer] tapping an NFC-enabled smartphone, it can pull up information about that particular project,” says Modell.
And retailers from Marks & Spencer in the UK to Wal-Mart are already using RFID either ubiquitously or for certain stores or tasks such as inventory tracking, loss prevention and dressing room management.
Capturing The Public’s Imagination
With the aforementioned example of Ford and the automobile, one can see that being able to travel faster and further distances was a clear draw for those early adopters. Images of this writer’s grandmother sitting in front of a Ford Model T in the 1920s can only make me smile.
But, it is obvious to intelligent people that proving the case for RFID will be a little trickier. However, unlike with cars, there aren’t the dramatic downsides such as choking smog issuing from fuel emissions and risk of tragic accidents.
Savvy RFID marketers therefore know that, which is why the pilots done by Identiv make sense.
“Once you capture [a potential customer’s interest] during the consumer phase, their phone as an interactive tool [makes sense]. All their activity is tracked and can be responded to, essentially in [an instant],” Modell enthuses.
Moreover, once RFID experts prove the case that tracking with RFID is not only faster and interactive, but greatly reduces the risk of counterfeit and provides reliable information, even the naysayers will be convinced.
Identiv was formerly Identive.