The tiny micro-sized chip that is the RFID has long hung on the sidelines of revolution for the retail world. It was way back in 2003 that Walmart declared an inventory overhaul by insisting its top suppliers introduce this technology to pallets and cases of goods coming to its distribution centres. That the retail behemoth had largely abandoned this initiative four years later (suppliers were distressed by the ROI) hasn’t diminished the retail miracle it represents.
Fast forward to January, and “Retail’s BIG Show 2016” in New York. Here, more than 33,000 attendees were treated to all kinds of insight into the future of retail. And an examination of the magic contained inside an RFID chip was a highlight among them.
Radio frequency identification tags, outfitted with a miniature chip and antenna, are embedded into product pricing labels, such as those that hang from apparel. Readers, which can be hand-held or fixed, discharge a radio signal that powers them.
As demonstrated at the show by an RFID vendor’s experiment inside apparel chain G-Star Raw, the possibilities it allows are sincerely impressive. When an RFID chip is attached to a product’s price tag, and a shopper carries that product into a dressing room, the radio waves conspire to allow the retailer to suggest complementary pieces to the consumer, and display them on a TV screen. Increased sales are the presumed result.
The RFID transformation is a boon to sales of apparel particularly, where multiple size and colour options make keeping a shop properly supplied a never-ending battle.
And so, its early supply-chain promise notwithstanding, RFID is increasingly emerging as the solution to in-store chaos. No wonder 50% of the world’s top 100 retailers are in the process of adopting this transformative technology.