Apparel manufacturers, take note: Somewhere out there, your next customer is about to make a decision. Option one: lift the lid on a laptop, tickle a few keys and browse a world of apparel choices. Option two: grab the keys, jump in the car and head to the store.
Online or in-store? Bricks or clicks? Your customer has a choice. On one hand is the wide selection, rock-bottom prices and stellar customer service that they expect when shopping online. On the other is the personalized, sensory experience of shopping associated with a traditional retail environment. Ever since the emergence of online shopping, physical stores have struggled to offer an attractive alternative. Often, they’ve found themselves competing with their brand’s own internet stores.
Adding staff is one way to upgrade the retail shopping experience. Staff genuinely want to help customers, but often they’re too busy re-stocking items or redistributing inventory. With high employee turnover and rising minimum wages, adding staff isn’t a practical solution. Augmenting stores with tech solutions, however, is.
How RAIN RFID and the Internet of Things are advancing retail’s digital transformation
In the past few years, many have turned to technology for the answer. In fact, of the 22 predictions retail executives gave for brick-and-mortar stores for 2018, about half involved using technologies such as the Internet-of-Things (IoT) and RAIN RFID. By using RAIN RFID to enable IoT solutions, unique items can be tracked as they move from the factory to the checkout counter. This provides a plethora of opportunities for retailers to bring physical stores into the digital age.
Many early RAIN RFID adopters have used the technology to improve inventory and other behind-the-scene operations. And having the right merchandise, in the right place, at the right time will certainly help draw customers into stores.
But the technology has the potential to deliver value far beyond supply chain efficiency. Here are a few examples of how some apparel companies are using RAIN RFID to blend the best elements of an online and offline shopping experience.
RAIN RFID takes retailers beyond just inventory accuracy and order fulfillment
Untuckit uses RAIN RFID to make showrooming a good thing
Untuckit, a formerly online-only apparel disruptor, is currently piloting RAIN RFID in their new store on Fifth Avenue in New York City. With the data collected by RAIN RFID chips, the store manager knows the exact location of every item in the store. Not only is this information useful for identifying the optimal merchandising mix, it reveals how their customers are interacting with an item in the context of a physical store. Do they carry it to another part of the store? How often is a particular item taken into the changing room? How many times does a customer handle it before its eventually sold?
Untuckit founder Chris Riccobono says, "Having visibility into shopper behavior is just one way we create a better experience in our physical stores. It allows us to meet expectations and retain customer loyalty.”
Lululemon enables an outstanding customer experience
Lululemon knows that inventory accuracy is paramount to delivering an optimum guest experience. Now that they’ve implemented a RAIN RFID solution across all 300 of their North American stores, they have accurate reports on the inventory available, down to each item’s location within a store. That capability is essential to enabling Lululemon's omnichannel shopping strategy, but it wasn’t the main reason to implement an RFID solution.
Apparel magazine reports that Lululemon’s primary objective was to elevate the customer experience. "The best way to make customers happy is to give them as many choices as possible," says Jonathan Aitken, Lululemon athletica's Director of Store Technology and RFID program director. Their innovative solution was so successful, it was honored as the "Best Retail RFID Implementation" at the 2017 RFID Journal Awards.
The Spanish fashion giant Zara recently launched a pop-up shop in Westfield Stratford City. Spanning more than 2,100 square feet, the store not only accommodates online orders, it gives customers the ability to pay through mobile phones, the Zara app, or even a self-checkout station.
But an even more interesting innovation is Zara’s product recommendation system. A RAIN RFID-based system tracks items as shoppers take them into a changing room. Synchronized with the retailer’s inventory system, a display built into the mirror suggests alternative sizes and matching accessories.
Bringing the digital world into the physical one
Imagine a blended experience – one that combines the best of online and offline shopping. A coupon offer on a mobile phone gives your customer a reason to visit your store. As she walks in, a display catches her eye. She selects an item and takes it into the changing room, where she feels the texture of the fabric. She notices how it drapes across her shoulders and feels its weight and warmth. She looks in the mirror, noticing how it moves as she turns. A display built into the mirror shows her the full-range of styles. There’s another color she prefers – but it’s out of stock. No problem – she orders online, selects one of the accessories suggested to her, and places her order. It arrives on her doorstep the next day. This is the world the retailers above, and many more, are creating with RAIN RFID.
A world where customers don’t have to choose between the simplicity of online shopping and the tactile experience of physical stores; with RAIN RFID, retailers can — and are — offering customers the best of both worlds.
Ashley Burkle is a Retail Industry Leader at Impinj, a leading provider and pioneer of RAIN RFID solutions. Impinj enables wireless connectivity to billions of everyday items such as apparel, medical supplies, automobile parts, food, and more. Learn more at: www.impinj.com.