Many retailers are looking to the Internet of Things as an increasingly important part of their retail strategy. That’s because when you think about all the “things” a retailer manages, their inventory constitutes both the greatest number and the most important “thing” to track. Accurately managed inventory brings advantages across the retail business—from smarter planning to streamlined fulfillment, accurate inventory data is key to a retailer’s success.
RAIN RFID brings the Internet of Things to every retail item in the store and supply chain. For many retailers, mentions of RAIN RFID bring to mind handheld readers used to speed up the task of manually counting inventory. Early adopters of RAIN RFID recognized its potential to improve in-store inventory accuracy, while also significantly simplifying a tedious, labor-intensive process.
But retail isn’t the same as it used to be. Brands fight for dominance in an increasingly competitive, omnichannel world where simply having accurate in-store inventory isn’t enough. What I find interesting is the way RAIN RFID has evolved—and will continue to evolve—to meet these new demands.
We are now entering an age where RAIN RFID enables a wide variety of use-cases that drive sales, delight customers, and yes—ensures accurate inventory counts. Lately I’ve noticed more and more retailers entering what I call the second wave of RAIN RFID adoption.
The New Face of RAIN RFID: From Handheld to Fixed Readers
In retail applications, a RAIN RFID tag, or label, is applied to an item (apparel, jewelry, cosmetics, etc.) and a reader then communicates with that tag to provide an item’s identity, location, or authenticity to the retailer’s business systems. To date, retailers have predominately used handheld readers to gather this information. But today, we’re seeing a shift from handheld readers to fixed readers. This transition is what we called the second wave.
Fixed readers, or gateways, are typically installed at key locations (overhead, doorways, or passageways) in stores and distribution centers. And unlike handheld devices, they can provide a continuous stream of data with no additional labor cost. This may not sound groundbreaking, but for retailers looking to maximize data collection to enable omnichannel strategies, it can be.
For instance, stores can cut down on the back stock typically kept to ensure they don’t have to cancel online orders, and enable consumer-friendly practices like BOPUS. No longer do you have to worry that someone will swing by to pick up an online purchase, only to find you don’t have it in store.
Further, fixed readers installed in the receiving area or stock room can identify when a shipment has arrived and post the arrival time automatically to the system. Similarly, RAIN RFID readers installed in a shipping staging area can be used to verify that the items placed in a box match the items actually ordered and alert staff to errors packing outbound shipments. As retailers move towards using stores for omnichannel fulfillment, tracking automation and error-checking are key to making this transition a success.
As the emphasis on facilitating simplified consumer experience continues to grow, RAIN RFID enabled accurate, up to the minute data will be key to enabling successful solutions.
Delivering A Shopping Experience Like No Other
Stores are also recognizing the potential for RAIN RFID to deliver unique, customer-oriented experiences. Pop ups, retail’s latest trend, have turned to the technology to seamlessly blend the digital and physical worlds: Marie Claire’s The Next Big Thing Concept Shop and the Lion’esque Group used RAIN RFID to create small footprint stores that let shoppers get the tactical joy of exploring a product in the real world with the convenience of home delivery.
Japanese convenience stores, facing a labor shortage, have also turned to RAIN RFID to deliver automated check-out, making it incredibly easy for shoppers to grab what they want and go.
And, a number of retailers are using fixed RAIN RFID readers installed in fitting rooms to gain informative data about what items are brought into the fitting rooms and compare this with items purchased to discover fit and design issues.
It’s clear that RAIN RFID can not only meet consumer expectations but drive business solutions that enable faster, simpler, and more personalized shopping. In an increasingly connected world, RAIN RFID will play an important role in uniting the digital and physical experiences. And with retail as its vibrant, ever-changing playground there will be no shortage of innovation to drive its evolution.
Gayle Meyer is senior director, global marketing and communications at Impinj, a leading provider of RAIN RFID solutions. She is a senior technology marketing leader with over fifteen years of experience communicating with executive-level technology buyers. Her focus is business-to-business marketing, software product management, marketing communications and public relations.