Use Cases for RAIN RFID in Retail Operations of 2020

In a complex and competitive market that's pitting online retailers against their counterparts in the brick-and-mortar world, every organization is looking to improve inventory visibility, reduce out-of-stock incidents, enable omnichannel fulfillment, enhance the customer experience, and prevent losses. RFID technology is helping increasing numbers of retailers to do just that.

The RFID Story So Far

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification, a technology that usually presents as small electronic devices consisting of a digital chip and an antenna. Each chip can typically carry 2,000 bytes of data or less, and the chips are small enough to let manufacturers attach them to objects or embed them inside everyday items like laminated credit cards, key fobs, and product labels.

This wireless technology connects billions of items to the internet, enabling retailers and consumers to identify, locate, authenticate, and engage with each one.

RAIN RFID is a global alliance developing standardized technology dedicated to promoting the universal adoption of UHF or Ultra High-Frequency RFID. A RAIN RFID solution uses a reader to read and write a tagged item, manage information, and take actions based on its feedback. Thousands of RFID tags can be identified simultaneously, and none of them have to be visible.

The technology has been around for over two decades, graduating from simple product sorting systems to complex mechanisms enabling consumers to interact in real time with their favorite brands. Initial adoption was slow, mainly due to concerns about price, a lack of global standards, and little enthusiasm from senior management.

But a 2018 report by Future Market Insights sums up the success and prospects of RFID in its title and sub-title: "Radio Frequency Identification Market: Revenue to Grow at a CAGR of 14.5% During 2018-2028, Driven by Integrating RFID Technology with IoT and Big Data Platforms for Real-time Data Access."

Benefits of RFID Technology

In the retail sector, buyer frustration is one of the major killers of unsuccessful brands. If a consumer develops an interest in one or more of your products via social media or your own online and offline advertising, they'll logically expect to be able to find those items when they visit your store. But if they search high and low without locating the things they want, they'll leave and take their business elsewhere.

RFID technology offers data in real time, enabling retailers to instantaneously track and upload changes in their inventory without the need for manual input. This also enables organizations to monitor their entire inventory in a single scan. And with RFID tags, you're able to track and identify missing items from your stock, reducing or even eliminating the risk of inventory shrink alongside the risk you might disappoint your customers. The use of RFID scanners can deter theft from your stock rooms, as well.

With real-time location data, inventory managers can determine when a product is on the move and if an item isn't where it's supposed to be. This information can be relayed to store assistants for quick action, reducing the risk of frustrated shoppers and lost sales.

For consumers, shopping from outlets powered by RFID technology carries the assurance that if they earmark or order items online to pick up in-store, those goods will actually be waiting for them. Brands that incorporate interactive technologies with RFID can empower consumers with deep information on each item — such as ingredients or points of origin — and allow them to communicate their experience of using a particular product.

For brand owners, RFID monitoring can reveal whether the items they've sold to a retailer are on display or still in the storeroom. RAIN RFID authentication mechanisms can confirm whether a product on display is truly their own, eliminating concerns about counterfeit goods in the supply chain.

Both retailers and brand owners benefit from the scalability and cost of RFID tags, which deliver tremendous value.

A Growing Influence on Retail

RAIN is the fastest-growing segment within the RFID market, with the shift to omnichannel retail operations driving increased adoption of both RAIN RFID tags and readers. Francisco Melo, VP/GM global RFID for Avery Dennison says:

"With the rise in omnichannel in recent years, the benefits of RFID are now extending to enhancing the consumer experience by meeting consumer demand for purchasing across multiple channels. As the growth in e-commerce and in online pure-play overtakes many bricks and mortar retailers, RFID becomes a fundamental technology, and that single view of inventory and optimization of that inventory across all channels not only allows you to increase availability of inventory across all channels, which drives sales up, but also to mix and match things that have not been sold in your network, thus reducing markdowns and improving your bottom line."

Though most retail adopters began by using RFID to tag apparel, opportunities are expanding to housewares, appliances, cosmetics, and numerous other items. Besides inventory management and visibility, RFID also has applications in preventing losses, enhancing omnichannel fulfillment, and taking retail analytics to new levels — thus, helping to improve the customer experience and increase buyer satisfaction.

RFID is also playing an increasing role outside the retail sector. For example, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) established a mandate in June 2018 requiring member airlines to implement RFID baggage tracking by the middle of 2020.

The business of purchasing and issuing tickets for outdoor events via wristbands fitted with RFID presents another growth area for 2020 and beyond. Using RFID technology, access control and hands-free payment are possible for concerts, trade shows, conferences, or food and beverage festivals.

The technology is also finding applications in the smart home industry, healthcare, and education, where parents can use RFID tagging to track the school attendance of their kids.

With the price of the technology dropping due to its wider adoption, we can also expect RFID to play a role in developing more autonomous checkout mechanisms for retail.

Technologies like RFID and inventory management optimization are set to be hot topics at Future Stores West 2020, which takes place between June 16 - 18, 2020, at The Sheraton, Seattle.

Download the agenda today for more information and insights.

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