Expanding the Use of RFID in Retail

The ECR working group met in October for our annual RFID meeting, where Decathlon and River Island showcased RFID's role beyond inventory management, enhancing customer experiences and operational efficiency.

The meeting featured: 

  • Decathlon Strategy Overview & Shop Floor Review of Use Cases
  • Presentation from River Island on Smart RFID Fitting Rooms
  • Innovation Showcase with RFID Innovators
  • Retailer RFID Updates (20+ Retailers)
  • M&S RFID Supply Chain Research and Use Cases
  • Hot Topics Discussion:  Virtual Shielding, RFID, Self Checkout, E-commerce Use cases, Organisation design [how to keep momentum and innovation flowing?] and EPOS Integration.

Watch the recap video and / or read the transcript.

Our working group will next meet in person in Barcelona on October 9th & 10th 2024


Note: This transcript has been partially summarised for clarity. 

Colin Peacock: Hey Adrian, just a quick one. I think it was only last week when we had our annual RFID meeting. Decathlon hosted us, showing us their strategy and store applications of RFID. Then we headed across London to a Goodenough College for River Island's presentation on smart fitting rooms, which are really transforming the shopping experience. We also mingled with six entrepreneurs working in various RFID spaces, had a few drinks, and the next day, Richard Jenkins gave us a rundown on RFID in the supply chain. We then delved into about six hot topics, following updates from around 20 retailers. Overall, we had around forty delegates. What key learning points did you jot down from those two days?

Beck, Adrian (Prof.): Yes, it was fascinating. Visiting places like Decathlon is always insightful. They're at the pinnacle of our RFID maturity model, with their long-term investment and organisational commitment. In their store, RFID is like a thread running through everything, from counting inventory to self-checkout. They've shown that a 100% tagging strategy is essential for RFID's effectiveness. It was an eye-opener for many, seeing how an organisation can leverage RFID. And about the roundtables, one thing that struck me, especially, was the discussion on E-commerce. We've always known about its value in understanding customers through data. Bricks-and-mortar stores have been envious of this, as they usually can't track customer interactions to the same extent. But the fitting room case study showed how RFID can start bridging this gap, providing insights on what customers are trying on and returning. It's a big step towards bricks-and-mortar stores gaining similar customer insights as E-commerce.

Colin Peacock: Absolutely, the data from fitting rooms, like sizes and conversion rates, is a goldmine we've never had access to before. It was indeed an exciting presentation.

Beck, Adrian (Prof.): Definitely. And we've always said, the 'ID' in RFID is crucial. It's about unique identification. Initially, RFID's main role was ensuring on-shelf availability and stock accuracy. Now, we're seeing its applications expand. Businesses are using RFID for deeper insights. The meeting showed that organisations are at different stages in their RFID journey. Some are just starting, while others, like Decathlon, have been committed for over 15 years. It's a journey that requires ongoing management and commitment to fully benefit from the technology.

Colin Peacock: Right, and the discussions around self-checkout and virtual shielding showed diverse opinions. But as you mentioned, organisation-wide commitment is key. The role of RFID in E-commerce also sparked interest, though it seems less defined.

Beck, Adrian (Prof.): Indeed. In E-commerce, RFID can bring transparency and accountability, especially from dispatch to delivery. This could help with issues like chargebacks and missing deliveries. However, its potential in E-commerce is still largely untapped. There's a lot of room for growth.

Colin Peacock: RFID definitely boosts confidence in inventory levels, helping avoid declaring items out of stock. But integrating RFID into existing systems, like point-of-sale, is challenging due to the unique nature of RFID data.

Beck, Adrian (Prof.): True. Integrating RFID data into existing systems is complex but essential for tracking a product's journey and managing aspects like refunds. Some retailers are using 2D barcodes at checkout to capture this information without overhauling their entire systems. The hope is that future systems will better accommodate RFID data.

Colin Peacock: It's a significant leap, and we'll continue exploring these themes in our upcoming meetings and discussions. Looking forward to our next gathering in Barcelona on October 9th and 10th.

Beck, Adrian (Prof.): Sounds good. Take care, Colin. Bye.

Oct 31, 2023