How to Successfully Get Started With RFID: A Step-by-Step Guide for Apparel Retail
In the current age of fashion retail, delivering a great shopping experience is crucial. With demands changing constantly, one of the most important boxes to tick is to have the product available as soon as consumers are ready to buy by managing inventories efficiently.
With the rise of the "zero consumer," as defined by McKinsey, consumers are increasingly shopping across channels, showing little loyalty, and expecting fast shipping. It’s no surprise that it's become vital to avoid delivering "bad shopping experiences."
Radio frequency identification (RFID) technology offers a powerful solution to this challenge. However, to extract the maximum benefits from this technology, the first step for many retailers is to run a RFID pilot. Additionally, this can be executed through a road map which will allow for the successful implementation and involves strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, iterative learning, and a rapid scale-up plan.
Start Small, Test, Learn and Adjust
Embarking on a RFID journey doesn't mean an immediate, sweeping overhaul of current systems. Instead, brands can start small by establishing a workshop with stakeholders and selected RFID solution provider experts, focusing on creating a business case for RFID implementation tailored to business needs and challenges.
With a business case in place, it's time to validate by performing a test to a select small group of stores that have RFID-tagged merchandise or tagging the merchandise in those stores. The products can be tagged in the distribution center (DC) or the store, depending on the nature of the sales operation. This testing phase is deemed as pre-rollout, executed step-by-step.
Conclusively, an iterative approach is crucial during this stage — regularly gathering data, evaluating the performance, and making necessary adjustments. This will ensure it delivers the maximum benefits for the business at hand.
Scaling Your RFID Road Map
If measures put in place by the stores have proven successful, the next step would be a rollout in rapid succession. Following the pre-established rollout plan, this can be implemented by validating RFID technology across all stores and involving the right stakeholders. As brands enter a new retail era, there's a clear, changing focus on omnichannel services and correlated tools and capabilities such as stock visibility, order management, and mobile applications. Yet, retail organizations realize that they need more cross-functional collaboration, as no single department can do everything.
Through the lens of various retailers, several different scenarios can be depicted — breaking the typical silos. Some examples of the areas where stakeholders are coming from are e-commerce and omnichannel, merchandising and allocation, and IT and data intelligence.
Emphasize User Adoption and the Customer Experience
Successful RFID projects typically have one thing in common: it's embraced by the users, from top management to store associates. Therefore, it's essential that team training is adequate to ensure a clear understanding of the benefits of RFID and its operations.
One of the primary reasons brands implement RFID is to maximize the customer experience by achieving complete stock visibility, providing accurate inventory levels across all channels, and preventing stock-outs. As decision-makers continue to adopt RFID, the ultimate goal is to provide a seamless shopping experience.
The retail strategy should now be focused on a small scale with a well-crafted business case for RFID. Next, it's crucial to embark on a testing phase with an open mind, ready to make necessary adjustments. Once the benefits have been validated, it's time to scale up. However, integration shouldn't be a solo journey.
Ultimately, everything circles back to improving the customer experience. With ultimate stock visibility and efficient inventory management, RFID technology allows brands and retailers to cater to the demands of "zero consumers" in real time. The end goal is to deliver a smooth, satisfying shopping experience for every customer, every time.
Ailen Bilharz is the director of iD Cloud Platform North America at Nedap Retail, a provider of RFID retail solutions.
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Ailen is Nedap Retail’s Director of iD Cloud Platform for North America and is based on the east coast of the USA. Having attended Northeastern University to study Communications and with more than 13 years in sales positions, Ailen is experienced in software-as-a-service and cloud services in industries such as IT, real estate and retail. In her role at Nedap, Ailen oversees the company’s cloud-based SaaS platform, which is designed to evolve the retail world, and works with her team to change the way the retail world sees inventory.