By Jennifer Shaheen
RFID technology is absolutely pervasive throughout modern life, yet many people are unaware of its existence. If you’ve had your pet microchipped to ensure its safety, have an EZ Pass or other electronic toll payment system on your car, or have made a purchase at a large chain store, RFID chips were involved.
Over 50 percent of U.S. retailers use RFID as part of their operations, according to GS1 US, a non-profit organization devoted to standardizing supply chain best practices. Industry observer Mark Roberti, writing for RFID Journal, reports that RFID is “a technology beginning to build critical mass in retail.” While big brands have been using RFID for a while, adoption by smaller businesses has been slower. However, opting out entirely may not be a viable option much longer, as this technology provides significant cost-savings benefits that can’t be ignored.
What is RFID?
RFID stands for radio-frequency identification. A RFID system is composed of small, scannable tags that contain information about the item they’re attached to, as well as a reader—similar to a bar code scanner—and the software that makes everything work. To use the system, tagged items must be scanned as they move throughout a system, from manufacturer to warehouse to the sales floor through purchase.
While some RFID tags are removable, the technology is trending toward smaller and smaller tags that are intended to remain part of the item permanently. Luxury clothing makers are currently experimenting with RFID tags that are thread-sized, meaning they can be woven into a garment as lasting proof of identity. In situations where counterfeit products are a concern, an RFID tag can prove that the customer is truly getting what they’ve
RFID makes omnichannel marketing possible
Brands have a constantly expanding set of sales channels available to them, including selling in the store, through a website, on social media, through text messages and more. To provide a seamless sales experience for your customer, it’s essential to have very robust inventory control systems in place.
RFID tags make it very simple to know what you have and where you have it, in real time. This makes rapid order fulfillment possible, while preventing selling the same item to multiple customers. They also make it possible to offer “buy online, pick up in store” functionality to your customer, an increasingly popular option with today’s shoppers. As smaller retailers work to remain competitive in the marketplace, RFID systems will clearly be an essential part of their operations.
Cost controls with RFID
Many retailers use RFID tags as a loss-prevention tool, tagging very expensive, small items to prevent customers from walking away with them. RFID tags can be used to track other items as well, from file folders to tractor trailers, minimizing the amount of time your team needs to spend locating items. RFID tags can also be attached to sensors to let you know your inventory is being stored appropriately—such as on a thermometer to ensure frozen products are kept at an acceptably cold temperature. What started as a technology option for larger companies is quickly becoming affordable for smaller companies as well.
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