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RFID about more than stock accuracy

15 April 2018

Retailers are beginning to embrace RFID in-store with a view to transforming stock accuracy. But, while great, there are potentially some even greater benefits of deploying RFID, explains Craig Summers, UK MD of Manhattan Associates. 

Real-time tracking enables retailers to gain unprecedented insight into the way customers interact with products in-store. Secondly, and even more importantly, by feeding highly accurate store-level inventory data into an end to end order management system, retailers can transform both the customer experience and inventory utilisation.

At a tracking level, in addition to the obvious basket information, RFID can reveal which products are repeatedly picked up but never actually purchased; which items are taken to the changing rooms but always left there; and which are never even noticed.

In addition to plugging that gap in data on customers’ in-store activity, using RFID in this way can provide retailers with early insight into potential product demand or quality issues that are likely to impact online activity. A product that is repeatedly taken to the changing room but never purchased, for example, is likely to be one that is often bought online but experiences high levels of return.

The key to unlocking even greater value though is in combining this rich information – an accurate picture of store inventory and data on how customers are interacting with products – with an end to end order management system. Retailers suddenly become equipped with the tools that allow them to take far more proactive and effective inventory allocation and service enhancement decisions. The technology combination allows them to quickly spot a trend in demand within one location and move stock between stores in response. They gain a huge degree of flexibility in terms of how orders can be fulfilled, e.g. in-store stock can be reserved to fulfil click-and-collect orders or can be used to support a 2-hour delivery service with a ship-from-store fulfilment capability. And with visibility of every stock unit across the network, they can present a customer with a much broader range of fulfilment options where a product is not available in a given store and essentially “save the sale”.

The combined RFID/order management system approach is likely to take retail in-store by storm in 2018. But those retailers only considering RFID as a tool to improve inventory accuracy are missing a trick.