Early Adopters Pave the Way

Nearly 45% of retailers responding to a recent survey indicated they were either testing or going to test RFID within the year. Of the retailers surveyed, 25.3% were using RFID in a pilot or production capacity and an additional 19.2% planned to start some type of RFID implementation within the year.

During the Supply Chain Summit, Bill McBeath, chief research officer of Cambridge, Mass.-based ChainLink Research, delivered the results from his company’s recent survey of more than 100 retailers that are utilizing RFID to enhance customer experiences.

Wireless payments, customer-loyalty applications and smart shelves represented the areas of most widespread RFID testing in store environments. Areas that were identified as having promise for RFID applications, but where implementations were not yet begun, include handheld readers, dressing rooms and loss prevention.

Almost as important as understanding how the technology is being tested, was gaining insights into where RFID tags were implemented and by whom. Although not all survey respondents were in a position to answer the question, 20.5% said the RFID tags were applied by the manufacturer; 12.8% said the tags were applied at the retailer’s DC; and 9% said tags were applied at the store.

The survey also asked retailers who were using RFID if they had either queried their customers about the RFID experience or if they had plans to request customer feedback. Surprisingly, one-third indicated they had neither asked nor planned to ask for customer input. “That’s a dangerous attitude to have when you are implementing technology that will change the customer’s experience,” cautioned McBeath.

However, 17.6% of those surveyed had obtained customer feedback and 44.1% planned to survey their customers about the experience. McBeath suggested, “To gauge customer response to the new technology, it is best to get customer reactions in a real setting as opposed to conducting [follow-up] customer surveys.”

The ChainLink survey concluded that the technology is readily available for RFID to impact customer experiences, but retail customers need to be engaged in the process and the early adopters of RFID at the store level will pave the way.

Retailers who are considering an RFID implementation were advised to “think big, but start small.” Additionally, attendees were encouraged to collaborate with experienced vendors and RFID providers; measure success of an RFID program on several dimensions, including ROI and customer feedback; ensure integration of key data collected and establish executive-level positions that are accountable for the customer experience.