There has certainly been a lot of talk recently about innovation in the retail sector, a lot of which can be found in PSFK’s most recent Future of Retail Report. Essentially, it comes down to enhancing the customer experience. Retailers are listening to their shoppers and considering new technologies to deliver what they are asking for, whether it is a webcam enabled algorithm that helps them find the right fit or a location aware smartphone app that provides sales-staff with customers’ preferences.
The use of RFID in retail to deliver enhanced customer experiences is growing as well. For example, Macy’s recently announced in a Forbes article that RFID will be an integral part of the new 63,000 square foot shoe department opening this fall in their Herald Square location. Similarly, JCPenny CEO Ron Johnson revealed they would be moving “…to a 100% [item-level] RFID implementation by February 1, 2013.” Macy’s and JCPenny are not unique in their decision to embrace RFID, as many retailers now understand the countless advantages the technology has to offer (for more, see our blog posts on RFID in retail).
For Macy’s, installing RFID in the shoe department will be their first “broad use of RFID.” After shoes, Macy’s plans to expand into basic merchandise - items that they need to make sure are always in stock and are in need of constant replenishment.
JCPenny's RFID strategy is centered on revitalizing the customer experience at the century-old department store. According to reports, the retailer is starting by implementing an RFID-enabled mobile Point of Sale (POS) solution beginning this fall. This is the first step in the company's plan to use RFID storewide to eliminate traditional check-out stations. The end goal is to allow any customer to check out anywhere, anytime, including self-check-out, by 2014.
At the end of the day, RFID is about simplicity and innovation. By automating manual tasks, RFID technology can improve the customer experience while driving sales and reducing costs. Add progress made by industry organizations such as VICS and their templates for retail best practices, and the barriers to RFID adoption in become very low.
In 2010, we blogged about RFID in retail in the article RFID-The New Future of Retail. We noted Wal-Mart’s famous 2004 mandate requiring its top 100 suppliers to apply RFID tags to shipping crates and pallets to drive efficiencies into its supply chain, and many innovative uses of the technology since. With Macy’s and JCPenny grabbing some of the spotlight now, it sure seems like big retail players are beginning to recognize the value of RFID in meaningful ways - taking advantage of the process improvements it has promised to deliver for over a decade and enabling unique personalized customer experiences that today's shoppers are demanding.