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Is There an Untapped Pool of RFID Customers Somewhere?

Available evidence suggests the market for RFID systems is still confined to a relatively small group of early pragmatists.
Posted By Mark Roberti, 03.14.2012
A while back, I was talking to a marketing executive at a company that provides RFID solutions. He said, "My sales team thinks that there must be a lot of potential customers out there who do not read RFID Journal or attend RFID Journal events." I hear more or less the same thing from time to time from other solutions providers frustrated at their inability to obtain more business.

And it's not just solutions providers—I believe almost every company on Earth can benefit from deploying radio frequency identification. So it would seem that there are a lot of potential customers out there that no one has yet discovered. But, unfortunately, the evidence indicates that this untapped pool of RFID customers simply does not exist. That's because the market is still in the early stages of adoption.

You may have the best product and a sound argument, but at this point in the adoption cycle, you will be unable to convince most potential end users to invest in RFID technology. Geoffrey Moore, the author of Crossing the Chasm and other seminal works on how new technologies are adopted, says that even though many companies can benefit from a new technology, most will choose not to adopt until that technology reaches a critical mass.

In fact, many of these potential end users aren't even ready to learn about RFID technology in any kind of depth—and people need information before they will buy a solution. I speak at numerous vertical industry events, explaining the benefits of RFID. We also exhibit at these conferences, giving away special subscription offers or flyers with a discount to our own events. These efforts produce almost no results. One year, we gave away 2,000 RFID Journal print magazines with a special offer at a supply chain event. We didn't obtain a single subscriber as a result.

Every year, we mail brochures for our RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition to our partners' lists. We've sent e-mails to those lists, and we've advertised on our partners' Web sites. Occasionally, we've run ads on media sites promoting specific industry content at LIVE!, or in webinars. This year, for instance, we ran a banner ad on Women's Wear Daily for a free webinar offered by Lord & Taylor and Jockey International (see Lord & Taylor, Jockey Discuss How They Utilize Item-Level RFID), as well as free item-level RFID workshops. The response to these efforts is always disappointing.

If we can't convince people to attend an RFID Journal event or a free webinar, it seems highly unlikely they are going to turn around and invest in an RFID system. (I can usually tell when a company is serious about RFID, because the number of executives from that firm who attend an event or participate in a webinar rises from one or two to five, six or more.)

I, like you, find it endlessly frustrating that more companies are not investing in RFID. But if someone is not yet ready to do something—whether it's dieting, exercising or investing in technology—you can't convince them to do so, even if it's beneficial to them.

Moore suggests that RFID companies focus on the few early adopters willing to take a chance on a new technology, or that have a problem serious enough to warrant taking a chance. I believe he's right—this is the key to growing the RFID market.

In my next post, I will explain how to find these people.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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