AI, RFID Bring Intelligence to Holiday Greeting Card Sales

By Claire Swedberg

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Riverside Greetings is deploying a patented solution tracking inventory counts at its card displays in stores, improving efficiency and refining sales strategies.

Greeting card supplier Riverside Greetings is launching an AI and RFID-based system to manage its merchandise at stores throughout the UK.

With the technology, the company’s sales associates can come to each customer site with an RFID reader and capture the unique ID of each card that is displayed there for stocking purposes.

Initially the system helps company associates count stock at each site quickly. In fact, Riverside Greetings expects workers to be able to count a rackful of cards in just a few minutes at each site as opposed to up to 45 minutes needed for manual counting.

According to Andrew Glen, Riverside Greetings’ managing director, system intelligence will provide benefits to the company and its customers far beyond stock counting—it will offer visibility into sales trends for specific cards at each store, thereby aiding in card design and stocking plans that the company forecasts increasing sales.

A Unique Approach to Card Sales

Riverside Greetings has been selling its cards throughout the UK, Europe, and Canada for three decades. Riverside has about 3,500 sites installed in the UK alone. Its racks—at convenience stores and gas stations, schools, and hospital gift shops—often display hundreds of different card types.

Nearly all cards are designed by Riverside Greetings’ own designers, with an average of 20 to 30 new designs released monthly.

To make it easier to integrate the cards into a store’s existing point of sale software, the cards come with three barcode SKUs based on price. Stores can then simply scan the card’s barcode and the cost of the card is automatically captured to enable a sale. The stores earn the margin between their selling price and the price they pay Riverside.

Onsite Management Lacked Analytics

In fact, when launching a new relationship with a store, Glen will tell store representatives that “if you take the money at the till, and you pay our invoices, we’ll do everything else.”

Prior to the RFID deployment, Riverside’s sales associates visited each store at pre-set intervals, using the greeting card company’s software to view their appointed visits each day, and to update information about what services they provided at each site.

However, inventory counting was done manually. With an average of 100 to 200 unique designs at each store, this was time-consuming process. By using a RFID system to track each individual card at store sites, Glen wanted to “optimize the stock counting, and make it more efficient.”

RFID to Optimize Card Management

A passive UHF RFID tag is attached to the plastic sleeve (wrapping) around the card. The tags were provided, along with firmware for reading the tags, by SML.

Each employee who visits customer sites brings a handheld UHF RFID reader with them. They first scan the cards on the rack as they arrive and can use the software on the reader to view what cards were sold. Retailers use the company’s software to ensure they restock the rack according to those sales and take into account the recommendations of the system based on the most productive card designs.

When Riverside associates leave the store, they read the RFID tags again, which creates a record of restocking, and confirms that it was accomplished properly.

When a store customer purchases a card, only the barcode is scanned at the point of sale. Once a customer takes the card home, they can discard the plastic wrapping as well as the RFID tag attached to it.

Using AI for Analytics

In the long term, Riverside Greetings’ intention is to eliminate the plastic sleeve and leverage an RFID label that can be built directly into the paper card for sustainability efforts.

The company has built AI into its software to use the RFID data to analyze sales according to location, types of cards being sold and a variety of other metrics—the store’s region, type and size. This allows Riverside to identify which cards are selling well, and which are not, based on those metrics.

Riverside can use the RFID read data not only to determine which cards to stock at each site in real time, but which cards to stock there in the future based on customer preference. The data can assist designers in planning their next cards based on what is selling in the largest numbers.

Finding the Best Tag for the Application

Riverside spent about six months of testing and experimenting with RFID technology to find the best combination of tags and readers, says Glen. The environment can be challenging for RFID transmissions, with tags positioned very close together on a rack and, in some cases, displayed in metal holders.

“Some of our displays have wire pockets, almost like little Faraday cages, so that’s been something of a challenge,” Glen says.

SML helped Riverside identify the most effective hardware. The technology company provided its expertise in terms of the best tag design, readers and even the most desirable placement of tags.

“We’ve played around with location we’ve played around with the types of tag, and we’ve come up with something that works great. We’re now at a point where we’ll be rolling it outlive into a number of stores,” says Glen.

In the future, Riverside Greetings might sell the solution to users in other sectors who have a variety of goods on display in a vendor-managed display model.

Benefit for Stores

The company estimates the technology will increase sales at stores by about 20 percent, based on better stocking strategies and designs. In fact, in pilots on stores sites, stores found a 40 percent sales increase over sales of other cards sold by competitor companies. Additionally, the RFID data will help inform the way in which the company manages the warehouse.

“If a card doesn’t sell particularly well then I’ll order it in smaller quantities and have less cash tied up in it,” Glen says. “Our business is all about innovation, and from a relatively small piece of space in a store, providing shoppers with an ever-changing offer.”

RFID will make that innovation more strategic and profitable.

“We’ve clearly found a solution to an issue for our market…This will literally transform the business,” commented Glen.

Key Takeaways:
  • Following pilots, Riverside Greetings is preparing to deploy an RFID system at its customer sites with UHF tags on cards, and handheld readers and software employed by sales associates and management.
  • The solution is intended to boost sales by about 20 percent by ensuring proper stocking of cards most appropriate for each store’s clientele and season.