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Online Furniture Retailer Adds RFID to Its Brick-and-Mortar Showroom

Made.com is providing customers at its London showroom with tablets that they can use to read NFC tags to learn about each product, while giving the retailer access to data about shopper behavior and preferences.
By Claire Swedberg

The system also enables a Made.com staff member to be linked to an online sale of a product with which he or she helped the shopper at the showroom. Each salesperson is equipped with an NFC-enabled badge containing a unique ID number linked to his or her identity. When the employee speaks with a showroom visitor, that associate can tap the badge against the back of the shopper's tablet, thereby creating a record of helping that person. If the shopper then goes home and later purchases an item from his wish list online, CloudTags' software links the sales associate's ID with that sale, providing the worker with a potential bonus for facilitating that sale.

The system, Yancey says, will let Made.com "track the level of engagement" between shoppers and staff members. Moreover, he adds, it can determine "if the omnichannel value of online and physical stores are working together."

CloudTags' James Yancey
During the past year, CloudTags has installed similar NFC-based systems at several other British retail locations. At Drop Dead, a youth-oriented British retailer, NFC tags are mounted in strategic areas around the store, against which visitors can tap an NFC-enabled tablet in order to launch data about particular products, or about the punk band after which the store is named. Existing bar-code labels on garments can also be scanned via the tablet's built-in camera, to obtain specifics about each clothing item. Another retailer, 39-39, is utilizing the technology to provide shoppers with stories—by way of video content and pictures—about the designers who created the product designs. Both systems were taken live in July 2013.

In September 2013, the London store of a third retailer, Harvey Nichols, launched the CloudTags solution employing only NFC RFID technology. The advantages that NFC tags offer, Yanecy reports, are their ease of use, the ability to link to a large amount of data (such as videos), and the fact that shoppers engage with NFC tags at a rate 30 times that of bar-code labels. However, he adds, bar-code labels do not need to be applied to each item in the store, as NFC tags do, since garments come with bar-coded labels already attached.

Since the Made.com trial began, Yancey says, the furniture company's sales have increased, though the details still need to be reviewed. The system not only provides some excitement for shoppers—as well as data linking a specific online sale to a showroom visit—but also offers analytics that can help Made.com understand how much value the showroom is providing overall by prompting future online sales.

The technology would also work with NFC-enabled smartphones, according to Yancey, but CloudTags encourages shoppers to use the tablet, since doing so does not require showroom visitors to download an app. What's more, he says, it lets shoppers remain anonymous, if that is their preference.

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