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Retailer Uses RFID, Social Media and Cameras to Track Shopper Behavior

ISA Boutique is utilizing the hybrid solution to identify which products are of interest to shoppers, as well as where inventory is located and when it requires replenishment.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 18, 2016

ISA Fashion Boutique International Ltd., a seller of international luxury brands in Hong Kong, mainland China and Macau, has deployed an RFID-based inventory-management system provided by Hong Kong IT services company PCCW Solutions. The system enables the retailer to track the locations of products, engage with customers, learn their preferences and reduce labor costs based on inventory counts. The solution, known as Infinitum Retail, includes IP cameras as well as ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers. As a result of the improved inventory management, the retailer says that it plans to deploy the system this year at all 11 of its stores. Alpha Solution Ltd. installed the technology.

Traditionally, RFID has had limitations since it can track a tagged product, but not necessarily link that item with a particular customer, explains Jacky Ting, PCCW Solutions' digital practice leader. By itself, RFID cannot enable a store to forward product information and promotions to shoppers. However, by linking RFID data to closed-circuit television (CCTV) camera images and social-media sites such as Facebook, a retailer can identify where shopper traffic is heaviest (using a camera-based heat map), understand how an individual responds to a product (by tracking the expressions on his or her face) and monitor comments that its customers make on social media (with their permission), using the store's Wi-Fi network.

The reader built into an ISA store's EAS gate can capture the ID number of a customer's RFID-enabled loyalty card, prompting the Infinitum Retail software to send promotional offers to that individual's phone, based on his or her previous purchasing behavior.
Infinitum Retail aims to overcome a variety of problems that stores face, says Wing Lee, PCCW Solutions' senior VP, such as understanding which products interest customers, and then approaching them with relevant offers. ISA Boutique uses camera images only for tracking shoppers' locations within its stores, Lee notes, while it could opt to use facial analytics in the future to identify each customer's age, race, gender and response to products based on facial expressions.

In 2012, ISA Fashion first installed an RFID system for counting inventory and tracking product locations at one of its stores with the help of Alpha Solution (see ISA Boutique Tracks Inventory, Shopper Behavior Via RFID). The system, which is still in use, employs tiny RFID labels attached to jewelry, as well as readers installed in display cabinets, to track when goods are on display and when they are removed from a cabinet. After Infinitum Retail was released in October 2015, the retailer began using the system to track all of its products, which also include clothing, leather goods, eyewear and watches, at three shops and one warehouse in Hong Kong, as well as a single shop in mainland China. The new solution includes the use of electronic article surveillance (EAS) hard tags for non-jewelry products.

Infinitum Retail consists of RFID readers built into the EAS gate at the door, as well as a feature known as iR-Furniture—RFID interrogators built into shelves to read tags in real time. The system also includes readers installed at checkout terminals. In the warehouse, readers are used to identify when goods are received and then shipped to a store.

At the warehouse, an EAS hard tag with a built-in EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlay is attached to each product other than jewelry. The inlay is read at the warehouse for inventory purposes, and the cloud-based hosted software is automatically updated to indicate, for instance, if a tagged item has been shipped, as well as to which store and when this occurred.

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