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Delta Air Lines Shows the Future of Retail
Yes, that's right. An airline has deployed a customer-facing RFID solution that has huge implications for retailers.
Sep 06, 2017—
If you want to experience a probable future retail reality, don't go to a store. Fly Delta Air Lines. Yes, seriously, Delta Air Lines. Delta has done something that no retailer has done yet—let me explain. In the Atlanta airport, at gates T1–T3, the service counter is gone. In its place is a radically slimmed-down mobile pod that wheels from gate to gate as needed. Newly unleashed service agents use a device called the Nomad, which can provide complete service to passengers as agents mingle among the crowd.
Boarding pillars segment passengers into separate lines, depending on loyalty level. As each group is called, passengers approach the new E-Gate, using their phones to self-board (again, no agent). The E-Gate is a preliminary innovation for self-boarding; biometric boarding is coming later this year. These various technologies are being introduced to reduce friction at the critical point of boarding flights, helping to focus agents on passengers with needs rather than tasks for which they are no longer needed—mirroring what a cashier-free retail world would look like.
So far, I know of no retailer that has pointed RFID technology to shoppers through their mobile devices (so-called "magic mirrors" in dressing rooms don't count). Retail supply chain, logistics, inventory control and security types have been using RFID to improve those areas of their business. But leveraging RFID—empowering shoppers to use it—doesn't exist in retail, despite the fact that more than 40 percent of the apparel companies now tag their merchandise, along with significant innovations in RFID readers that are capable of real-time 100 percent accuracy, not to mention rock-bottom pricing on tags.
Imagine a revenue-boosted RFID retail world that allows shoppers to find—and even purchase—any item in a store, even if that item is in the back room. Or the ability to reach consumers via their devices with real-time, relevant information regarding goods in which they've expressed interest, just as PC and mobile users are retargeted with reminders of products they have browsed online.
Right now, it's just a hopeful fantasy, waiting to take flight.
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