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System Uses RTLS to Help Track, Assign Retail Staff

A new system features RTLS ID badges worn by retail store personnel so software can monitor their location, make recommendations on labor scheduling and deployment, and provide business intelligence about how employee locations impact sales and customers.
Tags: Retail
Jan 14, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

January 14, 2009—Frustrated when you can't find a store clerk to help when you're shopping? Retailers are too, and are hoping that real time locating system (RTLS) technology in combination with video cameras and thermal imaging can help them do a better job of having employees where they're needed.

Two retailers have piloted a new system from ShopperTrak that monitors customer and employee locations in stores so employees can be directed to where they are most likely needed. Customer locations and traffic patterns are monitored by a network of video cameras and thermal sensors as part of the retail traffic analysis system that ShopperTrak has offered for years. Last week the firm introduced its new FloorTrak enhancement, which has employees wear ultra-wideband (UWB) RTLS badges from Time Domain. Customers are not tracked by RTLS, only staff. The badges enable system software to distinguish store personnel from customers so it can make recommendations on how staff should be deployed and provide more accurate reports about customer traffic flow.

"Retailers know that employee behavior at the dressing room area has a large impact on sales," Time Domain vice president of sales and marketing Greg Clawson told RFID Update. "This gives them a tool to help manage the process."

The data is used for a variety of store operations, including helping analyze how employee proximity to customers affects sales conversion rates, measuring the effectiveness of displays and other merchandising activity, and improving labor scheduling.

"Customer traffic data has evolved to become a key metric retailers rely on to become more efficient and to maximize conversion rate in their stores," ShopperTrak co-founder Bill Martin said in the announcement. "By developing FloorTrak, we're able to provide our retail clients with the most accurate and reliable traffic data available -- ultimately increasing store performance and improving the bottom line."

Two retailers piloted the new system before it was announced this week. The first was a specialty apparel retailer who used it for in-store operations. The second was an auto parts store whose employees often go to the parking lot to help customers with their vehicles. Depending on the location precision required, Time Domain's RTLS readers can cover areas up to approximately 30,000 square feet.

Competing RTLS systems use different wireless technologies. Clawson said ultra-wideband-based RTLS is a good fit for this application because it performs well in retail store environments and when used around most retail products. Many retailers have WiFi-standard wireless infrastructures in their stores, but WiFi-based RTLS systems didn't provide the consistent performance or location accuracy ShopperTrak's system required, according to Clawson.

The system is being demonstrated this week at the NRF show in New York City.
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