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L.L. Bean Tries to Hike Sales With RFID

The apparel and outdoor gear retailer is testing an RFID system that can track when a shopper handles a hiking boot on display, thereby triggering a video screen to play informational media, while also measuring shopper interest.
By Claire Swedberg
Feb 07, 2011Apparel and outdoors sports equipment retailer L.L. Bean is testing a radio frequency identification system that records when an item is picked up by a customer at its flagship store, and activates the streaming of appropriate video regarding that particular product. The system, known as InMotion Retail Marketing, was provided by brand identification technologies firm Pittsfield ID Technologies.

L.L. Bean is one of several retailers installing the system this year. Another is a large electronics retailer that has asked not to be named, but that, according to Pittsfield ID, has plans to deploy the system in the second quarter of 2011, at 300 of its store locations throughout the United States.

An Impinj Speedway R420 reader was mounted to the back of the display wall and wired to several antennas.

Since 1926, Pittsfield ID has provided labels for apparel and other products, as well as electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems for theft prevention in stores. During the past decade, the company had begun providing RFID in labels to enable the electronic tracking of tagged items; Pittsfield ID provides RFID technology to some customers—especially in the commercial-laundry sector , with passive high-frequency (HF) tags for linens, uniforms and other laundry items.

The system installed at L.L. Bean's store in Freeport, Maine, features Pittsfield ID's InMotion software, which analyzes changes in the RF signals that a reader receives from the tags. Based on those changes, the software can then determine if a customer has picked the item to which that tag was attached. The method by which InMotion operates, says Frederick Bleckmann, the company's VP of development, is proprietary.

Pittsfield ID's Frederick Bleckmann
"One object of the InMotion system is to not change anything that the consumer naturally does during the handling of products in the retail environment," Bleckmann says. Instead, the solution is designed to provide information to a shopper who picks up a tagged product, without requiring that person to press buttons or prompts on a screen.

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