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End Users—Not Vendors—Can Best Sell RFID

Companies that have deployed the technology are convincing other firms of its many benefits.
By Mark Roberti
Nov 14, 2011Last week, I visited Medellin, Colombia, to co-host the RFID in Textil and Confección event with our partner, LOGyCA. During a break, I interviewed a speaker, Laura Leal, who is in charge of the RFID team at Crystal Vestimundo, a Colombian retailer with 76 stores.

I asked Leal how her company became interested in radio frequency identification. "Actually, in 2004, we bought some equipment to do a little testing, but we didn't get very far," she said. "Last year, we attended the RFID Journal LIVE! Latin America event, and we got our RFID certification. We also went to RFID Journal LIVE!, in Orlando, in April." At both conferences, she listened to a number of apparel retailers discuss their successful deployments. Then, the company's VP of operations picked her and two other executives to lead an RFID pilot, about which I'll be writing soon.

In 2009, Zander Livingston, who was then running American Apparel's RFID efforts, said this on stage at RFID Journal LIVE!: "About a year and a half ago, our CEO came to me and said, 'I heard about RFID. I have lost stock all over my stores—about 10 percent. Can RFID help me locate my lost stock?' I went to an RFID Journal event in New York City, and was sitting out there where you guys are now. [After listening to end-user case studies], I went back to the CEO and said, 'Absolutely, RFID can help you locate that 10 percent of lost stock for you.'"

These are just two anecdotes—there are many more. In fact, I can often draw a straight line from any current RFID deployment back to someone at that company attending an RFID Journal event. I bring this up not because we have two upcoming events this year—RFID in Defense and Security 2011, in Washington, D.C., and RFID Journal LIVE! Latin America 2011, in Mexico City—as well as LIVE! 2012, in Orlando, but rather because it illustrates a point about how new technologies are adopted that many end users and vendors do not understand. Frankly, I didn't understand it either, until I read Geoffrey Moore's best-selling books Crossing the Chasm and Inside the Tornado (my thanks to RFID Recruiters' Mike Shiff for turning me on to Moore's work).

According to Moore, as a new technology matures, vendors must win new customers one at a time until one vendor becomes the dominant technology provider—the "gorilla"—and the rest of the industry then follows. Vendors would like to advertise on Google, or attend large industry events and scoop up large numbers of leads, hoping to convert some into business. But the reality is that there aren't yet large numbers of companies out there that are eager to deploy RFID, and it usually takes three to four years from the time that a company starts investigating in RFID until it deploys the technology (that timeline will begin to shrink now that solutions are more mature, and there are a greater number of success stories).


Shlomo Kogos 2011-11-18 09:55:13 AM
end users I agree with you 100% At least for the industry I am selling to. shlomo

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