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RFID Tracks Spanish Shoppers' Interest in Shoes, Books

Two retailers in Spain are attaching EPC Gen 2 tags to some of their merchandise, in order to gauge the popularity of products by tracking how often customers pick the items up.
By Claire Swedberg
Store employees attach tags as the books arrive from publishers. The unique ID number encoded to each tag is linked to data about the book itself, including its publisher and title. That information is stored on the ISF software on a cloud-based server, which the retailer can then access. Currently, only several dozen book titles—recent releases prominently on display—are being tracked. Typically, between six and 18 books are read by a single shelf reader. Three readers are presently in use, installed under the tops of two tables measuring 50 centimeters by 50 centimeters (19.7 inches by 19.7 inches)—one on each of the two floors—and another table, measuring 30 centimeters by 50 centimeters (11.8 inches by 19.7 inches). In each case, a Cité Trade Tech reader interrogates the tags placed above it, and sends each tag's unique ID to the Cité Trade Tech cloud-based server.

If a book is raised more than 20 to 30 centimeters (7.9 to 11.8 inches) from the table top, the interrogator can no longer receive a transmission from the book's RFID tag, and that change in read status is forwarded to the software, which determines that the book has been picked up. Once the book is returned to the shelf, the reader resumes sending the tag's unique ID number to the back-end system, indicating that the title has been returned rather than moved, or has been carried to the point of sale.

A Hush Puppies shoe with an EPC Gen 2 RFID inlay attached to a hangtag

Library Argot shares the read data with the company that published the tagged books. "The editors analyze the success, and are able to react immediately," Bonet states. "If a book does not generate data [indicating shoppers are picking it up], something is going on with it." For publishers, he says, the solution can be to change the cover, while the system also enables them to increase the production of books based on the amount of interest they generate. Argot's managers can also use the data to determine whether the surrounding environment or the book's location is affecting interest, Bonet says.

According to Bonet, Argot has tested Cité Trade Tech's NFC solution. "At the moment, we do not use NFC in the bookstore," he says, though he adds that the retailer may opt to use the technology to provide customers (who own NFC-enabled phones) with more details about a book, as well as promotional offers related to that title. The use of NFC would necessitate that each category of product be provided with an NFC tag, against which a consumer could tap his or her phone, but would not require an NFC tag be placed on each product. If the store adopts the NFC solution, he says, he expects the technology to be utilized not only to provide additional details to shoppers, but also to enable consumers to collect loyalty points with the purchase of books.

The Hush Puppies store, located at the Gran Turia mall in Valencia, is also using the Smart Data ISF system to gain information regarding how customers handle products prior to purchase, says Daniel Mus, Hush Puppies Spain's logistics and store manager. "We wanted to resolve the lack of information about which items were the most taken or liked," Mus explains, and determine what may be "the hot points of sale at the store." The EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID inlays are attached to paper hangtags on 50 to 60 shoes and boots displayed on one of three RFID-enabled shelves, one for each shop window. With the ISF system in place, the company can not only determine which items interest customers, but also which locations within the store may attract the most customer traffic. What's more, for items frequently viewed, the solution can indicate how often those shoe models are then purchased. Since the system was installed several months ago, Mus says, "the store was able to optimize and increase sales, [by] changing the items' location and positioning following the info supplied by the shelves."

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