Delivering a Flawless In-Store Customer Experience

By Dean Frew

RFID helps retailers enhance stock and inventory accuracy, and thus offer a more personalized and frictionless customer experience.

With the new era of retail increasing shopper expectations, delivering a flawless in-store customer experience has never been more critical than it is today. Adopting item-level RFID technology ensures customer service is elevated to new levels to remain relevant within a crowded field of competitors.

RFID is rapidly gaining implementation within the retail sector and is a key technology applied to aid retailers' operations by improving inventory management and stock visibility as the foundation of adoption.

After optimizing the supply chain and offering vital inventory insights, RFID technology is also transforming the customer journey and enabling new ways of driving sales. The versatile solution increases inventory traceability to the item level and, as a result, facilitates smart mirrors in fitting rooms, checkout-less shopping, social-media integration, and indoor mapping through smartphones.

Dean FrewTransforming the Point of Sale

The most common area in-store that retailers focus on to improve customer engagement is at point of sale (POS). Implementing RFID technology at the POS enables an automated checkout, as retailers are able to accurately identify each item in the checkout process, transforming checkout into a faster, more accurate and smoother transaction.

The adoption of RFID technology also allows retailers to reduce the friction at checkout points. Decreasing queue times for customers is one of the most important ways to gain high-quality customer service. RFID technology reduces queue times, as RFID readers are able to identify all items simultaneously instead of requiring barcode scans of each item individually related to the sales transaction.

According to research by Talkative, a seamless customer journey is the most effective way to keep customers happy and loyal to your business, and the research further indicates that consistently offering this kind of approach is also proven to attract new customers.

Enhanced Inventory Management

Research from a recent SML report shows that on average, staff spend 14.6 hours a week performing inventory-related tasks, taking time away from assisting customers in-store, and leading to shopper dissatisfaction. These physical inventory counts are not only labor-intensive but also often prone to errors.

RFID technology allows retailers to gain a greater view of their on-hand inventory with 93 to 99 percent inventory accuracy by scanning hundreds of items within seconds. With an accurate view of inventory that is maintained regularly, retailers can ensure that their stock is fully replenished, reducing the risk of loss of sales and customers opting to shop at a competitor instead.

Consequently, staff who were previously tied up counting stock now have the time to assist customers in-store, enabling an enhanced shopping experience and driving sales. The use of RFID technology helps retailers significantly on the sales floor and can also be leveraged in their supply chains. Furthermore, an SML report found that 43 percent of retailers believe enhanced stock-level visibility would help them better serve customers and increase the overall customer experience.

According to the NRF National Retail Study 2018, inventory shrinkage costs the U.S. retail industry $46.8 billion in 2017. RFID technology can provide a technological solution to retailers by supplying knowledge of where an item went missing, allowing them to mitigate the impact of shrinkage by adjusting inventory levels to replace missing or out-of-stock items. This will drive additional sales and offset the cost of lost inventory in the process.

Smart Fitting Rooms

Customers' desire for information and personalization is transforming the way retailers deliver a seamless in-store customer experience. Enabled by RFID technology, interactive fitting rooms increase customer engagement by providing outfit and accessory suggestions, size availability, and color options.

Not only do smart fitting rooms enhance the in-store customer experience, but retailers gain insights into shopper expectations. With RFID technology, retailers obtain information about which items are being brought into dressing rooms to try on and how often those items are converted into sales. Consequently, this allows retailers to make smarter buying decisions, as well as reduce the accumulation of outdated stock.

Shoppers are starting to demand this advanced generation of services and the entire retail sector is adapting rapidly. Between 2018 and 2020, European retailers have increased their use of radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging technologies from 27 to 77 percent, according to a 2022 Statista study.

The Importance of RFID

The tides are turning for the modern retail landscape as RFID is becoming routine for retailers worldwide. RFID technology empowers retailers like never before and provides an elevated shopping experience for their customers.

The combination of advanced store operations and an improved customer experience are leading to sales growth and increased profitability for retailers who have started their RFID implementation journey. By implementing RFID solutions, retailers enhance stock and inventory accuracy, offering customers a more personalized, frictionless, and modern customer experience.

Dean Frew is chief technology officer and senior VP for RFID solutions at  SML Group, and the founder of SML Intelligent Inventory Solutions (formerly Xterprise, purchased by SML in 2013). Frew is responsible for driving SML's RFID tags and solutions strategy. He runs the RFID solutions division, based on his 20-plus years of experience delivering RFID solutions to retailers and brand owners around the globe.