Nov 13, 2018The mainstream business press has not fully understood the value of radio frequency identification in retail (or in other industries, for that matter). Ten years ago, publications hailed RFID as the greatest thing since the transistor. But when it didn't transform global supply chains overnight, RFID was written off as a technological dead end—too expensive and too unreliable. That may be changing.
Forbes.com published an article this week, titled "Why the Time Is Now for the Forgotten Technology of Retail." The writer, Andrew Busby, points out that the cost and size of RFID tags have come down quite a bit during the past few years—and that the attitude of customers now tends to be, "I just don't simply want it, I want it now and, oh by the way, I want it where I need it."
According to Forbes, for retailers that means, "It's not simply a question of having one in stock. You need to know where precisely that item is, at any given time. Always."
How can you know where an item is precisely, and at all times? The article notes that stores typically take inventory twice a year, but with RFID, "stock checks can be virtually continual." The article goes on to report—correctly—that RFID can tell retailers where an item is located within their store or in the supply chain, and that "65 percent [inventory accuracy] just doesn't cut it any longer; this needs to be greater than 90 percent, and this is what RFID can deliver."
The article concludes that RFID is no longer an expensive luxury—it is "now key to unlocking omnichannel success." This shouldn't really be news, and probably won't come as a big surprise to RFID Journal's readers. We've been saying it for years, while Dr. Bill Hardgrave and the Auburn University RFID Lab have long been researching how RFID can boost inventory accuracy. What's more, retailers like Macy's, Marks & Spencer and Target have all been speaking about it at events for a while (see A Conversation With Macy's Bill Connell, Marks & Spencer Embraces Change and Learning from Target).
Still, it's a good sign that a mainstream business publication has written about the benefits of RFID and why the technology is so important in the new retail environment. I hope Forbes' article will lead to more and more articles in the mainstream business press. Then, maybe retailers will finally catch on that RFID is a core element in their digital transformation.
Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.