Apr 19, 2019Swiss outdoor brand Mammut has been deploying Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology to boost customer interactions and increase supply chain transparency. The technology consists of Smartrac's Smart Cosmos Enablement System and Internet of Things (IoT) platform to capture and manage data about each product, along with Smartrac's NFC tags containing chips provided by NXP Semiconductors.
Last year, Mammut sought a solution that would help it connect to its customers, according to Tim Hegglin, Mammut Sports Group AG's head of corporate communication. The solution needed to help create an ecosystem that would feature inventory visibility, he says, as well as communicate with consumers. In 2018, Hegglin reports, "We evaluated other technology solutions and chose the best one for our needs" that could be embedded in the product.
Mammut has a long history, having been founded in 1862 to provide mountaineering gear. These days, it is among the world's leading providers of products dedicated to outdoor recreation. Recently, the company decided to leverage technology to better reach the latest generation of its outdoor sports-loving customers.
Mammut says it sought to transform its point of sale to a "point of experience," and to innovative technology to bring more traffic to its stores. The company wanted a system that would not only improve visibility but allow it to engage with customers. "Mammut was looking for a convenient solution that adds value at every point in the product life cycle," says Karin Fabri, Smartrac Technology Group's marketing and communications head, "from manufacturing through retail and to the consumer."
The company also hoped to achieve greater visibility into each product and its post-sale customer journey. Traditionally, Fabri explains, retailers tend to lose sight of customers and products following purchases. "By leveraging NFC," she says, "Mammut could create a digital connection between a digital product identity and a customer identity," thereby enabling customer-loyalty programs, feedback and value-added services. Those services can include access to product information, as well as other company services, such as Mammut's digital hiking logbook and Alpine School tour offerings.
The system centers around the Smart Cosmos IoT platform and Enablement System, which allows the creation of a unique ID number for each product, then tracks the history of that item's movements throughout the supply chain, at the store and after the product is brought to a customer's home. The solution captures data related to each NFC tag read event, Fabri reports, enabling a link between that ID number and secure, product-specific data sets.
The Smart Cosmos Enablement System creates digital twins of each product by marrying the unique NFC tag ID with an item's associated metadata, Fabri explains. The data is uploaded to the Smart Cosmos IoT platform via an Internet connection, and is then made available to Mammut's IT systems.
The NFC deployment begins at the point of manufacture. First, a Smartrac Circus Flex NFC tag containing an NXP NTAG 213 IC is created and sewn into each newly manufactured product. The unique ID (UID) number encoded on that tag is then linked to the product data in the Smart Cosmos Enablement System. As the product moves through the supply chain, Hegglin says, personnel can interrogate the tag along the way. This, he adds, provides supply chain transparency.
Tags are applied at the point of manufacture, then are activated at the end of the production line at what is known as the Enablement Station. In that way, each tag's UID is linked to product data, along with a time stamp, the production location and the operator's ID number. The information is then uploaded to the Smart Cosmos system. That data is then available in a dashboard for customers who are running analytics, such as the number of products produced at a given time and overall factory efficiency.
Mammut's IT system can access the enablement data via an application programming interface. At the store level, workers employ Mammut's dedicated smartphone app, known as Mammut Connect, to access in-depth product information and thereby enhance the sales process. For instance, if a customer requests a specific type of product or certain features in a product, the sales staff can read a tag ID and display the content of importance to that shopper, ensuring that he or she will be directed to the best product for that person's needs.
Each product comes with a paper hangtag that explains the presence of the NFC tag, while providing consumers with directions regarding tag use. They can then use the Mammut Connect app to access data as needed for that product. Upon entering the store, shoppers can access content by tapping their phone against a product's tag. The app provides information that might be relevant to customers, such as the materials in the product, its sizes or other details.
From that point forward, the tag can be used for after-sales content and experience. A user can register a product by tapping his or her phone, then select the registration option and simply respond to prompts to enter the necessary details. With the Mammut Connect app, users can watch videos showing their gear in action, extend their warranty, add pictures of themselves using the products, and save their favorite hiking or climbing routes.
According to Mammut, the Mammut Connect system, using NFC tags, was taken live in January for the summer 2019 Eiger Extreme and DeltaX clothing collections, as well as for backpacks, and is available at all stores and via all channels. This summer, approximately 30 products are expected to come with NFC tags, and that number will expand to 80 in the winter, and then to 120 by next summer. In the long term, Hegglin says, the company plans to "roll out nearly the entire product portfolio," and to further develop the app to offer more experiences.
For Smartrac, Fabri says, the solution needed to be deployed quickly. "In less than 12 months," she recalls, "Smartrac provided suitable NFC tags and additionally rolled out a global set of our Smart Cosmos Enablement System." That included hardware and software components, as required. "Smartrac was also asked to provide field-application experts in order to train, guide and support Mammut's factory operators onsite."