RFID Can Build Customer Loyalty

By Mark Roberti

The technology can be used to populate a customized Web page with data, enabling customers to see their interactions with an entertainment establishment, fitness company or retailer.


I got a call the other day from a gentleman who is investing in an entertainment company in the Dallas area. “We want it to be the Nordstrom of our industry,” he said. “We want to provide a great customer experience, and I’ve heard radio frequency identification might be able to help.”

We brainstormed ideas for 20 minutes—from using loyalty cards to creating personalized Web pages—and he went away excited about the potential for employing RFID not only to improve the customer experience, but also to generate additional business. It got me thinking that we really haven’t begun to explore how RFID could enable companies to share information with patrons online. Let me throw out a few ideas that might get people thinking of innovative ways to use RFID.

There’s a facility near our home where my son takes baseball lessons and practices in the winter. It has batting cages, indoor fields, pitching mounds and so forth. You can buy a $40 card entitling you to 50 tokens for the batting cages; each time you get a token, an employee marks the card manually. Obviously, this could be more effective if electronic tokens were stored on a smart card or Near Field Communication (NFC) device, with one token deducted automatically each time you used the batting cage.

But what if there were a mechanism that could capture a batter’s hits and misses, or a pitcher’s speed, balls and strikes? Each time my son entered the batting cage, he could swipe his card and the system could record his performance. That data could be uploaded automatically to his personal page on the training facility’s Web site, for him to review later. The feedback might show that more practice leads to better results, and thus encourage him to practice more (and spend more money at the training facility).

The training facility could also run competitions for the best hitter and the best pitcher. Let’s say kids pay $10 each to enter a hitting contest. If they do well, they proceed to the next round, against others in their age group. Each child’s results could be recorded and included on their Web page, and the “league” leaders could be displayed on the facility’s homepage. These kinds of competitions, which stir sales, are sometimes run today, but there’s no way to easily capture information and display it online, where participants can review it. And it’s the visibility, after all, that would increase participation—kids, as well as adults, like others to see how good they are at something.

Fitness companies could also employ RFID and the Web to encourage people to work out regularly—and to renew memberships. Some health clubs are already using RFID to track their members’ workouts (see RFID Helps Turkish Gym-Goers Get Fit and RFID Pumps Up Women’s Workouts). But if that information were uploaded to a secure Web page, where you could review your progress—the amount of weight lifted, the number of repetitions, and even your body weight and bicep size—it might encourage you to log off your computer and head to the gym. The system could also allow you go online, answer questions, review your workout options and customize your fitness plan.

A similar system could be utilized in upscale apparel stores, some of which are already using “magic mirrors” in dressing rooms to enhance the shopping experience (see To Glimpse RFID’s Future Down Under, Gaze into the EPCmagic Mirror). In addition to providing information about the items you’re trying on, and recommending accessories to complement the clothing, the system could allow you to take a photo or short video of yourself in each outfit, then upload it to a secure area on the retailer’s Web site.

If you’re not sure about purchasing some of the items you’ve tried on, you could go home and show your friends or spouse the photos. If they like the way you look in the clothing, you could buy the exact colors, sizes and styles you want online and have them delivered, or go back to the store, wave your loyalty card at the service desk and pick up the items in person. At our recent RFID in Fashion 2009 event, Eric Mauriello, Schematic‘s senior VP, described this process as bookmarking and creating a wish list—two online shopping concepts—in the real world.

All of these ideas give the individual more information, and the ability to view it at their leisure, which is sure to enhance loyalty. All it requires is software development and some creativity.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog or click here.