‘RFID Is Booming’ in Retail

By Mark Roberti

A new report from Accenture says a growing number of retailers are adopting radio frequency identification and are using the technology in new ways.

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Accenture recently released the latest version of its biannual study of the adoption of radio frequency identification technology in the retail sector, titled  “A New Era for RFID in Retail.” This year’s edition concludes that “RFID is booming” in that industry. “RFID has fast-evolved from a technology used at the fringes of retail to a global technology that is delivering business results to retailers everywhere,” the report states. “In the eight years that Accenture has studied RFID in retail, we have learned that not only is RFID here to stay—it’s growing.”

The company surveyed 120 retailers of soft goods, hard goods and groceries. Soft goods retailers have led the way, according to the report, but they have also “set the stage for hardlines and grocery retailers who are now exploring the technology.” In fact, the study finds 93 percent of retailers in North America are piloting, are implementing or have fully adopted RFID, up from 73 percent in 2016. The percentage of those surveyed who have fully adopted RFID is at 47 percent, up from 28 percent two years earlier.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the percentage of respondents using RFID jumped to 77 percent, up from 70 percent, while in Europe it soared to 77 percent from just 27 percent. Not only are more retailers using RFID, Accenture reports, but more of them are doing so in new ways. “Although inventory visibility remains the top use case across all three segments, supply chain visibility, omnichannel offerings such as ship-from-store, ‘buy online and pickup in store’ (BOPIS) and self-checkout are close behind,” the report states.

During the past two years, the number of omnichannel options retailers using RFID have increased significantly. Two-thirds of RFID adopters and piloters now offer five or more services, including BOPIS, ship-from-store, ship-to-store, reserve-instore, mobile app purchasing and deliver-to-home. This compares to just 39 percent of non-RFID adopters and 22 percent of adopters and piloters in 2018.

So what’s next for RFID? Accenture’s study found that 24 percent of soft goods retailers plan to integrate RFID and blockchain technologies, while 22 percent want to use RFID to improve supply chain visibility and analytics, with 22 percent citing self-checkout and 22 percent looking to improve customer engagement. One-third of hard goods retailers plan to link RFID and blockchain, 28 percent want to use RFID to support omnichannel fulfilment, 24 percent seek to improve customer engagement and 19 percent wish to reduce out-of-stocks.

Grocers have lagged behind other retailers in adopting RFID, due to the lower cost of the goods they sell and the challenges inherent in reading tags on some items. But that is starting to change, according to the research. Approximately 45 percent of the grocers surveyed said they plan to use RFID to reduce out-of-stocks, while 36 percent want to improve customer engagement, 33 percent plan to link with blockchain and 24 percent are interested in inventory tracking and visibility.

COVID-19 has no doubt given companies more impetus to adopt RFID technology. Many retailers without RFID struggled to offer BOPIS and ship-from-store options. The Accenture study is another sign that adoption is accelerating across retail. If you are a retailer and need to accelerate your RFID efforts, I would encourage you to attend  RFID Journal LIVE! 2021, being held on Sept. 26-28 in Phoenix, Ariz. The event’s Retail Track is a great place to learn, and the exhibit hall will feature the latest RFID solutions.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.