RFID Speeds Up Sales from Home for UpperBag

By Edson Perin

The e-commerce company, which sends goods to customers to test out before making a purchase, has adopted the technology to manage its products.

UpperBag has built an innovative business in e-commerce, one that makes life easier for those who buy products, as well as for those who sell shirts, pants, shoes, accessories and other products. A customer can visit the company's website and place an order, after which he or she will receive at home a bag containing 30 pieces of clothing of various sizes, from which that person can choose what to buy. Once a choice has been made, the shopper simply then waits for the goods not of interest to be retrieved by the carrier.

Alexandre Abrahão, UpperBag's CEO, launched the company five years ago in São Paulo, Brazil. He says the adoption of the radio frequency identification (RFID) system, provided by iTag Etiquetas Inteligentes, has sped up the counting of items within each bag prior to shipment, thereby reducing the incidence of errors and improving other processes as well. "Before RFID," he says, "inventory management was conducted by hand. Items were registered, then were shipped and managed using barcodes."

UpperBag sends clothes for e-commerce consumers to try at home.

Since that was a manual process, customers sometimes reported that they had not received certain parts of their orders and thus could not be charged for those goods. "Now, with RFID," Abrahão says, "we know exactly what left UpperBag in the bags. Whatever didn't come back was what the customer bought." Two RFID portals contain a total of four Zebra Technologies FX7500 readers, as well as iTag antennas. The system automatically reads dozens of items within each bag as the products are sent out and returned.

According to Abrahão, the system has improved its inventory management, with the bag-packing process now 40 percent faster, and the counting process now 50 percent faster—and with 80 percent fewer errors. "The loss of items fell by 70 percent," he reports. The company now seeks to integrate the solution with several partner brands to allow the shipment of bags with multiple brands and stores. "The difficulty is to convince large brands with an established structure."

UpperBag's innovation starts with the bag-ordering process. A stylist selects 30 items for each customer and places them inside the bag, based on that customer's profile. The bag is placed on the portal and the items are thus read automatically before the package is sent to the shopper. Once the bag returns a week later, the products pass through the same portal so that all returned items can be compared with those shipped out.

Alexandre Abrahão

"Items sent but not returned are marked as sold to the customer, who is then charged," Abrahão explains. The gains already achieved with RFID include greater agility and security in the company's processes, as well as a decreased need for operational personnel and fewer lost items. He says the result met UpperBag's expectations.

ITag provided software for the reading and printing of tags. Abrahão first met iTag when he visited Brascol, a supplier of children's clothing to UpperBag and a pioneer in the use of RFID in Brazil. "Deploying RFID was a positive experience for UpperBag," Abrahão states. "The main challenge was to have complete integration with the internal system." Several tests were carried out regarding the best equipment to deploy. "Sometimes, certain items or labels end up having a problem being read, especially smaller labels. Previously, we had to do hand counts using barcodes, but that created problems we can now correct."

According to Abrahão, UpperBag's competing companies are rare. "The few multi-brands that exist in the delivery of clothes operate only for one genre, with limited items and brands offered, in addition to having a low scale and a lack of artificial intelligence in item selection." There are also major brands that operate for VIP customers, he adds.