Survey Hints at Brand Awareness Problems for RFID Vendors

By Mark Roberti

Responses to an RFID Journal survey indicate that even the retailers who are most educated about RFID are unfamiliar with many solution providers.

  • TAGS

In January, RFID Journal sent out a survey to retailers and companies that manufacture apparel, sporting goods, jewelry and accessories to learn what they know about the RFID providers focused primarily on the retail sector. We listed 40 RFID tag, reader and software companies.

The survey was unscientific: We sent questionnaires to people in our database, and received nearly 50 responses. Those who responded do not necessarily reflect the global pool of retailers and manufacturers, but they are among the most knowledgeable when it comes to RFID. So while the sample size is small, it provides a snapshot of what retailers and manufacturers know about RFID solution providers. The survey suggests that most RFID providers have a lot of work to do to build brand awareness.

Illustration: iStockphoto/Imagezoo

Who are these respondents? The vast majority—83 percent—said they have been researching RFID for more than four years. Another 13 percent said they have been researching the technology for three to four years, and 4 percent said they have been investigating the technology for less than a year.

Moreover, 21 percent said they have deployed an RFID solution in some stores, and 17 percent have deployed the technology in all their stores. Another 8 percent said they had finished a pilot and were planning a rollout, and 8 percent said they were currently running or would soon run a pilot. Roughly 30 percent said they had not yet launched a pilot and were still researching solutions. No respondents said they did not plan to implement an RFID solution.

We asked these retailers and manufacturers which RFID solution providers they were familiar with. The best-known providers were, in alphabetical order: Alien Technology, Avery Dennison, Checkpoint Systems, Impinj, Tyco Retail Solutions and Zebra Technologies. These companies were known by 70 percent to 86 percent of the respondents (though some respondents were confused about the products and services they offer).

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the other 34 RFID providers on the list were known by less than half the respondents. Ten companies were known to just 5 percent of the respondents, and three were not known by any respondents. Yet, overall, brand awareness is very important to these retailers and manufacturers:

• 96 percent of respondents said it is very important or somewhat important to consider an RFID company’s brand when making an investment decision; only 4 percent said brand is not important
• 83 percent of respondents said they determine the reputation of a company’s brand by
reading about the company on RFID websites
• 71 percent said seeing companies exhibit at events is important
• 38 percent said seeing a solution provider’s ads influences their view of the company’s brand; no respondents said having a high ranking in Google’s search results is important.

When asked how they find appropriate solution providers, 71 percent of respondents said they rely on RFID Journal’s website, compared with 12 percent that go to other RFID sites (no surprise, since they are our readers). Roughly 60 percent said they attend RFID industry events to find solution providers. Only 8 percent said they use social media.

Who Responded
Roughly 63 percent of respondents were from the United States, 17 percent from Latin America, 17 percent from Europe and 4 percent from the Asia-Pacific region. This generally
reflects the overall makeup of RFID Journal’s readership. Half the respondents were apparel retailers. Seventeen percent were apparel manufacturers. Thirteen percent were from
department stores, and 20 percent from other types of retailing (luxury goods, sporting goods and so on). The respondents were generally from larger chains.

Fifty-four percent said their companies have revenue of more than $1 billion. A quarter had revenues of $100 million to $1 billion. Four percent had revenues of $50 million to $100 million, and 16 percent had revenue of less than $50 million.

Two-thirds of the respondents said they are part of an RFID team that makes purchasing decisions. Four percent said they have some influence over the decision on which RFID products their company buys. Three percent said they did not play any roll in the purchasing process.

Overall, this survey suggests that a few RFID providers are well known among the companies that have been researching RFID for three years or more, but many vendors are not well known among even this educated group. It’s virtually certain that all RFID companies are less well known—or completely unknown—to retailers that have just begun to research RFID solutions.