What’s the Value of Your RFID Product?

By Mark Roberti

It's surprising, but some companies don't know—which could explain why they aren't selling more.

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We recently revamped the Product Developments section of RFID Journal's digital magazine. Instead of focusing on a single category of products—overhead readers or rugged tags, for example—we will now cover a variety of new and interesting products that could bring value to our readers.

It's surprising to me that when I talk to companies about their new products, some cannot answer the simple question, "What value does this product provide?"

If I were running a company that planned to build a new reader or software solution, I would ask my development team what our selling point was, and why anyone would buy this new reader or software application instead of those that currently exist in the marketplace. If I didn't receive a good answer, I wouldn't approve the funding to develop that product.

If I did get a good answer—"It will be 20 percent cheaper than existing readers," for instance, or "There is no software for managing fisheries with RFID"—then I would bring in my marketing team and ask them to research whether there is, indeed, a demand for such a product.

Determining whether demand exists is not always easy. But one can look at historical levels of technology investment by industry. Some industries, such as produce and construction, tend to invest little in technology. Others, such as manufacturing and financial services, tend to invest much more.

You could also look at whether there are early adopters in the industry you are targeting that are investing in RFID solutions. In addition, you could try to find out if there are a significant number of companies like the ones you will be targeting that are researching RFID solutions. Yet, I am rarely asked about how many companies in a particular industry are listed in our database.

Six or seven years ago, I was speaking to the CEO of an RFID firm that was focused on businesses offering repair, maintenance and overhaul (MRO) services for airlines. I said, "That's interesting." He asked why, and I told him we did not have any MRO companies in our database (though in the past 18 months, we have started to see some come in).

He, no doubt, believed his firm could convince companies that they would benefit from deploying an RFID system. But if almost no company in an industry is seeking an RFID solution, convincing a firm in that sector that it needs one is a difficult proposition (even when the business case is clear). And convincing enough companies in that industry to adopt RFID to build critical mass is nearly impossible. It's no surprise, then, that this business eventually switched its focus to manufacturers.

So, if my company's proposed new product could deliver value and there was demand for it, I would ask my marketing team how we would market the product, and how we could find those most likely to buy it so we could tell them about it. RFID is not a well-established technology, so finding those companies likely to invest in an RFID system is not as simple as showing up at a produce or manufacturing trade show and taking orders. Without a clear plan for reaching likely users, a new product will fail.

This is not rocket science. It's business. Unfortunately, too many RFID companies are enthralled with their ability to make a great new product and don't bother to do their homework. Sometimes, they get lucky and end users with business issues that their product can solve find them, and it turns out well. More often, however, they wind up going out of business or being bought out by another company. It's too bad, really, because these firms often have the ability to create good products that could deliver value, if only they would do their homework beforehand.

There will be a lot of great new products introduced at RFID Journal LIVE! 2016. I hope the companies that developed these products don't make attendees figure out how to use them to create value. If the RFID industry is ever going to grow rapidly, businesses must make sure their products fulfill a need—and then find ways to explain that to buyers.

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, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.