RFID: An Inventory Management Game-Changer

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The retail industry has never had to change more quickly than in the past year. The rapid shift in consumer preferences from in-store to e-commerce has created a new wave of omnichannel customers, who want to shop where they want, how they want, and when they want. Brick-and-mortar retailers are now faced with how to leverage both new technology and new labor models so that customers have a premium experience on all their shopping channels—including in-store, online, curbside, and home delivery. No matter the size or scope of the retailer, from a big box chain and electronics superstore to a supermarket and crafts store, inventory management is critical to ensuring full transparency between all shopping channels.

At T-ROC, we helped pilot an RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) project for a major retailer designed to increase their apparel inventory accuracy—a complex, difficult category that typically has an average accuracy rate of only 60 percent. Each piece of apparel comes in a variety of colors and sizes, so as an example if a customer purchases three shirts: a red-sized large, a blue-sized small, and a green-sized medium, the check-out clerk could just scan the red shirt and enter three for the quantity. This results in an over-counting of the red shirt and an under-counting of the blue and green shirts. Why does this matter? Because between multiple shopping channels plus returns, it’s likely that a customer can purchase a shirt online, drive to the store for pickup, only to find out it’s not actually in stock.

The reality is that manual inventory methods can’t keep up with the new omnichannel retail reality.

RFID works by sending radio signals between a reader and a tag. Each tag has its own unique code, and readers can scan and reads hundreds of tags in seconds. This means that instead of performing an inventory count every six months, it can now be conducted daily, with much better accuracy. And RFID accounts for human error, so even if the check-out clerk scans the items incorrectly, the RFID scans will provide a fast, daily update.

In order to tag their apparel inventory with RFID, this big-box retailer hired T-ROC to affix tags to each piece of apparel, a labor-intensive project that required a specially trained workforce. This innovative proof-of-concept pilot program was so well received, that the larger retailer is implementing it across all stores in all locations.

Consumers, who first migrated to online shopping out of necessity, are now going to stay online shoppers. But when these consumers experience frustration because items that appear to be in-stock aren’t—they’ll just move to another retailer, with a more robust inventory system. Because the bottom line is that consumers now expect seamless, frictionless shopping—whether they’re shopping for groceries, cosmetics, apparel, or electronics. Implementing RFID is just one more way that T-ROC is bringing technology and people together to create solutions that optimize revenue for retailers and brands.

To find out more about RFID inventory management and other innovative retail solutions, get in touch with Debby Hoover, Vice President, Business Development at T-ROC, dhoover@trocglobal.com.