RFID: The Future of Shopping?


This post first featured in the Modern Retail Guide to Retail Tech February 2019. To read the full ebook click here, or scroll to the end of the page to view on page-turning software.

What is RFID?

Radio frequency identification (RFID) has proven itself as an innovative technology which can grow retailers’ bottom line and transform the way people shop instore. An RFID system requires tags, which can be embedded in hangers, stickers or even in the items on sale, and readers to understand the information collected.

Retailers are able to benefit from having happier, more informed customers through the use of RFID, as well as being able to collect more data about instore behaviour and products.

How it be used to revolutionise the checkout experience?

What is your least favourite part of shopping? For most people, it’s the queue to pay. RFID is being seen as an alternative to the traditional checkout experience, with experts suggesting that the future will see the world of retail move away from having physical checkouts.

The Amazon Go store hit the headlines as it was revealed that an entire store could be run without checkouts. Using a combination of RFID, cameras and sensors, Amazon created the opportunity for shoppers to scan their phone on the way in, take whatever they wanted from the store and walk out. The store used this innovative technology to automatically charge shoppers through their Amazon account, sending them a digital receipt.

Items can be scanned more easily using RFID, for example, if they were to be scanned from a distance, as opposed to the more time-consuming method of scanning individual barcodes. Another possibility is for products in a basket or trolley to be linked to customers’ accounts, using this as a payment method.

How else can RFID be used?

Using RFID as part of the checkout experience is only one use. RFID can be used to track inventory instore, keeping stock levels up to date and linking to systems which can automatically replenish when inventory hits set safety levels.

Retailers can also follow the movements of RFID tagged items to identify the most common areas for browsing, the routes people take around the store and patterns in customers’ interests. This information can help retailers to understand where to place their most profitable items, based on the most visited sections of the store.

One of the most innovative uses of RFID is the ‘magic mirror’. RFID tags can flag when items are brought into changing rooms, linking to interactive screens in each cubicle. These screens can then be used to promote similar items of clothing, different colours of the same product, or even allow customers to request different sizes of an item to be brought to the changing room for them.

The movements of RFID tagged items can enable more informed purchasing decisions for retailers. For example, if you can see that a specific item is often taken into the changing rooms, however it is only purchased 3% of the time, you may be able to understand that the product does not fit as most people expect.

Benefits of RFID:

  • Reduced pressure on staff
  • Less time-consuming for customers
  • Can be used to inform customers
  • Interlinks with security systems
  • Provides real-time inventory data

Read the full Modern Retail Guide to Retail Tech February 2019 below.