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Do they see what you see? Benefits of RFID in fashion retail from a customer point of view

The benefits that retailers are able to gain from RFID technology are relatively easy to see. But how about customer attitudes? We set out to look into customer perceptions of RFID technology in retail stores in more detail.

RFID benefits in store operations for the retailer

When talking about implementation of RFID technology in retail stores it is relatively easy - even for the customers - to see how the technology is beneficial for the retailers. 

Faster and more accurate inventory, quicker transfer of items from the warehouse to the shelf, easier item search and benefits in point of sales are issues that make sense. The benefits for the stores are quite obvious even to the inexperienced eye.

Customers: Try walking in their shoes

In contrary to retailers, most customers are not consciously evaluating the benefits of new technologies. Where companies take time getting actively acquainted with the technology, customers do not always see how RFID is beneficial to their shopping experience as well, or do they?

We set out to look into customer attitudes towards RFID technology in more detail. What better way to do that, than discussing the topic with persons such as you and me and getting honest opinions on it. The persons interviewed for this article had limited or little prior knowledge of RFID technology.

Our group of interviewees consisted of Marja, Pekka, Anna, Pirita, Mika and Kristina from different age groups. They kindly gave us an inside view on their perception of RFID technology usage in retail stores and how they feel that they benefit from it.


Store -customers

What's in it for the customer?

Customers want shopping to be pleasurable. They expect to find the right items in the right color and size conveniently. Additionally they want shopping to be a pleasant experience. So what can RFID offer?

The limited knowledge of RFID makes some introduction necessary, but then the customers get excited. The leap from: "This is the identification thing in stores with which retails see how much they have sold" (Marja, 62) to full excitement is quite quick. 

Smart fitting rooms 

Smart fitting rooms are fitting rooms equipped with an RFID scanner and a tablet inside the fitting room. All items taken into the fitting room are scanned by the RFID scanner. Product information is captured and the tablet presents relevant information to the customer. The customer can utilize different applications at the tablet, such as

  • call for assistance
  • look up additional item information
  • obtain information on item availability
  • share product information and pictures on social media
  • use VIP advantages
  • give feedback
  • watch videos

When introducing the smart fitting room concept to the interviewees the feedback proved amazed and positive. "Wow, I would love to try that" says Anna, 30. The applications that different persons were interested in or seemed to value the most, varied from person to person. 

Our interviewees were intrigued by the possibility to look up matching items. When selecting an item of clothing for fitting, matching items can be checked via the tablet. So shopping for a new top might help the customer find a matching handbag or skirt. Customers value the call for assistance possibility to browse through options and be inspired by suggested ideas without having to roam through the store again. "I would definitely like to get suggestions on matching items when I find a piece of clothing that I like. It would be great to have additional tips available" says Anna, 30.

Additionally the "call for assistant" functionality was highly valued. Using the tablet as a device for communicating with the sales person is seen as extremely convenient. Pekka, 32 states that he would especially enjoy the convenience of communicating to the sales person that an item is needed in another size or color. "That way I would not have to change into my own clothes and start searching for the correct item from the shelves". 

Item availability

When customers go shopping they expect to find what they are looking for in the correct size and with the correct attributes. Customers were happy with the prospect that RFID can support product size and color options' availability by lowering out-of-stock situations and increasing inventory accuracy. Pekka mentions that RFID technology could prevent him from being dissatisfied with a store. He says "When I go shopping, I find it disappointing when an item I am looking for, is not available in the correct size". In cases where an item is not available on the shelf, the prospect of ordering unavailable items via a tablet in the store's fitting room directly to your doorstep, is seen as a good alternative. 

The interviewees stated that if a desired item is not available, they will usually not return to the store for that specific item later. Either they purchase an alternative item, purchase the same item from another store or simply do not buy it at all. Ordering directly from the smart fitting room and receiving the item to the home address seems to be easy and convenient enough. 

Smart kiosks 

Similarly to the smart fitting rooms, customers also show favorable feelings towards smart kiosks. Easy access to additional product information was greeted with a positive attitude. Customers mentioned that they would be keen on utilizing smart kiosks for this purpose. "Additional product information and details on origin and material are very important to me and smart kiosks would be helpful for that" (Marja, 62).
Finding information on the location of items with the help of the smart kiosk is an easy to see benefit for customers. Instead of doing guess work and roaming through the store items can be looked up at kiosks. 

Quick - better - more: customer service

RFID enables faster and more accurate inventory, quicker transfer of items from the warehouse to the shelf and easier item search. For the customer this translates into better customer service. Sales staff will spend less time on time-consuming tasks and will have more time to focus on the customer. Additionally sales personnel will have more accurate information available to assist customers in regards of availability and location of items. 

In stores with implemented smart fitting rooms, store personnel can be contacted even more easily and more directly via the call for assistance application on the tablet of a smart kiosk or fitting room. Anna, 30: "I suspect that sometimes customers are too shy to interrupt store personnel if the staff appears busy." By using the application you avoid having to search for staff and in return the staff is not interrupted in situations where they already serve a customer. 

In a nutshell, good service for customers is a combination of sales personnel being available when needed and with relevant information. RFID improves both and supports store operations to meet customer expectations for a seamless shopping experience. 

Time savings

Fast checkout was especially appreciated by the interviewees in cases where customers would want to get quickly in and out of the store with the correct items. For one interviewee though, this did seem to be of less priority. "For me, time savings is not that important. If I do not have enough time to go shopping, I do not go at all" one interviewee said. The same person nevertheless valued the accuracy of RFID at point of sale. "I think it is good that the technology ensures that correct prices are entered at the cashiers'. Any price reduction will be taken into account directly and without manual input by staff on basis of reduction stickers". 

Having said the above, it is important to bear in mind how time savings are interpreted. The majority of customers could see the direct link between RFID and time savings. They realized that fast checkout and time savings are not only depending on time spent at the cashiers'. It also comprises the time spent queuing for your turn as well as time spent waiting for sales personnel locating missing items. 

Putting it into perspective: where shopping is seen as a recreational activity, getting in and out of a store may not appear to be first priority. In those cases the obvious first priority is to enjoy a pleasant shopping experience. Nevertheless, queuing or waiting for staff to locate items, hardly qualify as a pleasant experience for the shoppers, hurry or no hurry. 

Conclusion

The interviewees were intrigued by the added value RFID technology could offer them. They would without a doubt prefer to utilize stores that enable them to benefit from less out-of-stock situations. Making product information easily available and prioritizing quicker and better service as well as time savings are. 

This is why I think that introducing customers to the possibilities that RFID can offer is definitely worth the effort. As customers - what we may prefer and where we see benefits - is just as unique as we are as individuals. But all in all, everyone could see benefits that fulfill their individual needs.

The main point is that added value through RFID can be translated into freedom to spend your time as you please, convenience of finding what you're looking for and getting assistance when you need it. 

Related articles

The perfect fit - Fashion retailers and RFID: how to make the move

The "smart fitting room" concept

RFID - 5 most common applications on the shop floor

RFID - What's in it for the customer?

Recommended video

Many of the applications above have been described in the video RFID & Privacy

5 comments on “Do they see what you see? Benefits of RFID in fashion retail from a customer point of view”

  1. Gravatar of MURRIS JMURRIS J
    Posted 07 November 2013 at 11:25:25

    Hello,

    I hope this email is going to the correct person. If not... please accept my sincerest apology. The reason I'm emailing is because I noticed on your website that you have a page where you reference a POS(point of sale) system, and I wanted to ask you a question about the page. Please let me know if I'm speaking to the right person. I look forward to your reply. Thanks.


    Murris

  2. Posted 08 November 2013 at 12:02:06

    We are a company of labels in Brazil and we are seeking to adapt our products with RFID.

  3. Gravatar of Kirsikka DrägerKirsikka Dräger
    Posted 12 November 2013 at 14:33:51

    Hi Murris,

    you could sent an inquiry to info@nordicid.com with your specific question.

    BR,

    Kirsikka

  4. Gravatar of david o sullivandavid o sullivan
    Posted 17 March 2014 at 00:01:18

    hi I amhoping to do a thesis on rfid and supply chain and wondering if you could suggest some ideas

    Thank you
    Best regards
    david

  5. Gravatar of Kirsikka DrägerKirsikka Dräger
    Posted 17 March 2014 at 15:11:43

    Hello David,

    you could check the article relating to supply chain via this link: http://rfidarena.com/rfid-now.aspx?groupby=Supply%20Chain

    I hope these inspire you for your thesis topic.

    Best regards,

    Kirsikka

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