We’ve all heard of Rudolph and his shiny nose but we’ve also heard that he’s quite busy on Christmas trying maintain the children's belief in him. What if he makes a mistake and it happens to be my kid who won’t get presents? How could technology help?
How do we know what do our kids want for Christmas? They see
commercials, they interact with their friends, they study toy
catalogs from heart, and they also go to brick-and-mortar stores to
write a list for Santa. Here's where the parents and technology
A toy story, A parent trap?
Imagine a toy store, full of everything your child wants to (no,
must) have. We do not want to spoil our kids, but neither
do we want to buy them the wrong presents. As the variety of
similar kinds of toys is expanding, how to ascertain that the toy
is precisely the one my child asked for? Let's bring in technology
to help in this parent trap. When a child sees a nice object and
says "I'm gonna ask for this from Santa", a parent grabs a cell
phone equipped with NFC, and taps NFC tag attached to the toy. Any
tapped items appear on a shopping list to a shopping list
application such that is already familiar to us related to grocery
shopping or compiling wedding lists at stores.
What happens with this NFC wish list information after the
parent and child leave the store? The shopping list application on
the cell phone shows a full list of all tagged items, which can be
directly downloaded to the store's web pages under "My Wish List"
action. When the kids are asleep, the parents can decide which
presents will be ordered and which ones can wait until their next
birthday for instance. The list can be modified online, and then
either sent to the web service or to the retailer, who makes sure
that the products will be collected and delivered to the customer.
It will be possible to choose if the products should be delivered
home or for a pick-up at the store. This whole process is extremely
easy for the parent - all that is needed is an application that
supports the NFC tapping installed on the cell phone, before taking
the child to the toy store. Handy, isn't it?
But could this work other way round?
Yes, it could. But in this point we need to take a short look at
the tapping-and-tagging technology. In order to work perfectly, the
NFC technology requires near contact reading meaning that the
maximum reading distance is still very short. If thinking about the
supply chain, UHF RFID is more beneficial for the business as it
can be better utilized along the supply chain when the reading
distances are longer. Thus, the NFC tag (or a QR code) could be
located in the shop shelf next to the product's price tag, and the
actual product would carry an UHF RFID tag. The aim for this kind
of bi-tagging is that the NFC tag helps the customer, and the UHF
RFID tag serves the distribution.
According to a local department store manager of a mid-size
retail chain, one of the most common types of crisis before
Christmas is the out-of-stock situation. It is a real nightmare,
both for the store and for the customer. One reason for this is not
recognizing the blockbusters early enough. This could be avoided
with the help of technology, which will now be introduced. A
suggestion for avoiding the nightmare before (and during) Christmas
is that a store (not inevitably a toy store, but any store) creates
a campaign - buy your presents from us, we'll guarantee you get the
products if you tag them till xx-date at our store. After the
"tagging campaign" time is up, the retailer informs the DC, who
ensures that the stores get what they have ordered.
Some of the mentioned techniques are already in use - for
instance, the "wedding present wish list" and ordering from the
websites and picking the parcel from a brick-and-mortar store are
very common practices, but in which ways could RFID technology
enhance and boost the supply chain especially during seasonal
sales? As retail stores already are taking advantage of UHF RFID
identification to realize the current trends, the identification
could also help in estimating the seasonal sales of these products.
Mostly the stores are preparing for seasonal sales by looking at
last year's sales and putting some extra on them, of course with
some minor changes according to the consumer trends. Also any
promotion has an impact on consumer behavior - if a glimpse of a
home foot massage machine is constantly appearing in the commercial
breaks during "prime time", the probability of that machine ending
up in a shopping cart increases.
What happens before the wish list products
are at the store?
As the out-of-stock situation is the key for a retailer's
Christmas crisis, let's take a look at how the retailer receives
the products - how this crisis could be avoided. This is explained
in the figure below. The retailer's orders are based on the
experience from the brand owner, it is the way of doing things when
managing a department store belonging to a certain chain. A brand
owner, who delivers some of the wish list's products to the DC,
packs the products according to the retailers' orders. Here RFID
helps in checking that there are right kind of products packed with
right quantities, and delivers the information to the supply chain
parties, also to the retailers. (Here we can see that the brand
owner is the one benefiting from the order information, not the DC
- although the DC needs to have enough buffer to fulfill the
orders, the brand owner knows which kind of sales figures they
should prepare for.) If the brand owner does not have the wish list
products available, they can transfer the out-of-stock information
immediately to the mobile app. They can also suggest which
substitutive products they have in stock.
In a DC, when collecting goods for a certain store, these
"tagged" products can be packed into one pallet and the "ordinary"
products into another in cross-docking phase. Moreover, the
customer's wish list can already be compiled in the DC, which
lightens the work at the retailer's (usually small) backroom where
the wish list products are checked. RFID shows again the exact
quantities and types of the products packed, and the items can be
tracked through the whole delivery process. When the shipment
reaches the store backroom, it is already in the system which
pallet should be unloaded into the shop floor and which one
contains the pre-orders. As the pre-orders are more or less
compiled already in the DC, the customer receives the ordered
products faster than ever.
Can we all have a merry Christmas with
Holiday season is special time with your family, and by having a
few thoughtful moments before Christmas the whole season can be
saved. Children are happy when they get at least something they
have wished for, and for smaller kids the right presents are the
best thing of Christmas besides eating treats.
We could now see that technology can enhance our family lives.
Especially on Christmas time it can take one burden off from your
shoulders - the presents. Santa Claus will deliver right presents,
your kids will still believe in Santa, and even your wife will be
surprised that this year she won't get another (or third, fourth…)
home foot massage machine as the app shows your orders from recent