There’s no doubt that retailers realize the inventory accuracy benefits that RFID technology delivers. However, this seems to be the year that retailers take RFID to the next level with consumer engagement and a drive to automated checkouts. Although many retailers won’t talk about automated checkout pilots publicly, they are ongoing early in the year to determine their viability for the 2017 holiday season.
“I don’t know which model will be the go-to solution, but we’ll see those kinds of things pop up in 2017,” says Bill Hardgrave, worldwide RFID expert and Dean of the Harbert College of Business at Auburn University. “Some retailers will be aggressive early in the year so they know if that model works well in advance of the holiday season.”
The future is just starting to develop when it comes to disrupting retail concepts such as Amazon Go, which allows customers to enter a concept store in Seattle and purchase items without having to physically pay for them. In this case, Amazon utilizes sensor fusion – a combination of technologies like RFID, cameras and other sensor technology – to use data from all sources to solve a problem. In this case, RFID represents just one data point. Justin Patton, Director of the RFID Lab at Auburn, says the end goal is to have RFID accepted as a data capture tool that feeds into broader sensor fusion solutions.
“This is a huge leap forward in retail technology,” says Patton. “The idea is taking a lot of different types of sensors and combining them together in a retail store environment. RFID isn’t a destination, but a vehicle to get there. “Another thing we are seeing is a shift from the focus of RFID being on store operations and loss prevention to the start of eliminating the checkout process. Retailers are heavily focused on the customer experience.”
That’s exactly what high-end fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff is attempting to do by using an RFID-enabled solution to enable automated checkout at its flagship store in Soho. Rebecca Minkoff has partnered with technology start-up QueueHop to re-imagine the retail store checkout experience. Rebecca Minkoff has widely deployed RFID in other use cases, including RFID mirrors and fitting rooms to engage with consumers. The redesigned checkout experience in SoHo went live in December.
While self-checkout technology has existed for years across the consumer landscape (i.e. grocery stores), fashion retail has historically been hesitant to embrace the technology because of potential theft implications on higher ticketed items. QueueHop re-engineered the security tag to unlock the moment a payment is made via a shopper’s phone or a QueueHop self-checkout kiosk.
The technology empowers customers to be in control of their shopping experience, while effectively reducing lines, cart abandonment and the time associates need to spend at checkout. Rebecca Minkoff looks to redefine the traditional checkout format and bring back foot traffic to physical retail with the digitized experience. The solution is another way for a consumer, who may be intimidated by a shopping environment or may just not want to engage with store staff, to be in control of their shopping experience.