RetailWire Webinar: Getting Real with RFID
By George Anderson
As with any hyped anything, radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has its share of advocates and detractors.
The recent RetailWire Webinar on the subject of RFID looked to move past the rhetoric and provide attendees with a real world perspective on the use of the technology in retail settings.
For many on the supply side, the cost of implementing RFID has been a major stumbling block. In particular, the cost of tags has been raised as an issue by suppliers in the consumer products arena.
That view, however, may be shortsighted, especially in reference to promotions, according to Marc Osofsky, vice president, marketing and product management for OATSystems. The cost, 14 cents, for placing an RFID tag on a shipper is minor compared to the payback with the technology in place.
Mr. Osofsky and others pointed out that research demonstrated that in many cases promotional product is not getting on the floor in a timely fashion.
Mr. Osofsky said having an RFID tag on a shipper, case, etc. takes retailers and suppliers out of the blame game and provides them with the information they need to improve performance.
“You can change that dialogue, from one side blaming the other, into a joint examination of the actual data,” he said. “For example, you could have a promotion that missed the sell through target, but when you dive deeper into the data it is clear that stores that executed well actually exceeded their sell through goals and stores that executed poorly had fewer sales. With this fact-based approach you can work together to try to improve the performance.”
Dr. Sanjay Sarma, associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT and chief technology officer with OATSystems, said he sees the clearest benefit of RFID in the last 100 yards on the supply side and the first 100 on the demand side.
“We have very few ways to observe the processes that occur in the stores. And in the spirit of scientific management, this opacity limits our ability to improve or monitor the way in which stores are operating and more importantly the accuracy of our demand measurements. So there’s this vicious cycle where if execution is poor, the POS numbers are going to go down. And we don’t know if that was because of poor execution of if the POS really was bad. There are so many reasons why this can go wrong but with RFID, you can really see why this is happening.”
Seeing what is really happening at store-level is a critical advantage of RFID, said Mr. Osofsky.
“Most companies today are paying third party brokers or their own sales folks to go out and visit stores every week, every two weeks, every month. With RFID, you can actually use alerts and have the store coverage folks only go to stores where they can have a positive impact. Only send them to stores where you know the promotional materials are trapped in the back room and where it needs help getting out on the sales floor. Companies are spending a lot of money these days sending out people to confirm things that are already being executed well.”
Ron Margulis, managing director of RAM Communications and a member of RetailWire’s BrainTrust, recently visited Europe and saw RFID in action.
“I was at several Tesco stores, including one in Leicester England, that tracks all its DVDs. There was a carousel and you were able to take the DVD that you wanted. You, the shopper, scanned it and presented your form of payment. It was a very effective use of RFID technology. On the back end, they were using the data to determine which DVDs were in stock, which needed to be restocked and when.”
Moderator’s Comment: Where do you think the greatest opportunities exist for RFID on the supply and demand side? –
George Anderson – Moderator