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RAIN to wash away post-COVID hangover?

By Retail Technology | Monday June 14 2021

Normality is returning to shopping, but how should the traditional store be reimagined in a post lockdown world? Vincent Videlaine, Impinj director business development EMEA gives his view

I’ve read that the pandemic will be the end for the brick and mortar store. I don’t think this will be the case, instead I see this as an opportunity for retailers to accelerate their store of the future strategies.

A year of lockdown measures have hit traditional brick and mortar retailers particularly hard, but the idea that this is the end for the high street seems a little premature to me. However, I do think that those who will see the greatest success in the new normal, will be those who invest in digital solutions that enhance in-store and online customer experiences and streamline store operations. Here IoT, and specifically RAIN RFID, can play an important role in shaping the future of retail.

IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) describes a network of physical objects—“things”—that are embedded with sensors or chips for the purpose of connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet.

For a retailer, these things include every single item - from clothing to pharmaceuticals, cases to pallets - in their supply chain and stores. RAIN RFID is a wireless IoT technology that connects billions of everyday things to the internet, enabling people and businesses to identify, locate, authenticate, and engage every item.

Earlier this year, Inditex— one of the world’s largest fashion retailers and parent company to ZARA— credited their investment in an integrated store and online sales platform, together with a flexible distribution base, for its success. Inditex uses RAIN RFID technology across all of its brands to track accurate inventory data in an integrated stock management system across the store platform.

So how will IoT, and specifically RAIN RFID, change a consumer’s in-store experience in the new normal, and how will it benefit retail store owners in the near future?

Put simply, the key benefit to these solutions is that they help track inventory and manage real-time demand. Retailers who had already implemented sensor technology, like RAIN RFID, before the pandemic had full visibility in their inventory data operations. This allowed them to shift product orders and adjust inventory management when demand quickly changed.

A great example of this in practice is Nike. The sports brand’s previous investment in RAIN RFID, both in its supply chain and in its stores, has allowed them to leverage inventory visibility to take advantage of demand. In Nike’s Q1 2021 (September 2020) earnings call, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Matthew Friend shared that they “now have 100% of footwear, and 75% of apparel tagged. There are now over one billion units at 99.99% readability, which enables us to see our inventory across all factory stores.”

Visibility

With inventory visibility powered by RAIN RFID, physical stores can also become fulfilment centres. In fact, an Accenture study found an 8.3% ROI when using RFID to support omnichannel fulfilment. Consequently, curbside pickup, Buy Online Pick-up In Store (BOPIS), and other contactless shopping have become a mandatory fulfilment channel for many retailers. To meet shopper demand, store employees are asked to be pick and pack experts meaning retailers must have accurate visibility into their inventory to help employees throughout the process.

The need for fast, efficient store checkout experiences isn’t new and has always been a focus for retailers. But in today’s COVID-19 world, the checkout process, where customers and employees may come into close contact, raises the risk of infection.

A great example of a company already using RAIN RFID technology to limit this kind of contact, is Decathlon.

The sporting goods retailer recently rolled out its Scan & Go mobile self-checkout solution to all its stores across Germany. The solution enables shoppers to use their own smart device while they shop, eliminating the need to touch store kiosks or wait at a checkout. While vitally limiting possible risks of virus transmission, RAIN RFID solutions such as this also enable a faster, more efficient checkout compared to traditional barcodes (i.e. scanning without direct line of sight) ensuring any investment has long term benefit beyond the pandemic.

As brick and mortar retailers prepare for the challenges of the new normal, those that will be best placed to succeed will be those that are incorporating digital solutions into how they develop their customer experiences and manage their supply chains. Here, IoT technology such as RAIN RFID, can help ensure these stores continue to add value to shoppers now and into the future.

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