For many brick-and-mortar retailers, finding new, creative ways to lure customers out of their homes and away from their laptops has been a challenge, to say the least.
But luckily, just as technology poses new hurdles to overcome, it also offers new opportunities for retailers — perhaps most significantly in the area of customer service.
After all, online shopping doesn’t offer the human touch in the same way that friendly, knowledgeable and helpful store employees can. And now a technology that’s been around for a decade is giving retailers an ability to thrive in the age of online shopping by giving customers instant satisfaction.
That technology is radio frequency identification scanners. By using these remote scanners to read RFID tags placed on individual products, retailers can not only record a lot of useful information on stock items, but also pinpoint their precise locations. That means customers can walk into a store and get handed exactly what they want — including unique features like size, color, and price — within minutes.
And that’s a very strong customer service advantage for retailers.
How Can RFID Tags Improve Customer Service?
While retailers have become accustomed to using websites adapted to mobile devices and social media to get foot traffic, it’s hard to beat excellent customer experience for delivering more value and increasing brand loyalty. It’s all about going beyond what customers get by shopping online. And RFID tags now offer a technology that can boost customer service at a time when the expectations of shoppers keeps getting higher, giving retailers a smarter way to build relationships between their brand and the public.
The industry publication RFID Insider notes that RFID-tagged items can be located — and sold — much easier and faster than non-tagged items. Employees get instant inventory visibility, making RFID tags infinitely more effective than traditional bar codes, since they can store information about products that includes price, size, location, even colors. Suddenly when the customer needs something very specific, these tags let employees get it with a much higher rate of accuracy.
Knowing how many items are still in stock is important, but this isn’t just about controlling the flow of inventory. It’s about satisfying the customers’ needs — far more quickly and efficiently than online purchases provide. These tags allow retailers to enhance their brand by improving the efficiency of their operations so customers will want to keep coming back.
The key here is personalization. Retailers become more useful and relevant to shoppers when the assistance they provide is first-rate.
How Is RFID Technology Becoming Smarter?
Quest Solution, a specialty systems integrator, notes how powerful this tool has become for inventory accuracy. It’s all about supply and demand, which means improved product visibility gives retailers greater control over the supply chain process.
But RFID tags go beyond just notifying employees about where to find a specific item. These tags also give retailers a lot of powerful analytical tools to increase efficiency by instantly generating information about:
- merchandise trends
- dynamic pricing
- merchandise placement
- in-store marketing.
For example, retailers can use readers installed at the entrance and exit of their warehouse to read tags on shipped items and delivery vehicles, making the entire warehousing process easier to manage.
Source: IDC study
And the technology is expanding. The TrueVUE RFID Inventory Visibility system lets retailers report real-time inventory to customers in a way that helps sales associates assists them more quickly, and they can monitor the store to see when inventory is getting low. Either one is likely to help boost sales.
Retailers can also use RFID to monitor customer preferences, which allows stores to do a better job of providing exactly what the customer wants. Imagine a shopper takes several clothing items into a fitting room but only purchases two. Retailers can use these tags to study why shoppers are not buying the items they tried on but left behind.
Asset tracking also helps retailers prevent theft or find items that may have been misplaced. In fact, a big question about RFID tags is whether retailers are recognizing the full potential of this tool. There are a lot of potential savings in how they get used. Say a customer is looking for food items. RFID tags let employees know how long an item has been sitting on a shelf, and it can track temperature trends to monitor for potential spoilage. Those are also effective tools for drug and cosmetic products. Using those tools is a smart way for retailers to set themselves apart from the competition.
This integration and automation of the entire business, from pre-sale to post-sales, allows retailers to consider better business planning methods and optimize operations so it’s directly linked to servicing consumers. And while RFID technology can help retailers become more efficient at what they do, the bottom line is it’s really about the customer.