The Blind Spots in POS
RFID technology has proven to increase the speed of inventory counting and eliminate shrinkage. The data it gathers in the process, however, is delivering a wealth of inventory intelligence jewelers could not obtain before. Here are three blind spots an RFID-enabled POS can reveal:
With RFID, inventory levels are much more accurate because daily or weekly scans are now possible. Frequent stock-takes provide near real-time visibility on existing inventory levels, thereby reducing out-of-stock scenarios, which are essentially lost sales. Bill McBeath at ChainLink Research highlights in his article "Item-level Retail RFID: Part 1 - The Retail Revolution and Why Now for RFID", that RFID has proven to reduce out-of-stock scenarios by 20-30% simply because there is real-time data on items being received or delivered, items on the sales floor, and the inventory in the back room.
One of the lesser known benefits of RFID is its ability to gather sales floor performance data before the check-out stage. Typically, this data can only be gathered online by analyzing product clicks or searches. Alternatively, using a wireless RFID pad scanner as a sales tray, jewelers can learn precisely how many times a SKU is shown to a customer giving that item's show-to-sale ratio.
The pad scanner can also be linked to a tablet via the POS, enabling an item view. Once it is placed on the scanner, the tablet displays the details and image(s) of the jewelry item, creating an interactive buying experience for the customer. Displayed items can then be linked to a wish-list so the customer walks away with a personalized shopping list and the jeweler gains greater knowledge about customer preferences.
RFID can also be used to track salesperson performance. Employees carry an RFID access card which is scanned by the "sales tray" at the start and end of a sales session. The system then tracks which items the salesperson shows to the customer. Tying this information to the number of items sold generates the salesperson's show-to-sale ratio. This enables jewelers to improve salesperson performance by alternating departments where they perform better or even cross-selling based on that salesperson and item performance history.
RFID: Then and Now
RFID Tag: RFID tags have evolved in many ways. Anti-collision capabilities in high-frequency (HF) RFID now enable multiple RFID tags to simultaneously read near metal, without the interference of conflicting radio waves.
Tag size has also reduced while variety has expanded. Tags are now close to the size of a dime and are easily concealed within existing paper barcode labels. Jewelers who want to save on tag turnover but are less concerned about security often opt for reusable cotton thread tags. Printable rattail tags are a good option for jewelers with high inventory volumes. And if security is a concern, tamper-evident tags are proven to deter theft and decrease shrink.
Cost: More jewelers are using RFID, reducing the tag price dramatically. Ten years ago, tags cost $2 to $3 each. Now, with tag demand expanding into millions per year, suppliers are able to offer the tag to the market in the 50¢ range, depending on features and order volumes. Hardware and software is more affordable too: a basic kit with one scanner and tracking application can be found for less than $1,000, as opposed to over $12,000 a few years ago.
Hardware Options: Scanners are now much more mobile, allowing jewelers to scan items in the display case. Ten years ago, jewelry had to be physically moved to bulky, stationary scanners. The scanners also required a cable connection to a laptop and given its weight, was dragged around on carts. Today, hand-held and wireless RFID scanners are small enough to maneuver within displays and tight spots, like back offices or storage areas. Readers are smarter, too. With on-board memory and LCD displays, they provide instant response, removing the need for a nearby computer. The variety of RFID scanners has also grown to accommodate jewelers' multiple needs, such as bulk scanning and gathering sales data.
Industry Adoption:Five years ago, only early pioneers of technology used RFID to track jewelry. Today, user friendly solutions and RFID software with interface capabilities, are enabling widespread adoption among non-technical users as well as software companies. All major POS makers have recognized the benefits and have integrated RFID with their systems.