UPM Raflatac Inc., a supplier of pressure-sensitive label materials and RFID tags and inlays, and Digilogics SA de CV, a supplier of labelstock converters and RFID solutions, recently formed a partnership with Mexico City retailer Common People that will not only serve as a showcase concept store for the city's goods and art, but also as a demonstration of how RFID technology can transform consumer-facing retail processes and services.
Common People features goods from Caroline Herrera Bridal, Comme des Garçons, Dior, and Prada, as well as select national designers. But it also sells stuff from smaller retailers that manufacture unique and limited-edition goods. So the store decided to affix UPM Raflatac UHF RFID short dipole hangtags on goods and apparel and short dipole tags on shoes and books. Trap tags went on media, books, jewelry, and cosmetics, and sunglasses received Web tags. This was part of a decision to implement item-level tagging to streamline inventory control, restocking, and checkout processes.
The personal experience tags begin with smart display and interactive mirrors providing product information and a built-in camera consumers can use to take pictures and email them to others for shopping advice.
This is one example of how RFID is changing the retail market, with potential for use in the high-tech supply chain. Global RFID systems will grow 16 percent to $5.3 billion in 2011, according to ABI Research , which estimates revenue from systems software will outpace that from services, transponders, and readers.
Gerd Wolfram, managing director of MGI Metro Group Information Technology
, in 2008 spoke often and openly about RFID and how the company's retail stores continually test the technology, adopting many of the same applications Common People will now deploy.
Metro Group, one of the first retailers aside from Prada in the United States to pilot smart mirrors and other supply chain sensor applications in retail stores, continues to test emerging forms of RFID technology. Earlier this month, Mojix reported completing tests with Metro Group using the Mojix Star system, where the two companies experienced higher read rate performance for passive tags at the Metro Group RFID Innovation Centre in Neuss, Germany.
Common People's RFID-enabled smart fitting room is outfitted with an interactive touch screen that allows shoppers to scan goods for additional product information, browse complementary items, and electronically request that additional merchandise be delivered for their review, the requests automatically sent to sales employees' PDAs.
The companies claim the technology gives the manufacturer insight into why some products were handled and not purchased, a concept that always brings me back to advertising and marketing.
Advertising and public relations firms have clearly shown interest in paying more attention to RFID and other emerging technologies like near-field communications (NFC) with the potential for two-way communications among brands, retailers, and consumers. So, I'm wondering why more retailers in the United States have not implemented RFID and smart mirrors to monitor stock and serve as a customer service rep in the store.
If a retailer knew a consumer handled merchandise from a specific brand, but didn't purchase it, what could they do with the information? And, if NFC continues to receive attention from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), BlackBerry (Nasdaq: RIMM; Toronto: RIM), and others, will technology companies find a way to integrate NFC with RFID capabilities for retailers? Can we hear from some of the engineers out there?