In January, we went to New York with a few contacts to visit Retail’s Big Show of the National Retail Federation (NRF). New York itself is already very inspiring, however, this large fair keeps us informed annually of the latest developments and trends. What are the trends that we will see in our industry?
1. RFID, read and safe data contactless
Radio-frequency identification, or the contactless reading and storage of data, is becoming big. Take for example the pass that you don’t slide into a reader but hold against the door to open your hotel room. Companies in fashion and retail are also switching to this technology. The principle is simple: place the transmitters strategically throughout the store and provide your product range with RFID tags. This way you’ll have a complete overview of the products in your store. Stock management and logistics also become easier with RFID. You always know exactly how many pieces you have of an item and when the stocks need to be replenished.
RFID is becoming more accessible
When this technology just became available, it was expensive and technically complicated to apply RFID. As more companies adopt this method, RFID becomes more and more accessible. Large fashion chains like Zara, H&M and G-Star are already working with it. Especially for companies in the mid- and upper segment of fashion and retail, RFID is a very interesting technology.
For chains in the lower segment, the costs are still a challenge at the moment. This doesn’t mean RFID will not become interesting for this segment later on. One reason is because technology will become cheaper by time. RFID tags and equipment are being produced in larger numbers, which leads to a lower price per unit.
RFID in aviation
In aviation they also want to apply RFID. For example, by placing tags on new suitcases. How lovely would it be if your suitcase contained a RFID tag, so your suitcase is automatically noticed and taken care off when it arrives the departure hall? What remains to be done in this area of RFID, is an international coordination. We need agreements and standards. The challenge of this and other new technology is that every country or area has its own idea of what the standard should be. Is the new technology bad for your health? Is there any radiation? Does that technology distort the systems we are currently working with? In the case of RFID, it seems it will not take too long before we get international standards and it becomes normal just like a barcode.
2. A mobile device for every employee
In various industries, including retail, logistics, hospitality and healthcare, there’s a growing need to know whereabouts of employees. Not to check what they are doing, but to be able to take action as fast and accurately as possible, with the right people. If a customer has a question or a problem, you want to know who is around to answer that question or solve the problem. This is only possible if all employees have their own mobile device. Due to economic reasons, most retailers only have a limited number of employees with a handheld terminal to scan products, view stock information, help customers, etc.
This summer, a light but robust version of the handheld terminal will be introduced. This compact, multifunctional handheld terminal has a screen, an integrated scanner and contains functionalities to communicate (so telephones and transceivers become redundant) and to see the whereabouts of the employees. Moreover, these new devices will be lower-priced which makes the idea to provide a device to each employee more interesting.
3. Electronic Shelf Labeling
Electronic Shelf Labeling (ESL) is a new technology that will replace the traditional paper shelf labels on a store rack. Instead of displaying the prices on those printed labels, price information is displayed dynamically on small screens about the same size as a shelf label. With ESL it’s much easier to carry out dynamic pricing and align your promotion prices or the low prices on the internet. This technology was very expensive in the past. Thanks to improved technology and control through the existing wireless network, it has become more accessible. Electronic shelf labels are intelligent labels that can also show the stock quantities, so you always know how much you have in stock and what needs to be replenished. This technology offers numerous possibilities for the future. Intergamma has already an ESL pilot running in their store in Hilversum.
Shopping doesn’t get easier than this! You create a shopping list on your smartphone for, for example, the DIY-store you always go to. As soon as you enter the DIY-store, the system that runs through the smart LED lightning in the store recognizes your shopping list and sends to your smartphone or self-scanning device the exact route you need to walk to find the products you need or might be interested in.
What about privacy and locationing?
With this new development, privacy is a key area of consideration. Are stores allowed to know who is entering the store and what customers are buying? Are they allowed to connect with the smartphones of their customers? Just like the Cookie Law for websites, customers also need to give their consent first, before they can experience the convenience of locationing.
5. Android, Android, Android
You almost never see Windows operating systems anymore. In the world of Enterprise Mobility, it’s all Android these days. Next year, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows CE and Embedded OS. The maintenance of Android (as in making sure the software and hardware are seamless connected and up-to-date) is part of our daily business. We think it’s important to take care of all the essentials and keep our customers up-to-date.