In 1945, Léon Theremin invented a listening device for the Soviet Union which retransmitted incident radio waves with the added audio information. Sound waves vibrated a diaphragm which slightly altered the shape of the resonator, which modulated the reflected radio frequency. Even though this device was a covert listening device, rather than an identification tag, it is considered to be a predecessor of RFID because it was passive, being energized and activated by waves from an outside source.
As Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags evolved, they have been an enormous benefit every industry. Tracking items and inventory are simpler than any time in history, which means that errors are quickly becoming a thing of the past.
Although the primary beneficiaries of RFID technology have been manufacturers and suppliers, it can provide a significant advantage to retail outlets as well. Loss prevention is always a priority for stores; there is an obvious advantage for using RFID as a method to manage inventory and prevent theft.
With so many advancements in RFID technology, it is critical to select the right RFID tags for your specific needs. Today we will be sharing options, as well as what to consider before making a purchase.
1) What Problems are Solved with RFID Tags?
Before looking at the dimensions and material for your tags, it’s imperative first to understand their purpose. What problem will they solve? What will be gained?
For example: If the goal is to prevent theft, the RFID tags should be a type not easily removed consumers. If it is sewn into the fabric or attached by some other means, will it affect the performance of the product?
There are three primary reasons to start implementing an RFID strategy for your retail store.
- Loss Prevention: Scanners at the front of the store alert staff if an item was not paid for.
- Inventory Management: Employees use mobile scanners to track products as they come into the store.
- Returns: RFID tags make it easier to handle returned items and potentially get them back into circulation. RFID tags can also help prevent fraudulent returns.
Once you have determined how the RFID tag will function and consider each step during the inventory management process, you can have more confidence in the potential benefits. Because of the impact and investment, select RFID tags based with a purpose in mind vs. deciding on the fly.
2) What Type of Material?
What kinds of products do you sell? Are they packaged in boxes or plastic? Do you sell apparel? When selecting the best RFID tag, type of material is the next consideration.
For example: If you want to tag boxed goods, the RFID tag needs an adhesive. Ideally, these stickers will be tamper-proof, meaning that a customer won’t be able to remove it or place it elsewhere.
For apparel, tags can be sewn into the fabric for semi-permanence. Alternatively, you can choose tags that hang to make them easier to remove but can have a higher risk of theft.
In many cases, you will likely need a few different types of tags for your products. It is good to use a printing company that can accommodate needs to consolidate your orders.
3) Size and Placement
If you are sticking RFID tags on boxes, the primary decision is the placement. Assuming you get tamper-proof versions of RFID tags for loss prevention, it is important that they can be quickly scanned.
Also, it is important the tag doesn’t cover up any other crucial information, such as the barcode. In some instances, the label can replace the barcode, but that’s not always the case.
When thinking about placement, consider how it will appear to the customer, whether the tag can be adjusted after the fact, and how well it will work on the back end as you apply them to products.
We have already shared an example regarding non-removable theft-proof tags. While these tags are excellent for loss prevention, they can be expensive and time-consuming. The tag may get ripped off by accident, which renders it useless. Since these types of tags are for use only once, you need to keep reordering them for new inventory.
Reusable tags are a great option if loss prevention controls are not needed. If you can lock a label in place until the product is paid for, it becomes a more viable option.
When looking for reusable tags, the critical thing to remember is how they will be abused over time. You want material that is sturdy and reliable to hold up over the long term. Continuously being handled by customers (and staff) can cause wear. Skimping on quality can lead to higher costs.
In some instances, you may want to provide customers with an RFID tag that supports a particular rewards program. The label is scanned each time they buy a product, and the system keeps the customer’s information on file. In this case, you need a front-end option that won’t break down easily and can be simple to carry.
We briefly touched on how some RFID tags are an ongoing expense. Meaning, that as you sell more products, you continue to order RFID tags. Also, if you do choose a reusable RFID tag option, a higher quality of tag is required, which means a higher upfront price.
Considering the price variables, a plan is important before you look into implementing RFID tags. As you create a plan, you may decide that only a portion of your inventory is worth tagging.
While each retail store is different, all must understand the return on investment (ROI). If implementing RFID into your retail store(s) is solving the problems initially recognized, the investment is well worth it.