How to successfully get started with RFID: A Step-By-Step Guide for Apparel Retail

Inventory management at its finest!

August 17 2023

In the current age of fashion retail, delivering a great shopping experience is crucial. One of the most important boxes to tick is to have the product available as soon as consumers are ready to buy. This is the main reason why most brands and retailers are looking into ways to manage their inventories efficiently.  

With the rise of the ‘zero consumer’, as defined by McKinsey, consumers are increasingly shopping across channels, showing little loyalty, and expecting fast shipping and sustainable products. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to realize it's vital to always avoid bad shopping experiences to remain successful. In today's highly competitive landscape, where retailers are fighting for the wallet of hyper-demanding consumers, inventory accuracy as a foundation for guaranteed product availability across all channels is a must to deliver the omnichannel shopping experience we all crave.

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology offers a powerful solution to this challenge. However, to extract the maximum benefits from this technology, the first step for many retailers is to run an RFID pilot. The roadmap to successful implementation involves strategic planning, stakeholder engagement, iterative learning, and a rapid scale-up plan. Here's how to make your RFID journey effective and beneficial:

1. Start Small

Embarking on your RFID journey does not necessarily mean an immediate, sweeping overhaul of your current systems. Instead, start small by establishing a workshop with your stakeholders and your selected RFID solution provider's experts. These sessions should focus on creating a business case for RFID implementation tailored to your needs and challenges. Examples can include sales uplift, inventory accuracy, and shrink management. It is essential to use recent experiences in retail as the foundation for this business case and benchmark it against results from similar retailers. Another key takeaway is to strip away complexity and focus on only a few use cases. It’s far more satisfying to scale up based on success than to continuously have to prove the value of your RFID investment.

2. Test, Learn and Adjust

With a business case in place, it's time to validate it. To start, you can do this by selecting a small group of stores that have RFID-tagged merchandise or have a plan to tag the merchandise in those stores. The products can be tagged in the distribution center (DC) or the store itself, depending on what suits your operations best. This testing phase is your pre-rollout, executed step-by-step to ensure everything functions as expected.

Remember, it's crucial to have an iterative approach during this stage. Regularly gather data, evaluate the performance, and make necessary adjustments. This flexibility will allow you to fine-tune your RFID solution, ensuring it delivers the maximum benefits for your business.

3. Scale Fast

Once your initial first stores have proven successful, it's time to scale up quickly. Following your pre-established rollout plan, you can implement the validated RFID technology across all your stores. It's also an opportunity to add new features and capabilities as needed. Depending on the use cases you are looking to achieve, you can extend beyond the basic functionalities, such as counting and refilling store inventory, to receiving shipments or assigning statuses to particular items.

Another important step is to involve the right stakeholders while amplifying your RFID journey. As we enter a new retail era, we see a shift in priorities with a clear focus on omnichannel services and correlated tools and capabilities such as stock visibility, order management, and mobile applications. Yet, retail organizations realize that they need more cross-functional collaboration, as:

  1. No single department can do everything by itself,
  2. RFID can bring many more advantages to other departments in the future, and
  3. Stakeholders can make it so much easier to ‘sell’ the project to the C-level.

In our experience with various retailers, we have seen several different scenarios – breaking the typical silos, as stated earlier. Here are some examples of the areas where stakeholders are coming from:

4. Emphasize User Adoption

Successful RFID projects typically have one thing in common: they are embraced by the users, from top management to store associates. Therefore, make sure to train your team adequately and ensure they understand the benefits of RFID and how it operates. Their support and active participation can be the deciding factor in your project's success. 

5. Focus on Customer Experience

One of the primary reasons brands implement RFID is to maximize the customer experience by achieving complete stock visibility. RFID allows you to achieve accurate inventory levels across all channels, preventing stock-outs and enhancing the customer shopping experience. Always remember this ultimate goal as you continue to adopt RFID within your organization.


As we wrap up, let's revisit the exciting promise of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology in the fast-paced world of retail, especially in the age of the 'zero consumer.' These consumers are discerning, quick to shift their loyalties, and expect nothing less than stellar service.

Your retail strategy should begin on a small scale with a well-crafted business case for RFID. Next, embark on a testing phase with an open mind, ready to learn and make necessary adjustments. Once you've validated the benefits, don't hold back—it's time to scale up.

But remember, this isn't a solo journey. Stakeholders from various departments should be on board, understanding the vast benefits RFID offers. Training your store teams to adopt RFID and understand its utility will prove instrumental to the success of this initiative.

Ultimately, everything circles back to improving the customer experience. With ultimate stock visibility and efficient inventory management, RFID technology allows you to cater to the demands of the 'zero consumer' in real-time. The end goal is a smooth, satisfying shopping experience for every customer, every time.