RFID inventory tracking has significant advantages over barcodes
Making annual inventory counts fun while delivering ongoing accuracy
By Tom Vieweger
By Tom Vieweger
The holiday season is over. We are starting a new year filled with hope and promise. While most people were enjoying a few days off, some retail personnel had to spend the last days of the year counting inventory. But are you sure you can count on inventory data gathered in December when you are trying to fulfil an online order from a store in February?
Retailers are required to count their inventory at least once by the end of the fiscal year. When you’d ask them if the annual inventory was fun, it becomes evident that traditional barcode-based inventory counts are one of the most tedious tasks for a business. They are expensive to run, time-consuming to do, and prone to human error. Since the annual inventory counts data gets outdated over time, stock inaccuracies continue to grow in the following 12 months. As a consequence, stores can face out-of-stock situations.
The better solution: tracing products and counting stock in real-time with RFID. Stock-taking with RFID is more than ten times faster than barcode scanning. Thus, inventory counts can be fun! More importantly, real-time tracking of products with RFID delivers end-to-end real-time stock visibility.
The cost of RFID tagging has (again) fallen in the last 12 months. Still, an RFID label is more expensive than barcodes, but looking at the cost alone is short-sighted and compares apples and oranges. Actually, RFID has multiple advantages over barcodes and a better return on investment when you consider all the aspects. For example, consider the cost of annual inventory counts alone: it is much more expensive to pay someone to scan each barcode than it is to have an RFID-based bulk read. Additionally, an RFID inventory read can be performed even during the opening hours of the stores, thus ensuring no downtime or loss of revenue.
Driven by digital innovations, the presence of smartphones everywhere, and the impact of COVID-19, omnichannel retail is a reality now. Retailers use the stock from their existing store network to fulfil orders originating from digital channels. Fulfilling those orders efficiently requires knowing where stock is located, how much stock is actually available, and the ability to ship inventory from the location closest to the customer. In this context, RFID-based end-to-end stock visibility allows retailers to make products available in the right channel, driving omnichannel sales opportunities.
Achieving stock accuracy is one thing. But it is also important to make stock data easily available and accessible to provide real-time visibility from a centralized Single Point of Truth – we call it the ‘stock SPoT.’ APIs – application programmable interfaces – provide data access systematically and make it incredibly easy to develop new features by combining data streams from various systems. Making stock data accessible via APIs to other systems enables enhanced applications and deep insights.
Maintaining accurate stock is key for omnichannel retailers. Stock accuracy is the foundation needed to avoid out-of-stock situations and not lose sales. RFID provides deep stock visibility and enables more sales by delivering optimum merchandise availability. Zooming in to the store level, retailers will get accurate stock information when their store associates find the RFID solution easy to use, reliable, and fun to work with because they spend less time searching for missing items and more time serving their customers. So, let’s together make more customers happy in 2021!