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Three Ways RAIN RFID Will Help Holiday Shopping During the Pandemic

Omnichannel fulfillment. Touch-free transactions. The 2020 holiday shopping season will be very different, but some retailers are already rising to the challenge.

Think back to the last time you shopped for the holidays—chances are you went to a physical store for some, if not all, of your gifts. I know the last time I wrote a holiday shopping blog for Impinj, we were in a very different world. 

This year, holiday shopping will likely look and feel very different, with social distancing and stay at home orders shifting how people purchase goods. Even with some physical stores reopening, many shoppers have already changed their purchasing habits and have migrated to shopping online from the comfort of their homes. 

In addition to changing how people shop, the pandemic has changed what people are shopping for. Keeping up with quickly changing consumer preferences on top of other pandemic-related complications has been a challenge for retailers. From fully stocked shelves in empty stores, to delays in online shipments, COVID-19 has exposed a weakness in retail supply chains and omnichannel operations—but not everyone is feeling the pain equally. 

Companies that were not digitally-equipped to respond to large-scale changes in consumer behavior are experiencing the greatest pain points, with limited inventory visibility inhibiting retailers from quickly getting products to the right place at the right time. Retailers who had already invested in digital transformation prior to COVID have been able to adapt quickly during the pandemic, with abilities like online shopping, curbside pickup, and touch-free checkout helping them transition. 

How to improve inventory accuracy, omnichannel operations, and customer experiences: RAIN RFID

RAIN RFID helps retailers monitor items throughout the value chain, including in a warehouse or in a retail store, so the items can be identified, inventoried, located, shipped, and even protected from theft. RAIN RFID can identify items at a distance without line-of-sight, which enables employees to track inventory while maintaining social distance from other employees. Because RAIN RFID can recognize individual items, it enables automated, touch-free checkout so customers can purchase items without unnecessary proximity to store employees—which will only grow in importance as the holidays grow closer.

RAIN RFID can help retailers with digital transformation, preparing them for online and in-store shopping in the future. Read on for three specific capabilities that RAIN RFID can help retailers with this holiday season. 

#1 In-store inventory visibility with RAIN RFID enables omnichannel flexibility

When consumers go online to shop for friends and family, it’s expected that the inventory is accurate: items available for purchase are in stock, ready to ship, and will arrive in time for gift opening. With more holiday shoppers moving online to buy gifts for loved ones, retailers can leverage RAIN RFID to identify inventory in-store to fulfill online holiday orders. 

Retailers that adopted RAIN RFID prior to COVID have been able to quickly pivot to online shopping and shipping. Luxury athleisure company Lululemon has been able to fill online orders quickly and efficiently as their customers flocked to online shopping. At the end of March, Lululemon stated that existing investments in RAIN RFID systems had enabled the company to take a flexible approach to e-commerce fulfillment, allowing it to adapt quickly with little problem.

In addition to happy customers from fewer cancelled orders, inventory visibility means retailers don’t have to tie up assets in unnecessary safety stock. 

#2 In-store inventory accuracy with RAIN RFID enables curbside pick-up 

In-store inventory visibility, powered by RAIN RFID, helps retailers know exactly what they have and where, so they can provide easy to access curbside pick-up and buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) services. More retailers are using their stores as fulfillment centers, allowing employees to locate, pick, and pack available stock for omnichannel fulfillment.

With improved inventory accuracy, employees can be confident in finding the right item and consumers can be confident their orders will be fulfilled—which is particularly helpful during the holiday season. Real-time information empowers employees and correct item availability and delivery information delights shoppers, which in turn helps solidify overall customer loyalty. 

#3 Inventory management with RAIN RFID enables inventory and touch-free checkout

The pandemic has forced social distancing upon us both in the workplace and in retail stores. With holiday shopping increasing demand for goods, the option to track inventory from a distance and purchase holiday gifts in a retail store without proximity to staff or having to touch gifts for friends and family is particularly appealing. 

RAIN RFID allows for touch-free inventory management, scanning up to 1,000 items per second. Fixed readers can scan from up to 30 feet away, helping employees comply with social distancing measures. But in some cases, human employees don’t need to scan at all. Outdoor equipment retailer Decathlon uses robotic inventory scanning: a smart robot equipped with a RAIN RFID reader to take inventory around the store automatically, during the day and overnight—without supervision.  

In addition to touch-free inventory management, RAIN RFID is also helping support new technologies for social distancing by reducing customer time spent purchasing items at checkout, customer interactions in public spaces, and contact between customers and staff.

RAIN RFID can take contactless commerce to the next level, enabling a touch-free environment that automatically scans multiple items simultaneously without needing the line-of-sight required by barcodes.  

Holidays and the new normal

Retailers facing innumerable challenges today have the opportunity to leverage RAIN RFID to empower their customers, staff, and stakeholders and prepare for the holidays. 

Providing consumers with options to holiday shop while adhering to social distancing protocols will help retailers remain solvent during this unprecedented time—and give consumers access to the gifts they wish to buy for the holidays. Real-time inventory data will ensure that those gifts are available for curbside pickup, BOPIS, or touch-free checkout, depending on a customer’s preference.

From enabling social distancing in stores to aiding retailers migrating to online sales, RAIN RFID is a powerhouse to add to your toolbox in order to stay afloat, thrive, and rapidly optimize omnichannel operations during the holiday season.

Conclusion

This pandemic has demonstrated the importance of flexibility, both in customer experience and in agile supply chains. RAIN RFID can help with both forms of flexibility. In the long term, the retailers that do best will be those that are the most adaptive to change. In the short term, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. 

Want to learn more? Listen to Gaylene Meyer, Impinj vice president, global marketing and communications, speak about How RAIN RFID Powers Next-Gen Customer Experiences on the Retail Remix podcast.

  • Automated Checkout
  • Blog
  • Inventory Management
  • Omnichannel Fulfillment
  • Retail
Ashley Burkle head shot
Ashley Burkle
  • Impinj Senior Manager, Retail Industry

Ashley Burkle is the senior manager of retail solutions at Impinj. She works with retail partners and service companies to develop solutions that increase sales, improve efficiencies, and enhance shopper experiences around the world.