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Walmart Expands RFID Mandate: What It Means for RAIN RFID in Retail

Walmart found success using RFID for apparel. Could its sweeping tag mandate signal a potential tipping point for RAIN RFID adoption in U.S. retail?

Signaling a huge commitment to RAIN RFID by the biggest retailer in the United States, Walmart has significantly expanded its requirements that suppliers tag products with RFID. 

After success using RFID with apparel, Walmart required its suppliers to tag home goods, sporting goods, electronics, and toys with RFID by September 2022. Walmart later extended its RFID requirements to more than a dozen additional categories, with a deadline for compliance by February 2024.

Retail employee restocking shelves with electronic products, showcasing inventory management in a store
Source: Walmart Media Library

“We have seen dramatic results in our ability to ensure product is available for our customers, leading to improved online order fulfillment and customer satisfaction,” Shelly McDougal, Walmart's senior director of merchandising, told RFID Journal

Because of its size and influence, Walmart often serves as a bellwether for the retail industry. With its RFID expansion into several new categories, AdAge notes, Walmart could set off a chain reaction for the “near-universal” adoption of item-level RFID in retail across the U.S.

RAIN RFID solutions give retailers the ability to see the real-time location and status of items in the supply chain and at stores. Walmart’s RFID effort “has improved inventory accuracy but more importantly has helped us better serve our customers,” McDougal wrote on LinkedIn.

Walmart made clear it is using RFID only for inventory and supply chain management. Yet, as retailers worldwide know — or are beginning to find out — RAIN RFID can also enable much more. 

How RFID works in retail

Solutions built on the Impinj platform can give retailers the real-time inventory visibility they need for omnichannel fulfillment, including options like “buy online, pick up in store” (BOPIS), “buy online, pick up at curb” (BOPAC), and ship-from-store. RAIN RFID can improve self-checkout, enhancing the customer experience and reducing lines by bypassing clumsy barcode scanning. And RAIN RFID solutions can strengthen loss prevention by showing retailers exactly which items went missing, when, and where — and how that fits with store trends.

Here’s how a RAIN RFID solution typically works in retail:

  1. Each item is tagged with a RAIN RFID tag, which includes a thin antenna and a tiny tag chip containing an identifier for that item. Tags are so small they can be embedded in labels, hangtags, packaging, or even fabric tags.
  2. RAIN RFID readers, either handheld or fixed at transition points, use radio signals to read the identifier stored on those tag chips. Unlike barcodes, up to a thousand RAIN RFID tags can be read at once, without direct line-of-sight, at a distance of up to 10 meters (30 feet).
  3. Readers send that tag data to software that interfaces with existing enterprise systems. With that data, retailers can immediately know whether items are in stock, or offer accurate product availability to online shoppers, or gain insights into sales-floor patterns that can inform merchandising and prevent shrinkage.

The benefits of RAIN RFID have become even clearer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The health and economic crises prompted more consumers to shop online and contributed to supply chain disruptions worldwide.

For Walmart, an early driver of RAIN RFID in retail, the potential became clear for products beyond just apparel. Since its 2022 expanded mandate, Walmart has added even more categories to its list. Now, suppliers are required to include RFID tags on tags or packaging for all products in the following categories:

  • Apparel 
  • Automotive 
  • Books 
  • Camera and supplies 
  • Crafts 
  • Electronics 
  • Hardware 
  • Home goods 
  • Lawn and garden 
  • Media and gaming 
  • Paint 
  • Sporting goods 
  • Stationery 
  • Toys 

"We look forward to expanding the technology into more categories," McDougal told RFID Journal, "to further improve inventory accuracy across the business, provide a better in-store shopping experience for customers, and drive more online and pick-up-in-store capabilities."

Get more information on the benefits of RAIN RFID in retail, learn more about Walmart's RFID tag mandate, and check out our handy infographics on enabling omnichannel fulfillment, automated self-checkout, and loss prevention.

Article tagged as:

Automated Checkout Blog Inventory Management Inventory Replenishment Omnichannel Fulfillment Retail Impinj Tag Chips Loss Prevention

Friday, May 17, 2024



Nick Eaton

Editorial & Content Manager

As editorial and content manager, Nick Eaton directs content strategy and messaging for the Impinj global marketing team, also drawing on 15 years of experience in print and online journalism.