Remember the days when RFID was going to revolutionize how retail operated? It was going to significantly enhance the customer experience and  resolve every retail problem known to mankind. We heard of using RFID for such things as:

  • Knowing exactly where merchandise is located in the store, down to the specific shelf or rack.
  • Being able to check-out in an instant.
  • Reducing shrinkage.
  • Being able to count your inventory with a single wave of a wand.
  • No more need to enter delivery receipts, sales, or physical inventory counts.
  • Knowing when a customer walks into your store that is wearing an item purchased at your store or even a competitor’s store.

Here are a couple of great videos produced back in 2006 showing the promise of RFID in the store and how it was going to greatly enhance the customer experience:

Or this one:


Fast forward to 2009 - what happened? Where is all this promise?

While we have seen some advances in the area of supply chain, it has been very slow. According to a recent comment from John Fontonella of AMR:

“…most of the RFID projects underway today seem simplistic, and well, dull, when compared to the excitement and controversy raised by the Wal-mart mandate”

There are some retailers, like Metro Group in Europe, and others in the U.S. that are progressing in this area, but the progress has been slow and the results minimal.

I believe that until we see sufficient ROI and a real enhancement to the customer experience, it will not be of interest to retailers to spend time and costs impementing RFID. There are still too many challenges surrounding the cost, implementation, and effective use of RFID technology for retailers to be spending time and money in this area. With the exception of grocery stores, it is difficult to see where the real benefit fore retailers will be with RFID in the near future.

What do you think the future holds for RFID in retail? Do you know of any retailers or software vendors that are making better advances in this area?