Using RFID for more than just tracking? Could it help personalize shopping experience if you embedded a LED in your battery free RFID tags? How would it help?

Zebra Technologies’ “Retail Vision Study“, recently released, confirms the trend within major retailers to increase adoption of radio frequency identification and other Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to personalize shopping experience.

When asked about the reasons for this, most retailers indicated that they plan to use automation technology to better personalize service at their stores. Among other topics, the study reveals that one of the primary causes of consumer dissatisfaction reported was the inability to find a particular product on the shelf.

IoT in retail

IoT to enhance customer experience in retail

You can’t avoid talking about RFID when discussing IoT and automation in retail so we wanted to add the sensor and actuator side to UHF RFID tags in this topic too.

As we talked about in previous posts, battery free, EPC C1G2 tags with embedded LEDs can be used for pick-to-light applications. ‘How do I make it work in my store?’

Customization of the solution

The same study from Zebra points out that IoT technologies are the tool to personalize shopping experience. In our particular case, battery free UHF RFID LEDs are used to help customers visually identify a specific item.

In order to do so, you will have to build the proper RFID infrastructure both from the hardware and software side.

Fixed readers vs. handheld readers

One of the major decisions you will have to take is the usage of fixed readers and antennas versus the handheld devices.

A good implementation of fixed readers and antennas allows you to forget about read ranges. You will be able to light up an LED wherever you want within your store, based on the input from your customer. However, this can be an expensive implementation as the number of readers and antennas to be placed to cover all tags can be big.

Note that you have options to explore – check Teslonix’s technology to reduce infrastructure – but this will always require a good initial investment.

On the contrary, handheld devices can be a good solution for reduced investment in infrastructure when users/staff can go around checking different zones for blinking LEDs. This option won’t allow you to light up LEDs anywhere in your store or warehouse but you will need to go to the zone where the products are and only when the tag is within the read range of the reader the LED will light up.

Lighting up the RFID LEDs

The good news about RFID LED system is that the EPC C1G2 protocol is very convenient for handling inventory – no wonder that’s the primary application for the technology.

RFID systems allow you to target a single tag or multiple tags depending on the commands you use. This means you can light up a single LED – you just need to target the unique ID number you want to light up – or you can light up multiple LEDs based on your own criteria.

Imagine you have customers in your store asking for all Nike trainers that are red. There’s two different criteria to filter by but you can easily do that with RFID. Depending on how you set the infrastructure, you could light up all red Nike shoes in your store – fixed reader installation – or light them up as you come close to them – handheld readers.

The key: good EPC number codification

The key to be able to use this option to your advantage is to plan your EPC number codification in advance. If you figure out all the criteria you would like to use before you actually start using RFID, you can implement the criteria in the EPC numbers of your RFID tags.

Depending on your tag selection you have 96 to 128 bits of EPC number you can use to create different filters. If you are following coding standards, you will reserve part of those bits for information of the company or the product ID, but you have free bits to code brands, colors, sizes, etc.

The image below shows an example of how the coding could work.

Use the EPC number to personalize shopping experience

Use the EPC number to personalize shopping experience

In this example, the retailer has chosen to give, for each product ID (i.e.: shoes), up to 1,024 options of brands, up to 16 sizes, up to 64 colors and over 68 billion unique numbers for each product ID, brand, size and color combination.

Note that the complete 56 bits of serial number is customizable so you decide how to code these bits to your advantage. Moreover, if you don’t adhere to any standards, you could use all 96 bits – 128 bits in other RFID chips if needed – for your own information.

Back to the need to personalize shopping experience, imagine the options to help customers find a particular product in your store and even share recommendations and other suggestions. You can do it by playing with the colors of the LEDs for example.