It’s time to close the curtain on what’s been a challenging year for all. Retail has been under immense pressure this year, but through perseverance, partnership and innovation, we are beginning to come out of the other side.

While it might be tempting to move on from this year and not look back, we feel it’s important to look back and take stock of the biggest developments and stories of the year, good and bad.  

Let’s explore the major themes of the year for retail, and revisit some of the content and updates that have told the story of 2020. 

COVID-19: Charting a Course Through Unprecedented Times

COVID-19 was the defining event of 2020. The pandemic was devasting to people, communities and businesses. Our day-to-day was transformed overnight, with life and work becoming remote-first and priorities and plans being rethought and reassessed. For retail, with stores being closed, many people under financial pressure and working from home, revenue dropped massively. Not only this but COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on the industry, with experts predicting it accelerated industry change by five years.

COVID-19 has caused massive disruption to retail. So, what do retailers need to do to not only survive, but to excel in this new normal environment?
How crisis and change often go hand in hand and exploring how COVID-19 may accelerate retail’s digital transformation.
What does the future of apparel retail stores look like after COVID-19 and beyond?

Looking Ahead to 2021

But what about looking ahead to next year? Keeping an eye on upcoming trends is always important, this year even more so. While it’s comforting to think that the pandemic will be a thing of the past next year, the reality is it will remain a factor. More significant will be the ‘hangover’ of the post-pandemic, which will have huge implications on the industry and its priorities for the coming year. We explored what these priorities and subsequent trends will be in a recent series:

Why online order fulfilment will be a key metric for 2021, and how retailers must adapt and strengthen their fulfilment capabilities to keep up with the higher demand.
A look at DTC retailing and its increasing popularity, plus if direct is the future, what does it mean for the industry going forward?
A look at how recommerce and rental models are growing in popularity in the fashion industry, what it means for the environment, the industry and what the key challenges and considerations are for retailers looking to offer these services in the future.

The Ongoing Digitial Transformation of Retail

We have been calling for, and leading the way in, digital transformation in retail for over ten years, and this year has been no different. Now more than ever, retailers need to innovate and improve their systems and processes to keep up with modern retailing. The benefits that digital transformation can deliver such as reduced costs, increased sales and better online/offline integration will be vital for retailers in the wake of the pandemic and beyond. Retail digital transformation is what Detego does, and this year we’ve been discussing this in more ways than ever before. Whether you’re still discovering why, or need to learn how, we have resources to help you get started.

Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.
Discover how RFID is changing retail for good. This eBook will guide you through the top 10 needs identified by retailers to ensure sustainable success in the modern environment. Explore the common challenges preventing retailers from achieving their goals and learn how applying smart RFID-based solutions delivers consistently good results.
Detego's Executive Chairman, Kim Berknov, joins the Retail Corner Podcast to dicuss RFID technology and how it allows retailers to accuratley track products throughout the supply chain.

Building the Supply Chain of the Future

We’ve been innovating and supporting retail stores for over 10 years with RFID. Alongside our customers and partners, we have increasingly been moving upstream and digitising and future-proofing the supply chain. This year, with the focus being on eCommerce and online shopping, supply chain innovation has been front and centre. RFID in the supply chain is an exciting topic and the results and developments from deploying RFID in factories and distribution centres are impressive. Whether its achieving complete supply chain visibility, optimising against shrinkage or building automated DC’s fit for the future, the technology has a lot to offer. Explore it here:

How retailers are utilising RFID across the supply chain and the benefits from doing so
KNAPP selects Detego as their RFID solution partner to improve operational efficiencies and inventory visibility for Marc Cain.
Item-level data and the 3 key building blocks to supply chain optimisation - visibility, traceability, and accountability

Building Partnerships

This year more than ever, building strong partnerships has been essential. At Detego, we have always prided ourselves on building good relationships and effective collaboration. This year, we have continued working alongside our amazing customers and clients and have even developed new ones to strengthen projects and products in the future.

As part of both the new FastTrack and the Customer Success co-sponsorship programmes, Detego will work alongside Microsoft to develop further AI and big data features to their leading RFID platform.
The RFID Software Specialists Joins Network of Companies Certified to Help Businesses Implement GS1 Standards
The American technology integrators and European RFID specialists are combining their retail and IT expertise to deliver first-class end-to-end RFID solutions to the American retail industry.

Want to see how RFID can transform your business? Book a demo today

In the final instalment of our series exploring predicted retail trends for the coming year, we analyse why online order fulfilment will be a key metric for 2021. With COVID-19 causing an unprecedented acceleration in the shift towards eCommerce, retailers must quickly adapt and strengthen their fulfilment capabilities to ensure they can keep up with the higher demand. Read on to learn what the priorities are for retailers to achieve this, and what technologies are delivering the answers.

Why fulfilment will be a priority in 2021

Online shopping or eCommerce has been steadily growing since its invention. This means that the number of online orders that a retailer needs to fulfil gradually goes up year-on-year. The gradual increases required to a retailer’s order capacity are normally easy enough to anticipate and plan for. Like so many other things, however, 2020 kicked this idea to the curb.

This year has seen a massive shift towards eCommerce as a result of COVID-19. Even after things go back to normal, experts predict that a large portion of this growth will remain. In fact, according to data from IBM’s U.S. Retail Index, the pandemic has accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by roughly five years. Online or multichannel retailers are therefore faced with dealing with a seismic shift in the industry. Many brands will have to deal with the fact that the sudden shift may put the demand for online orders beyond their current capacity for fulfilment. Retailers then need to strengthen and invest in their fulfilment capabilities to avoid being caught out. But where to look first?

What are the priorities for retailers looking at fulfilment in 2021?

So, when we say fulfilment will be a key priority for retailers, what exactly does that mean? What are the limiting factors for online fulfilment, or, in other words, what areas will struggle without additional investment or technology?

 

Online capacity

The first step in any online purchase – a customer going online in the first place. For a webshop, or indeed any website, capacity simply means the number of visitors it can support. How much capacity is needed will vary, for example – this website does not need to have the same capacity as Amazon (at least for now). With regular demand, capacity is easy enough to get right. It’s sudden shifts or surges that can cause problems. We have all likely experienced this ourselves at one time, with a recent example being the PlayStation 5 UK launch crashing several major retailer’s sites! With eCommerce numbers predicted to stay high – web store capacity may need some attention.

 

Delivery speed

Delivery is one of the biggest challenges (and costs) of online retailing. Shipping products across an entire country at scale is already a challenge. What makes it worse is customers are starting to expect more and more from online retailers. Amazon has set the bar high for this, with next-day and free delivery now more and more sought after by customers. As eCommerce channels grow in popularity, retailers may find their delivery models only scale to a point.

 

DC efficiency

Supply chain bottlenecks can be a killer for fast online fulfilment. The most likely place for this to occur is where the majority* of online orders are shipped from – the distribution centre. If the way orders are being processed is time-consuming or inaccurate, the whole process can slow down. This supply chain efficiency is particularly important for new products (go-to-market) or restocking OOS (out-of-stock) products. If the process for a DC receiving and processing goods is not efficient enough, drastically increasing the number of products required for the DC to process could cause problems.

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Operational costs

The final big consideration for retailers attempting to scale up their fulfilment capabilities: the cost! All of the previous points are also examples of running costs associated with fulfilling online orders. Many retailers, particularly multichannel, often struggle ensuring their eCommerce arm stays profitable as the margins are much finer. If the balance between online and offline shifts too much, those fine margins could cause problems. Next year will see many of these retailers invest in their fulfilment processes to reduce long term costs and keep their increasingly crucial online channels sustainable.

Is ship-from-store the answer?

One of the leading trends with retailers investing and expanding their online fulfilment capacity is ship-from-store, also known as in-store fulfilment. SFS is an omnichannel retail strategy where retail stores are used to fulfil online orders, essentially leveraging stores as miniature distribution centres! The strategy has many advantages including taking pressure off of DC’s, reducing shipping costs and increasing delivery time. Ship-from-store also benefits the stores themselves as Idle inventory that is sitting in stores can instead be sold – preventing stock building up and keeping stores busy even if footfall is low.

Many major retailers have already started leaning into in-store fulfilment. Walmart expanded their ship-from-store capabilities to 2,500 locations earlier in the year, while target fulfilled 90% of their online orders from stores, cutting the cost of fulfilment by 30% and coinciding with a 100% increase in digital sales year-on-year. These two examples are interesting in that both brands are attempting to ‘take on’ Amazon by leveraging what amazon doesn’t have, a sign that ship-from-store is only going to grow in stature in the years to come.

What fulfilment technologies will become more relevant in 2021?

Automation

As demand for online orders goes up, distribution centres have to evolve. More modern DC’s with high order capacities are highly automated. This includes conveyor systems, automated processing and exception handling (with RFID). High-tech DC’s such as these are more efficient in terms of throughput of items and are far less susceptible to bottlenecks. An example of such a DC is Detego customer Marc Cain, who’s highly automated DC can process 35,000 articles a single day, with 100% accuracy.

 

Big data and Artificial Intelligence

For larger retailers, online channels produce a lot of data. For retailers who have the technologies to keep track of them, their supply chains also produce huge amounts of data related to the movement and flow of merchandise. As we often say though, data is useless if it’s not being used to produce actionable or useful insights. With AI, retailers can utilise all of this data from their web stores, supply chains and stores to great effect. Operational KPIs like DC throughput and dwell times (how long an item sits at a certain stage of the supply chain) are incredibly valuable for optimising fulfilment. This data can also be used for more advanced algorithms like demand prediction, so retailers can adjust their inventory levels for different regions before there is a shortage of products.

 

RFID

Tagging products with Radio frequency identification makes a huge difference to supply chains and online fulfilment capacity. Not only does RFID produce real-time item visibility from the factory to the customer, meaning more efficient handovers, but for DC’s it is a game-changer. RFID tunnels within an automated conveyor system can automatically count and check the content of cartons without needing to open the box, in a matter of seconds. This means all products coming in and out of the DC are processed in seconds and with complete accuracy. After the initial investment, the solution also drastically lowers operational costs, not to mention the reduction in chargebacks of incorrect shipping penalties.

Want to see how RFID can transform your business? Book a demo today

A look at DTC retailing and its increasing popularity, plus if direct is the future, what does it mean for the industry going forward?
A look at how recommerce and rental models are growing in popularity in the fashion industry, what it means for the environment, the industry and what the key challenges and considerations are for retailers looking to offer these services in the future.
Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.

Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.

Radiofrequency identification (RFID) has become a vital technology in retail, particularly for larger brands. Leading retailers use the technology to achieve high stock accuracy, supply chain visibility and to gain the real-time data required for strong digital offerings such as omnichannel.

These are no longer optional for retailers and undergoing digital transformation with RFID is on the agenda for more and more brands.

Join Detego’s delivery specialists with years of experience implementing RFID in retail stores, and supply chains as they go take you through a best-practise approach to implementation.

Hear about the journey from a retailer’s perspective as BESTSELLER talk through their RFID journey which included an initial rollout to just under 200 stores in 3 months!

  • Determine the key things to consider when implementing RFID
  • Gain insight on the priorities to focus on, things to look out for, and lessons learnt
  • Learn about each stage of the journey with specific insight and advice for both stores and distribution centres
  • Hear a retailer’s experience of a large rollout covering hundreds of stores.

1- Adapting to the digital-first world

COVID-19 caused a huge increase in the role digital technology plays in our lives. Even for the already tech-savvy, work habits, social lives, exercise, and entertainment were all transformed into digital-first activities. Many of these trends existed before, but the pandemic accelerated this change by forcing many people to rely on digital channels and services more than ever.

The same is true for retail – online shopping and social media marketing are not new but have grown exponentially in the new normal, as customers stay at home and spend more time online. This means that, for all retail industries bar perhaps food, online channels have taken centre stage.

More than ever, customers are not only buying online, but they are also shopping online. What’s the difference? If we think of buying as the purchasing of a product, where the price is the primary factor, shopping is everything else – the experience, and the browsing and sampling of products, and ultimately the purchase decision itself. Traditionally e-commerce has always great for the former, but for actually browsing and discovering products its never been as good as in real-life. This is changing though, with digital technology like augmented reality (AR) allowing the customer to virtually try on products or see what they look like in true-to-life scale.

So, to adapt to this increasingly digital way of shopping Multichannel retailers or even pure-play brick and mortar retailers need to make more of an effort to reach their customers online. In the new normal, online is the focal point of the journey.

A webshop is one thing, but retailers need to make more of an effort to reach and meet their customers online. This means not only bringing products to customers with online and social media advertising but taking the entire brand experience online by engaging with customers on social channels and adapting to digital forms of experiences.

2- Understanding the new normal customer

While adapting to meet customers in the new environment is crucial, its just as important to really understand who the new normal customer is.

While they are of course the same people as before, habits and circumstances have completely changed – what customers want, and their priorities have completely shifted. As a result of this shift brand loyalty for many has gone back to square one, with more consumers changing and trying new brands this year than ever before. Whilst this puts retailers under even more pressure, it also presents an opportunity to attract and impress completely new customers.
But what has caused this shift, and who is the new normal customer?

The New Normal Customer

3- Embracing Omnichannel

Omnichannel retail, offering an integrated and consistent experience between online and offline channels, is not a new concept in the industry. But much like online shopping, omnichannel offerings have become exponentially more valuable since COVID-19.  With the balance between digital and physical retail shifting, retailers offering a strong omnichannel experience are in a far stronger position than those who do not. Simply having an eCommerce site on top of stores (multi-channel) will put retailers in a better position as pure-play brick-and-mortar retailers, as they can take advantage of the increase in online shoppers and still be able to deliver to loyal customers who can no longer shop in-store. However, with pure plays being rarer than ever this is simply not enough anymore.

Omnichannel goes beyond this, by seamlessly integrating online and offline channels, allowing for offerings like click and collect (Buy-online-pickup-in-store/BOPIS), return-to-store and ship-from-store (BOSFS). The benefits of such a strategy go both ways. Customers get access to more available stock and convenient purchasing options; they can collect from stores (BOPIS and curbside) or can get products shipped straight to their homes. For retailers, omnichannel allows you to leverage stores as miniature distribution centres, cutting down on shipping costs while keeping struggling stores busy. With click-and-collect, the benefits are similar and allow stores to benefit from and serve online customers, Curbside pickup is a new type of click-and-collect that has become hugely popular since the pandemic as it keeps customers feeling safe and allows for social distancing.

Omnichannel Retail

4- Optimising costs

As much as positioning for the new normal is vital for success going forward, the unfortunate fact is many brands will be struggling with the financial impact of COVID-19. As a result, optimising costs across the board is vital for retailers trying to weather the storm and stay open long enough to adapt to the new normal. Retailers feeling the worst of the financial strain of COVID will be forced to rethink their footprint in order to survive. Closing down stores and losing staff is always a last resort, but one the vast majority have been faced with this year, as less profitable locations are surrendered to ensure the survival of the brand. But what about retailers in stronger positions, those looking to optimise their costs in the long-term without hampering themselves or their customers?

For stores, improving the efficiency of in-store processes across the board can reduce operating costs in the long-term. Processes like inventory management (Processing inbound shipments, stocktakes, replenishment) point-of-sale and loss-prevention can all be streamlined with cost-effective technology. The focus should not be to manage these things more cheaply but to manage them more effectively. To use the point of inventory management, Detego has repeatedly found that increasing stock accuracy in our customer’s stores from an average of 70% to 98% means stores can run with far leaner inventories. If you do this at scale across your entire store network, it’s possible to reduce working capital by 10-15%.

In the supply chain too, there are huge opportunities to run more efficiently and reduce costs. The cost of handling and processing the flow of goods throughout the supply chain, particularly in Distribution centres, can be reduced by investing in technology like RFID and warehouse automation which reduces labour and handling costs. By improving the accuracy and visibility of their supply chain retailers can also reduce chargebacks and other costs associated with shipping mistakes. Finally, there are huge savings to be made by achieving full supply chain visibility – knowing exactly where individual items are (and where they’ve come from) allows retailers to fully optimise their supply chains reducing losses from shrinkage, counterfeits, and grey market goods.

5- Re-thinking data and digital for a post-COVID world

Retail, particularly sectors like fashion and beauty, has been facing the need for digital transformation for a few years. The rise of online channels, digital-first consumers, and the continuous advance of technology has meant brands can’t afford to stand still when it comes to how they run their businesses. Whilst understandably many brands are focusing on staying afloat in the immediate aftermath, COVID-19 did not stop this need for transformation – it accelerated it. Now there is a greater need than ever to ensure brands have the data and IT infrastructure to react to change and make the right decisions. With the sudden shift in the industry caused by the pandemic, retailers may need to revisit digital and analytics priorities but adapt them to a post-COVID world.

In times of uncertainty, accurate data, improved visibility, and effective analytics can make all the difference. We’ve already discussed how retailers with the right infrastructure (meaning accurate visibility over their products) are profiting from their omnichannel offerings. But having a mature tech stack can unlock tonnes of value that will be vital in the new normal. For example, item-level visibility and granular data in the supply chain not only allows for greater agility when dealing with supply and fulfilment but the data can be used for advanced analytics like demand prediction and inventory optimisation across store networks.

Want to explore this topic further?
Learn more about omnichannel with Detego:

A look at DTC retailing and its increasing popularity, plus if direct is the future, what does it mean for the industry going forward?
A look at how recommerce and rental models are growing in popularity in the fashion industry, what it means for the environment, the industry and what the key challenges and considerations are for retailers looking to offer these services in the future.
Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.

Discover how retail RFID is changing the industry for good. This eBook will guide you through the top 10 needs identified by retailers to ensure sustainable success in the modern environment. Explore the common challenges preventing retailers from achieving their goals and learn how applying smart RFID-based solutions delivers consistently good results.

What is in the eBook?

The retail industry is currently ruled by change. The digital age has seen a huge growth in competition from e-commerce and a rapid shift in consumer preferences. This shift has altered the industry greatly with modern ‘omnichannel’ customers demanding to shop where they want, how they want and when they want. Delivering such an experience is a challenge, one that requires brick-and-mortar retailers to change.

To compete in an increasingly digital environment, brands need the right supporting technology to establish full transparency between their shopping channels and offer consistently excellent service online and in-store. On top of this, the extreme competition within the industry and the subsequent pressure on retailer’s bottom lines means finding ways to reduce or shift costs and eliminate inefficiencies at scale is a priority – again, technology may provide the answers here.

Retailers then are faced with the challenge of providing a better experience to customers while scaling back and consolidating in order to stay financially viable, how do you achieve both at once without overstretching resources and risking multiple technology projects? Obviously, a focus on the specific problems that need solving is key but with the scale of these challenges, you need a transformation that affects the core of the business and isn’t putting lipstick on a pig.

In this regard, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is somewhat unique in the retail technology market, due to the sheer versatility of the technology and its ability to solve so many of retail’s most common needs. It is this scope of use cases that have seen RFID become increasingly prominent in the retail environment.   Whilst the basic principle of RFID, tagging inventory with its own unique radio signal, is deceptively simple, its uses and applications are incredibly broad.

In this eBook, we analyse the top 10 needs identified by retailers to ensure sustainable success in the modern environment. Within each of these needs, we identify the challenges often preventing retailers from achieving them, and how applying smart RFID-based solutions can deliver consistently good results.

Improving key metrics in stores

The ebook will teach you how RFID revolutionises daily processes like stocktakes and replenishment in stores. Learn how retailers are using the technology to deliver higher inventory accuracy in-stores (increasing from ~70 to 99%) and to ensure the right product is always available for customers to buy on the shop floor (known as increasing product availability). The eBook will also show you how retailers can achieve these results whilst actually lowering the labour intensity (and costs) of operational store processes like cycle counts and processing inbound shipments.

  • How retailers use RFID for quick and efficient stocktakes and cycle counts
  • Improving stock accuracy in stores
  • How smart solutions are being put to use for item-level replenishment, ensuring products and sizes are always available to be sold.
Results of RFID Retail

Delivering to customers with retail RFID

Find out how retailers use RFID to reliably deliver to their customers by removing common friction points as well as offering new services and shopping experiences. Common pain points eliminated by RFID include: customers being unable to find the right product,  staff not being available to help with requests and service due to lack of time for the customer, or unreliable stock information. On the other end of the spectrum, advanced RFID retailers can wow customers with new shopping experiences both in-store and online.

  • How stores can reduce common customer friction points
  • The relationship between RFID and effective omnichannel services
  • The advanced retail RFID solutions that improve the in-store customer experience like chatbots and smart fitting rooms.
RFID Omnichannel Retail

Optimising supply chains from source to store with automated processes

Learn how advanced RFID retailers have moved upstream to cover their entire supply chains, from stores to warehouses, distribution centres and even factories. The eBook covers how RFID is used to achieve complete supply chain visibility and what additional value this unlocks for retailers due to the advanced item-level data and analytics available.

  • How to achieve supply chain visibility with real-time info on the movement of products inside and across individual stores and distribution stages.
  • How RFID is used to aid logistics at distribution centres, including automated processes like exception handling and order picking.
  • What RFID means for retailer’s data and analytics capabilities, such as advanced supply chain traceability and new KPIs for stores and DC’s.
Retail Supply Chain

Protecting brands and products from theft, counterfeits and the grey market.

Finally, gain insight on how retailers deploy RFID solutions to protect their products, and their entire brand, from illicit activity including theft, counterfeit products and the grey/gray market. The eBook explains how retailers can use the technology to identify individual products and trace them across the supply chain, allowing them to identify where problems are occurring, and stop them at the source.

  • How RFID can be used to monitor and reduce shrinkage, including theft, both in stores and across the entire supply chain.
  • How brands are combatting counterfeit goods by tagging and tracing their products with RFID.
  • What the Grey Market means for retail and how several major brands use RFID traceability to locate and stop the source of grey market products.
The Sources of retail shrinkage

Summary of RFID in Retail

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a growing force behind the scenes in retail. For the uninitiated, the technology involves using radio frequency (RF) to share information about an object’s unique identity (ID). An RFID reader can identify or ‘read’ hundreds of tags in a matter of seconds, at a distance of several feet. For retail, this reduces the reliance on barcodes for inventory management and opens the door to more advanced applications utilising real-time data.

While the story for RFID in retail began in stores, due to the dramatic increase in stock accuracy that it provides driving sales and setting a platform for omnichannel retailing, the potential for RFID in the supply chain has always been there. Now that many global retailers have implemented RFID in stores, they are beginning to leverage and unlock the power of RFID across the supply chain.

For the supply chain, RFID means accuracy, efficiency, and visibility, all of which have a big impact on operations.

The results of RFID in the Supply Chain:

RFID in each Stage of the Supply Chain

Factory

For a truly end-to-end view of the supply chain, RFID tagging must start at the factory. Items are encoded with an RFID tag at source, where they will be tracked from here to the point of sale. Once items are tagged and ready to ship, the first ‘read-event’ of the process takes place. The shipments are either put through an RFID tunnel (an automated tunnel fitted with an RFID reader) or read with a handheld reader. This outbound count ensures shipping and tagging accuracy, diverting any anomalies to be checked and fixed, and creates item-level ASN’s (advanced shipping notices) to send to the distribution centre, so they know precisely what they will be receiving. Having every item logged at this stage is also vital for creating visibility over the entire supply chain.

As most brands have anywhere from 10-100+ factories supply their DC, it is vital to ensure that the shipments are accurately accounted for to prevent errors further down the supply chain.

Retail RFID Factory

Distribution Centre

The distribution centre is the heart of any retail supply chain. Goods come in from the factory, and orders go out to, and occasionally come back in from stores, franchises, and customers. As it is logistically the most complex stage, it is here where the majority of processes are supported by RFID:

RFID Distribution Centre

Store

Once shipments arrive at the store, an inbound RFID read can be performed, confirming the order, and checking the contents against the shipping notes. Inside the store, a whole host of RFID processes and new services can take place, but we won’t explore those here.

RFID store

Supply Chain Processes with RFID

When goods arrive at either the distribution centre or the store, RFID readers are used to quickly count the shipments on an individual item-level. Because DC’s have far higher item throughput than stores, they often utilise automated RFID tunnels for this. Shipments entering the DC go directly onto a conveyor and are accounted for as they pass through the tunnel.

The software then compares inbound reads to the advanced shipping notice and updates the warehouse management system or ERP with accurate information. This process helps maintain the integrity of the stock system and also spots discrepancies early so they can be reconciled and fixed quickly (holding suppliers accountable for mistakes).

This is also where incoming returns are processed. Since RFID tags are unique and can’t be forged, DC’s using the technology can easily identify fraudulent returns, as well as processing the legitimate ones faster.

The packing process also utilises RFID when putting together orders and shipments. The process will vary depending on the DC, but RFID can support the process by a picker using RFID tables or audit stations to confirm the carton is correct by checking the actual contents against the picking list.

RFID Pick and Pack

Finally, RFID is used to count, verify, and log all outbound shipments.
Goods pass along automated conveyor belts through RFID tunnels. Box barcodes (Using a target list supplied by the Warehouse Management Systems) are scanned at the entrance to the tunnel and an RFID reader in the tunnel reads the contents of each box. If the tunnel detects any differences against the target list, the conveyor system automatically diverts the carton for further inspection.

Outbound results are then sent to the WMS, to update the stock information for the DC. When the DC has processed all cartons from the target lists, the system creates an advanced shipping notice (ASN) for the store that will receive the goods.

The benefits of RFID in the supply chain

Now we have run through how retailers use RFID at specific stages in the supply chain let’s look at the results of doing so. We can broadly split these benefits into three areas:

Accuracy

Accuracy is often the first thing people think of when they hear RFID and with good reason. For the supply chain, RFID improves shipping and inventory accuracy by

1 – Performing more reliable (99%) inventory counts than traditional methods 

2 – Counting on an item-level as opposed to an SKU level 

3 – Being able to identify and fix mistakes at more stages of the process due to the ease and speed of RFID reads

The financial impact of improving inventory and shipping accuracy across a supply chain is huge, and can include:

Efficiency

The other great strength of RFID is the speed at which it can count and verify items or even entire cartons in seconds. With automated RFID tunnels and a conveyor system diverting any cartons with discrepancies, the efficiency of the DC is maximised, and not at the cost of accuracy.  DC’s using RFID have a higher throughput, as they are simply able to process items and orders at a faster rate.

Visibility

The other major benefit of RFID supply chains is the complete visibility they have other individual items and the movement of merchandise. This not only means shipments and items are trackable in close to real-time, but the number of ‘read-events’ from source to store creates a huge amount of highly valuable data. This data produces useful KPI’s such as throughput, dwell-time, and DC performance. It also allows retailers to trace items back through the supply chain, which is hugely valuable in terms of brand protection and loss prevention.

Summary

RFID is used to accurately count, correct, and track all individual items and cartons across the supply chain. This starts in the factory where items are tagged at source, goes on to the distribution centre where orders are sorted and finally sent out to stores. Every time an item enters or leaves a stage of the process it is counted with RFID and all mistakes are identified and corrected.

The most notable benefits for supply chains using RFID come in the form of greater accuracy, efficiency, and complete visibility over the flow of goods. The increased accuracy of both inventory and individual orders can lead to top-line growth, fewer stock outages and the reduction of customer chargebacks for shipping mistakes. The efficiency increase makes supply chains more durable and increases overall item throughput and finally, the visibility of items allow retailers to optimise their operations and offer better services such as omnichannel purchase options.

RFID can be used for all inbound and outbound shipments, logging the contents of each order, and comparing them to the target list – which identifies shipping mistakes before they happen. RFID can also be used in the picking and packing process, counting the items in a carton as the DC staff picks the order, RFID software then confirms whether the order has been picked correctly before it is sent for outbound processing.

There are several types of RFID readers used throughout the supply chain. RFID tunnels are fixed readers built into a conveyor system, they scan the contents of cartons without needing for the carton to be opened and if they detect any discrepancies the conveyor will send the carton to an exception lane. RFID chambers are often used during exception handling, whereas audit tables can be used for this as well is the picking process. Finally, the handheld RFID reader is often used in stores or storage areas when staff need to move around a space to perform a cycle count.

Detego Warehouse Software

RFID software for the warehouse

The digital supply chain

Detego’s RFID-based warehouse software enables retailers to automate and dramatically improve their receiving, picking/packing and shipping processes in factories and/or distribution centers. These steps are vital parts of an end-to-end RFID solution, providing full visibility across the entire supply chain.

Want to see how RFID can transform your business? Book a demo today

A look at DTC retailing and its increasing popularity, plus if direct is the future, what does it mean for the industry going forward?
A look at how recommerce and rental models are growing in popularity in the fashion industry, what it means for the environment, the industry and what the key challenges and considerations are for retailers looking to offer these services in the future.
Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.

Overview 

Detego has installed its cloud-hosted RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) SaaS platform in Marc Cain’s new state-of-the-art Distribution Centre (DC). Detego delivered the solution alongside KNAPP, who led the overall development of the new centralised operation. The highly-automated Distribution Centre, based in Germany, uses RFID tunnels to verify inbound and outbound shipments without needing to open any boxes. The implementation of RFID in the Distribution Centre allows for over 35,000 articles to be processed on a daily basis, with 100% accuracy and significant improvement to efficiency and visibility of the supply chain.

 

The Challenge

Due to high demand online and in-store, Marc Cain decided to centralise their 6 regional warehouses into a single cutting-edge distribution centre, reinforced with the right technology to handle the high frequency of orders.

The solution

KNAPP AG led the design of the highly automated DC and they brought in Detego to implement an RFID solution – they needed to be able to efficiently validate shipments in and out of the DC with the efficiency and complete accuracy only possible with RFID

The Result

Utilising the Detego platform, Marc Cain’s DC verifies all inbound and outbound orders on an item-level without needing to open boxes. Staff simply place orders on the conveyor, and they pass through an RFID tunnel, which validates every item in the carton in seconds. Alongside highly sophisticated storage and packing processes implemented by KNAPP, the solution allows for 35,000 articles to be processed in a single day, with 100% accuracy.

Marc Cain DC, Detego & Knapp

Building a DC fit for the future 

Marc Cain is a worldwide premium brand for women’s fashion, operating predominantly out of Germany. After continued growth, the brand opted to move away from their regional warehouses to develop and construct a highly-sophisticated singular DC which boasts over 24,500m2 of usable area. Marc Cain’s logistics and solutions partner, KNAPP, brought in RFID specialists, Detego, to integrate the necessary RFID systems with their leading KiSoft WMS & WCS software. Doing so allows for automated item-level tracking of products both entering and leaving the Distribution Centre. These advancements have enabled Marc Cain to cope with their increased demand whilst ensuring complete accuracy and timely shipping of all orders.

“As we had already experienced good cooperation in another project with Detego, we have reached out to them when we started discussing the RFID request Marc Cain was looking for. Within a short time, we were able to integrate the state-of-the art platform from Detego in the solution we were providing to Marc Cain. With that extension, we can support Marc Cain to increase the efficiency and reliability inside the warehouse and have 100% content checks for every delivery leaving the warehouse”

Stefan Leichtenmueller – Customer Care Manager.

 

Automated RFID validation for complete accuracy

RFID is frequently being adopted in Apparel retailers’ Distribution Centres, as the speed at which it can process shipments at item-level is unmatched. Detego has a strong pedigree of deploying RFID solutions in the supply chain, being the first to develop an end-to-end software platform for retail. This experience, alongside their focus on the apparel retail sector, makes their advanced RFID platform a perfect match for KNAPPs leading warehouse automation systems and software for e-commerce, retail, and fashion. The decision to use RFID was made even more attractive by the fact Marc Cain have already adopted RFID-driven processes in stores, allowing them to gain additional value out of their digital garments within the supply chain.

“With this solution, Marc Cain can perform automated inbound and outbound RFID validation, ensuring complete accuracy going in and out of the Distribution Centre,”

Urs Konstantin Rouette, Managing Director, Technical Development, Production, Purchase & Logistics.

Staff simply place cartons on a conveyor and the boxes are taken through an RFID tunnel which counts and validates every individual garment inside the box, without needing a line of sight. All information is stored in the cloud-hosted Detego platform providing complete visibility over items entering and leaving the DC. Any cartons with discrepancies are automatically diverted to exception handling lanes where they are double-checked with High-Density Read Chambers (HDRCs) and subsequently corrected.

KNAPP also share additional customers with Detego and is one of many 3rd party logistics providers that Detego has recently partnered with to integrate their RFID platform. As the demand for visibility and operational efficiencies in the supply chain increase, more retailers are seeking RFID systems to complement their existing technology stacks from factory, to distribution centre and throughout store networks.

Take a look around the DC with project leaders, KNAPP:

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Managing the flow of merchandise in retail supply chains has always been a challenge.

Traditionally, the large quantities being dealt with meant that visibility of merchandise was poor. Items were tracked and accounted for in rough quantities, not consistently or accurately enough to hold suppliers and distribution centres accountable for mistakes and inaccuracies. This meant a fair amount of leakage, either of efficiency or directly in the form of physical shrinkage as items become ‘lost’, damaged or shipped incorrectly.

Fast forward to the present day, with advanced technology like RFID and the IoT, and the standard for retail supply chain management has changed. ‘Supply chain 4.0’ can effectively track and trace individual items from source to store, utilising RFID technology to track individual products and the Internet of Things to store and leverage this information on a digital platform or cloud.

The data and visibility provided by such digital supply chains are extremely valuable, allowing retailers to:

●Quantify the performance of the supply chain (visibility),

●Identify “the last known location of items” (accountability),

●Inspect the history of items and even raw materials (traceability).

Here are the 3 fundamentals of retail supply chain optimisation using item-level data:

Visibility

“To be able to see…”

Supply chain visibility is a growing priority for retailers. According to a report by Zebra Technologies, 72% of retailers are working on digitizing their supply chains in order to achieve real-time visibility. Knowing exactly what is in the pipeline allows retailers to control inventory more efficiently, improve operations between stores and DC’s as well as offer effective omnichannel services and delivery options.

However, the majority of supply chains don’t have anywhere near this level of visibility, as 62% of supply chains operate with a limited view over merchandise flow. This is because goods move along the supply chain in such large quantities, and most supply chains only account for cartons of items, rather than the items themselves.

For example, cartons of T-Shirts with quantities of around 50 are commonly sent out, but without RFID accounting for individual products, you can’t know if the quantities are correct. In other words, you are guessing what should be there as you do not have the visibility to know what is there. This may result in a store believing they have less or more products than they actually do. If however, they do identify the mistake, without visibility over the supply chain there is no way of knowing where the error occurred.

RFID technology can make every step along the supply chain visible while also providing a meaningful context, using digital ‘touchpoints’ to track items throughout their journey. RFID Tunnel installations can even automatically process these cartons, to identify shortages and surpluses all without opening the box. This way large inbound and outbound shipments can be processed quickly, accurately and down to the item-level.

Detego end to end supply chain features

Traceability

“To be able to verify the history…”

If supply chain visibility allows us to know where items are right now, traceability means being able to look back at where they have come from. As items are tracked through the supply chain with RFID, a record of all read events is stored on the cloud. Not only this, but the data from the product journey can be combined with similar data from materials used in each product. This information means retailers can not only see the last locations and events of items but they can also:

  • Inspect their history (inception to sale)
  • Change layers of abstraction (e.g., from item to carton)
  • Go back to the source (materials sourced from cotton farms)

Having the ability to trace individual items back through the supply chain allows retailers to identify where shrinkage occurs and trace products back to the source in the case of a product recall. The traceability is also key as it involves keeping a permanent record of supply chain flow, not only does this mean valuable data, it also gives supply chain leaders the concrete evidence to hold suppliers accountable…

Detego Track and Trace Screenshot

Accountability

“To be responsible…”

With digital track and trace technology in place, retailers will have access to the all-important last known location of items.

This means it is possible to identify where errors occur and hold supply chain and retail partners accountable. On the other hand, it can also serve as proof of service.

This information is also invaluable when it comes to brand protection. Not only can RFID technology easily identify counterfeit products but using the last known location of products allows retailers to identify how legitimate products end up on the grey-market. This is achieved by tracing them back to their last known location in the supply chain.

Knowledge of when and where an item was last seen/did not show up also dramatically speeds up clarification and accountability processes.

These 3 building blocks allow the extraction of KPIs and models to:

  • Monitor shrinkage
  • Identify grey imports
  • Minimize counterfeits
  • Automate re-ordering via dwell times and throughput
  • Identify bottlenecks.

Looking to optimise your retail supply chain? The Detego platform is the end-to-end track and trace solution

Achieving complete supply chain transparency requires implementing an RFID system across your entire value chain, preserving detailed information about each RFID read event of each individual item (such as inbound verification, stocktake or sale). Thanks to that, knowing an item’s EPC (Electronic Product Code) number is enough to find out what, where and when happened to it. This capability is most useful when stores, distribution centres and factories are all integrated with one system – that system is Detego.

With efficient RFID processes from source-to-store, retailers not only gain new levels of accuracy and efficiency but achieve unprecedented transparency of the supply chain. Detego’s Global Track and Trace feature deliver the visibility, traceability and accountability to optimise retail supply chains for sustainable retail success.

A look at DTC retailing and its increasing popularity, plus if direct is the future, what does it mean for the industry going forward?
A look at how recommerce and rental models are growing in popularity in the fashion industry, what it means for the environment, the industry and what the key challenges and considerations are for retailers looking to offer these services in the future.
Hear from Detego’s implementation experts and BESTSELLERS’s RFID project leader on how retailers should approach digital transformation with RFID.

Webinar: Item-level reporting from source-to store

 

Digitisation and data go hand-in-hand. As retail supply chains continue to go digital, a wealth of item-level data on the flow of merchandise through the supply chain is unlocked. In the future, the winners and losers of supply chain management will be determined by who leverages this information more effectively.

Join Detego’s Chief Data Scientist, Simon Walk, as he presents the cutting edge of supply chain analytics and how digitisation is taking the guesswork out of retail logistics.

This webinar covers:

• Item-level tracking of Items along the Supply Chain to deliver accountability, visibility & traceability
• Effective traceability which combats supply chain shrinkage and counterfeit products.
• Using heuristic & Machine Learning based Algorithms to detect supply chain irregularities.
• Using dwell-time data to optimise operational & Supply Chain processes
• Analysing throughput data across factories, DCs and stores

Webinar Recording: Best Practice RFID for Retail Supply Chains

 

Retail has evolved dramatically in recent years, driven by changing customer expectations, online disruption, and the ongoing digitisation of the industry. Whilst many stores are embracing technology to wow customers and deliver seamless experiences across multiple channels, behind the scenes supply chains are evolving too.

In this webinar we outline how Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology is strengthening supply chains and delivering the accuracy and transparency that modern retail demands. Covering the item-level journey from source to store, the presentation will explain how and why major retailers are choosing RFID to digitise and future-proof their supply chains.

This webinar covers:

  • The business case and benefits which RFID technology can bring to the retail supply chain
  • Key RFID processes and use cases in factories and distribution centres/warehouses
  • Best-practice approach and strategy for implementing RFID across the supply chain
  • Examples of successful customer implementations and learnings
  • Critical insights to successfully manage new supply chain challenges during COVID-19 pandemic