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Why RFID Solutions are Better than Barcodes in the Retail Space 

June 3, 2021

Barcodes have been the standard in retail inventory management since they were first implemented in the United States in the 1970s. Before the barcode, store employees had to manually enter product codes into the system, so adding barcodes to the supply chain was a simple and effective way to save time and money. 

But today barcodes are no longer at the cutting edge of supply chain management. Barcodes must be scanned one by one, and a misprinted or damaged barcode can result in inaccurate stock counts. This creates a time-consuming inventory control process with a risk of human error. 

Backed by long-range RFID readers, RFID solutions address many of the challenges retailers face while using barcodes to manage their inventory. With thousands of RFID tags and labels on the market today, retailers can tag any product, regardless of size, shape or material, and optimize their inventory management. 

Since RFID manufacturing costs have dramatically decreased in recent years, RFID offers a cost-effective and efficient solution for retailers that want to regain control of their inventory. Below are some of the ways that RFID solutions can help retailers improve their operations:

RFID Solutions Communicate Data 

The number in a barcode designates only an item’s manufacturer and product type, which is no longer enough in the age of omnichannel sales and global shipping. In comparison, RFID solutions can both read and write data. 

For example, an RFID tag can contain information about the product it’s attached to, such as size, color, and style. When RFID readers detect nearby tags, they receive this information and add it to the system. An RFID system can even be configured so that RFID readers can write new information on the tags, such as timestamps or location data. 

RFID Readers Have Long Read Ranges 

While manually scanning barcodes isn’t a challenging task, it’s a time-consuming one. If you need to scan thousands of products that were delivered to your stock room, that can add up. 

Unlike traditional barcode scanners, RFID readers do not need to “see” an item to detect it. Even lower frequency RFID readers can read tags from up to three feet away, which means an employee can simply walk through the stock room or down the aisle of your store and complete a store-wide inventory count in less than an hour. 

While handheld RFID readers are ideal for on-the-go inventory checks, fixed RFID readers are even more powerful. With read ranges from 20 to 40 feet (depending on the type of RFID tag or label used), these RFID readers can detect tagged items as you receive them at your dock. By automating this process, you can easily reconcile your shipment with your original order and quickly catch any discrepancies. 

An RFID System Can Be Integrated With Other Systems 

While RFID tags can store product information and RFID readers can almost instantly detect tags in range, these benefits can be combined with your existing systems to optimize your retail operations even further. 

The read and write capabilities and long read ranges of RFID solutions give you item-level visibility of your entire location, from the stock room to the store floor. Once your RFID system is integrated with your inventory management software, an employee can instantly see the location of any item in the store. This makes it easier for store employees to provide excellent customer service and help shoppers find what they’re looking for more quickly. 

Integrating an RFID system with your point-of-sale (POS) system will update your inventory in real-time as your employees ring up items at checkout. This is a powerful tool as retail shifts toward a more digital approach to shopping. With the rise of omnichannel sales and BOPIS (“buy online, pick up in-store”), retailers need to have reliable and accurate inventory data to support their operations and retain customer loyalty. 

RFID Solutions Can Automate Retail Operations 

Adding RFID to your store can automate essential processes so you can optimize your operations. Take the checkout process: Today’s cashiers must ring up each item individually, sometimes searching the packaging for the barcode’s location. Like we discussed earlier, scanning barcodes isn’t a difficult task, but the time it takes adds up. 

Now add RFID tags and RFID readers to the same situation. With a handheld RFID reader, a cashier can read every item in a customer’s basket or shopping cart in seconds. This method is more efficient and accurate than using a traditional barcode scanner. Adding RFID solutions to your checkout streamlines the process and reduces wait times as your employees can complete purchases much more quickly. 

RFID solutions can also be used to monitor store shelves in real-time. Smart shelving units, powered by RFID antennas and RFID readers, detect when someone removes an item from the shelf and will update the inventory system accordingly. This RFID technology is the secret behind a completely seamless shopping experience, and it’s how stores like Amazon Go can operate without employees or self-checkout stations. 

Discover the Latest RFID Solutions with CONTROLTEK 

If you’re considering implementing RFID in your retail store, our RFID experts can work with you to find the right RFID solutions for your business’s needs. 

We partner with RFID manufacturers that create innovative RFID solutions, like the world’s smallest RFID reader. And with our First Time Right approach to system installation, 97 percent of our clients have been satisfied with their new RFID system without the need for adjustments. 

To get started on replacing your barcodes with RFID, contact us today.