Using asset tracking tools is key for any business that relies heavily on its assets for generating revenue, such as retail stores. Whether a physical brick-and-mortar shop or an online e-commerce store, it’s important for retailers to have greater visibility of their assets.
By deploying a retail asset tracking solution alongside asset tagging technology, such as barcodes or RFID tags, retailers will begin to see an improvement in their operations. Not just for inventory management and security purposes, but for improving the overall customer service experience too.
What Is Retail Asset Tracking?
As 53% of sales are expected to come from online spending in 2029, the retail industry is under pressure to improve the consumer journey from interaction to point-of-sale; wholly achievable through an effective retail asset tracking solution.
With innovative IoT solutions and retail Asset Tracking Software, retailers can track and record an asset’s entire life cycle. With the objective being to enhance the overall customer experience. As well as boosting stock control and minimising lost and stolen assets through asset tagging, in a bid to reduce ‘shrinkage’. That’s not to mention the increased accuracy of inventory management, reduced labour requirements, and improved product availability. All in all highlighting retail asset tracking tools as a smart way of keeping costs down and profits up.
Loosely described as the process of selling consumer goods to customers and effectively making a profit, the retail market makes up 1/3 of consumer spending in the UK. Although on a decline in comparison to online shopping, the industry as a whole generated £381bn in sales in 2018 and £394bn in 2019.
To put the size of the retail market into perspective, away from consumer spending, UK retail companies employed over three million workers across a total of 306,655 outlets in 2019.
The Importance of Tracking Assets in Retail Stores
The overall purpose of an asset tracking solution is to answer the question; “how much of an item do I have?”. It will also provide the right tools to help track assets and collect valuable life cycle management data. An asset management system can then calculate risks, costs, budgets, and forecasts, based on each asset’s life cycle. All in a bid to improve visibility, control, and accountability.
For instance, a retailer may tag all of its inventory with an RFID tag. This means, when each piece of inventory enters the premises, it is assigned a unique tracking tag. A manager will then compile all data associated with that asset and store it in a tracking system. This data can include quantity, location, and condition.
The process of tagging and recording data is then repeated to include all assets. Eventually compiling an asset register complete with accurate and real-time data.
But retail asset tracking doesn’t just apply to inventory, it is also used to track and record other critical assets. For instance, a Point-of-Sale (POS) will most likely be completed at the store’s cash register. Therefore, this cash register is a valuable asset and needs to be tracked in order to keep it operating at peak performance.
Maintaining an assets maximum output can be achieved by collecting essential data to help produce a maintenance and repair schedule. This allows staff to know when it is unavailable, and to make sure it is equipped with the latest updates. Therefore avoiding unplanned downtime that can be costly to operations.
The same goes for hardware, such as smartphones and tablets, which staff members can use to access data or even complete a transaction.
Utilising Asset Tagging Tools in Retail
One key feature of a retail asset tracking solution is the ability to track assets in real time. This can be achieved with asset tagging tools such as RFID tags, QR codes, Barcodes, NFC, and GPS. Each technology has the ability to supply real-time data.
Knowing an asset’s location, both current and historical, can be key to increasing efficiency and reducing costs. For instance, real-time location data can help to reduce the number of lost and stolen assets through the use of an RFID alert system. This system alerts staff when an item has been removed without having a record of being scanned.
A loss in assets and inventory can also be referred to as “shrink” and, through poor inventory management, employee theft alone accounts for around 43% of all retail’s “shrinkage”.
Using RFID to Track Retail Assets
By tagging products and stock with RFID tags, staff can automatically track inventory and stock levels while minimising the risk of loss and theft. In a retail environment, RFID asset tracking can be used for individual products on shelves as well as moveable assets. For instance, a supermarket may want to equip its trolleys and baskets with long-range RFID tags to avoid losing them and reduce the cost of finding replacements.
A key aspect of using RFID in retail is being able to scan hundreds of assets at one time. As opposed to a more manual approach such as Barcoding, where items need to be scanned one at a time.
UK retailers Marks and Spencer were among the early adopters of RFID tools back in 2001 and still rely on the same technology today. They recently took part in a research project which highlighted a boost in sales of up to 5.5% when using RFID tracking solutions. The results also showed a reduction in stock holding, lost and stolen inventory, and staff costs.
When it comes to choosing the right tools for implementing an RFID tracking system, there are a few factors that you may want to consider. Such as:
- At what distance do you need to scan for items?
- Which RFID tags do you need (Active, Passive, or Semi-Passive)?
- Do you require weatherproof/durable tags?
- What frequency do you need your tags to operate at (Low, High, Ultra-High)?
How RFID Tracking Improves Stock Control and Out-of-Stock Situations
Asset tracking tools can be used for a variety of factors, one that is particularly useful for retailers is to gain greater visibility of the supply chain from manufacturing to distribution. This lets managers understand whether their products are stored on a pallet, in a container, or are on their way to the store. Providing a greater knowledge of where stock is located and when it is available.
Inaccuracy of inventory data can be so damaging that 8.7% of retail sales are lost due to a lack of inventory accuracy.
Another advantage of opting for RFID technology is to improve the accuracy level of inventory. In a case study that featured 10 industry leaders, the inventory accuracy of retailers rose from 65-75% to 93-99% with the introduction of RFID asset tracking systems.
Clothes retailer, River Island, also took their stock accuracy from 70% to 98% by implementing an effective RFID system. In turn, they have seen a significant boost in sales and are now able to ensure that the most popular product lines are always stocked.
Stock control is critical for today’s retail stores. So much so, that 80% of consumers say they’re less likely to visit a store if the retailer’s website doesn’t provide real-time stock availability. But, that’s where an RFID asset tracking system thrives. A good system will ensure that a store’s stock quantities are updated instantly, from the arrival of stock to the selling of items. Meaning that customers in-store and online aren’t left disappointed.
Improving the Customer Experience With a Retail Asset Tracking Solution
An important part of implementing retail asset tracking is to identify the customer journey and improve the consumer’s overall experience. With an estimated $62bn worth of sales lost because of poor customer experience in the U.S. each year, enhancing customer experiences can be essential.
This can also be true with the rise of new shopping trends, such as online and social media. With 52% of millennials opting to spend money on experience-related purchases, it is important for businesses to analyse consumer trends and tailor each experience.
A key place to start improving customer experiences can be through tracking retail assets and collecting accurate data. With features like RFID asset tracking, retailers are able to identify and eliminate ghost assets and make sure valuable assets are available to customers at the right time. Keep in mind that another great tool for improving the overall customer experience is Help Desk Software.
For instance, in a supermarket, RFID tags can be used to track when a trolley leaves and enters the store. This lets managers identify where each one has been left and how many are currently available for customers to use. It can even highlight when too few trolleys are available and alert employees to go and collect them.
The use of handheld devices, smartphones, and tables, with cloud-based asset tracking systems, can also contribute to a better customer experience. This setup allows retail staff to have access to key asset data within seconds. So, when a customer asks “do you have this in a medium?” or “when will this be back in stock?”, they can instantly provide customers with the correct information.