High street mainstay Marks & Spencer (M&S) is expected to use more than 400 million RFID tags in 2015 and is a good example of a retailer using the technology to improve efficiency in its business, according to Gavin Peacock, group CEO of TRC Solutions.

RFID is now able to offer retailers a better return on investment (ROI) than in previous years, said Peacock, thanks to new developments in integrating supply chain data with stock management and customer service.

At this year's European retail tech solutions show RBTE, which takes place between 10-11 March at London's Olympia, retail visitors will have an opportunity to visit a dedicated RFID Zone showcasing nine companies – including TRC – that are bringing the technology to the retail sector.

It is the second year in succession that RFID will be featured in such a way at the European show, and on this occasion visiting retailers will also be able to catch up with representatives from BT Global Services, Enso Detego, Impinj, Nordic+, OCS, r-pac, Smartrac and Xterprise.

Essential Retail spoke to TRC's Peacock to hear his views on RFID's growing influence in retail.

Why are a growing number of retailers realising now is the right time to invest in RFID?

RFID has struggled to achieve widespread adoption largely because of cost. However, it is now promising a better return on investment (ROI) thanks to applications that integrate supply chain data with stock management and customer service, like SAP Business One and iVend Retail Suite.

Its benefits are wide-reaching. Stock can be scanned without having to come off the shelf or rack. This speeds up stock checking hugely. Shop floor staff have immediate information about stock availability and deliveries, allowing them serve customers better and ensure no sales are lost over unavailability. RFID gives retail managers accurate, real-time stock data accessible remotely, from which they can draw a huge amount of intelligence and ensure adequate stock provisions, creating the perfect supply and demand model.

Mobility and more sophisticated shopping trends are changing the landscape and RFID is an essential component to meeting the needs of the more demanding consumer. The wealth of data that RFID returns is shaping future retailing strategies and transforming customer interactions. It is an essential component of true omnichannel retailing.

What is the most impressive use of RFID in retail that you've seen?

M&S was one of the early adaptors of RFID technology and has been tagging its apparel ranges since 2003. Realising the benefits and with their intention to 'be the store in which you can always find what you want', M&S took the bold decision to roll out RFID across its entire stock; homeware, cosmetics and gifts. To improve real-time inventory tracking, optimise stock levels and ensure the correct product mix is always on display in stores, M&S will use more than 400 million RFID tags this year. This is an example of RFID at a large scale. What's great nowadays is that with developments in technology allowing more flexible and scalable solutions RFID has become much more affordable and accessible for the medium and smaller retailers.

What role does your company play in bringing RFID technology to retailers, and which companies are you working with?

We've linked up with experts in the hardware side of RFID (tagging, handhelds for scanning) to bring an end-to-end, out-of-the-box, first of its kind solution to market.

What we do is we provide the software that brings RFID to life. With SAP Business One and iVend Retail Suite the data that RFID realises is integrated with other solutions and its influence is wide-reaching across the entire retail enterprise. With one database for stock, customer service, point of sale, online purchasing and all customer touch-points true omnichannel trading is realised.

Retailers need to not just react to demand but predict it in order to stay ahead of their competition and satisfy a consumer base that has become more fickle and less loyal. RFID data is critical and retailers need to have powerful, robust data analytic tools such as those available with SAP Business One and iVend, to make sense of the wealth of RFID data and leverage it to make smart business decisions, predicting trends, ensuring stock availability and satisfying customer expectations. 

Everyone's talking about the Internet of Things (IoT); what's your definition of this term and how central is RFID in this ultimate drive towards 'a connected world'?

It would be easy for the IoT to be dismissed as a fad but it addresses real problems that retailers face.

One of the biggest problems that IoT can help with is that while retailers can track consumers in the digital world and track stock with RFID, in-store (where most customers end their journey no matter how it started) customers are anonymous. The most powerful advertising is face to face, and in-store retailers are currently unable to merchandise with accuracy. Retailers need to be able to target personalised messaging in-store as they can digitally. Customer tracking in-store, thereby linking people to products and places, is only achievable with the right technology. It is clear that retailers and technology companies are addressing the opportunity with new solutions to bring the store into the digital world.

Tell us what to expect from this year's RFID Zone at RBTE?

Visitors to the RFID Zone are guaranteed to go away with a clear understanding of how RFID can be implemented in a retail organisation of any size. They'll get an insight into the wealth of benefits it can bring and how RFID is critical to satisfying customers' more sophisticated needs. With progressive technologies like RFID medium and smaller retailers have a real chance to compete with the bigger brands and gain competitive edge. The RFID Zone showcases the only end-to-end RFID solution, making it an easy and quick way of getting RFID enabled without dealing with a variety of different suppliers. We have teamed up with the best in the industry to deliver an out-of-the-box solution that can be scaled to suit any retail organisation.

Click below for more information:

TRC Solutions

RFID Zone at RBTE