Are Thieves Cashing in on Your Retail Plastic?

“Recyclers motivated by green—as in money—have been stealing plastic pallets, trays and crates from retailers and selling them to plastic recyclers,” reports NRF® Stores® magazine.

Perhaps now’s a good time for retailers to think about implementing radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for container management. RFID smart labels applied to moveable assets such as returnable pallets, racks, trays and bins can help you keep track of their location, reducing loss and lowering operating expenses.

Read the full Stores article.

Learn more about RFID capabilities here, where you can find resources like this asset tracking white paper and this brand-new RFID solutions brochure.

Store Re-Prices Products in Seconds with In-Aisle Mobile Printing

The Bargain! Shop, a major Canadian-owned retail chain with over 250 stores, consistently meets its customer demands by offering brand-name products at the guaranteed lowest prices. That means it must constantly evaluate and change pricing in order to remain competitive.

With inventory changing weekly, The Bargain! Shop needed a flexible pricing strategy. Previously, store clerks consulted the service desk for prices, and then selected from pre-printed shelf labels. Those labels only included a price without a product description, which often confused customers about which items corresponded with which shelf prices.

Plus, the approach was inefficient for clerks, who had to spend time verifying pricing and checking inventory.

In-aisle shelf labeling-Zebra QL 320The retailer sought a better way to manage pricing and stock visibility by integrating management software with mobile computing and printing operations like Zebra mobile printers.

In-aisle printing with mobile technology enhanced pricing accuracy, ensuring customers would see and pay the correct prices. It also made re-pricing much faster than before—typically in just a few seconds per product—so marking down products for major sales decreased from four hours to two hours.

Click here to learn how the retailer:

  • Reduced price marking costs by 25 to 40 percent.
  • Freed clerks’ time to focus on store appearance and customer service.

For more information on in-aisle mark downs, go here.

Workforce Management and Employee Kiosks: Perfect Partners

Aberdeen Group has released a Research Brief that further explores its December 2009 findings that 56 percent of Best-in-Class retailers are integrating their store-level workforce management processes.

The Research Brief shows that retailers using an integrated store-level workforce strategy that includes scheduling, time and attendance, and other human resource management technologies are much better able to respond to pressure to control labor costs, improve workforce productivity, and provide the customer with a seamless in-store shopping experience. Eighty percent of the above 56 percent, for instance, have increased same-store sales and 46 percent have raised customer retention rates.

Self-service kiosks can help streamline such integration by offering a convenient and effective interface between employees, an automated workforce management system and managers. For example, we wrote about one retail chain that found that after rolling out employee-facing kiosks as part of its labor management update, store managers spend 75 percent less time scheduling employees, and they can ensure the optimum number of customer-facing associates are on the floor.

Read more about how the chain benefited by employing self-service for employees. See white papers and other resources about kiosks and kiosk printing here.

As you face changing consumer demands and the pressure to deliver customer-centric service, is your store moving towards integrated workforce management? Do you see a place for kiosks in your workforce management processes?

RFID Growing Too Big for Its Britches?

RFID Growth Spurt Leads to Tech Shortages.

We’ve been talking about the growth and ROI benefits of item-level RFID, particularly in retail.

Supply Chain Digest reports that WalMart’s new apparel tagging program has helped lead to a supply drop in RFID EPC Gen 2 inlays, and that mobile RFID readers are now also in short supply. Why so? Lots of investment in RFID initiatives, including WalMart’s recent order for 20,000 Motorola mobile RFID readers, combined with “supply constraints that have lasted for months in basic electrical components that have cause delivery problems in a wide number of high tech gear, including mobile devices.”

In fact, Supply Chain Digest says that analysts at a major financial investment firm are predicting 300 percent market growth in RFID asset management for 2011.

Do you expect to join that growth, and invest in RFID for asset management and inventory visibility in the next year?

Read the Supply Chain Digest article.

See more about RFID printing/encoding here, where you can find resources such as our white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”

Bar Codes to Cater to the Fashion Elite

Next month’s Fashion Week in New York will have a cute new accessory to dazzle the fashionistas. The event will be utilizing technology that the trade show industry as employed for several years now: barcodes.

We barcodnistas are pretty used to it by now. You register for NRF or RetailNow or any other trade event and you get a confirmation email with a barcode that you use to fly through the registration lines, laughing at long lines behind you.

Signature9 reported that Getting into FashionWeek shows have had epic long lines and only the fashion elites got fast tracked to their seats. Now attendees donning their barcoded RSVPs likebarcode purse next year’s hip clutch purses will fly over to check-in kiosks, scan their barcodes and get their seat assignments. The new system will give the event planners better gate-crash management as well as a faster seat switching capability.

The combination of technologies is really the interesting thing about this news. Not only will the implementation of barcodes provide better insight and management of attendees, the deployment of kiosks will deliver reduced wait times, fewer errors and greater attendee satisfaction. You can check out our retail solutions here.

How could you combine tracking technologies in a new way?

Hardware Considerations for Kiosk Design and Implementation

Previously, we’ve written about fundamental best practices that apply to designing and deploying any kiosk program, as well as tips that apply to specific retail kiosk applications. Following are things to consider when choosing hardware components for custom kiosks.

Zebra Kiosk Print Station

Housings

  • Size: The kiosk should fit easily in the available space without blocking aisles or interfering with displays; compact interior components can help minimize housing size.
  • Usage and environmental factors: Exposure to dust, moisture, and changes in light or temperature require suitable peripherals; for example, in dirty or high-usage environments, touchscreen input is preferable to a keyboard.
  • Physical security: Locking cabinets and rugged construction can help secure the kiosk and its components.

Displays

Match the environment and application. For example:

  • For outdoor kiosks, choose a display that can self-adjust to lighting conditions and remain readable in bright sunlight.
  • For promotional applications, you may want high-end audio and video capabilities, while these would be overkill in a deli-ordering application.
  • Ensure touchscreens are durable enough to withstand operation by untrained customers using keys or other surface-scratching objects to press the screen.

KR403 kiosk printer

Printers

In addition to ensuring printers can physically fit into the kiosk design, it’s important to ensure printers are reliable as they are a major variable in overall kiosk reliability.

  • Print method: Thermal printers have few moving parts, and unlike laser and other printer types, direct thermal printers don’t require downtime to restock toner or ink.
  • Jam-prevention features: Some printers will cut the printout so users won’t tear or pull on it as it’s printing.
  • Remote management capabilities: To minimize downtime, choose printers that automatically send low-paper or paper-jam alerts and that allow support staff to remotely troubleshoot printers, change settings, or install software.

For more guidance in kiosk implementation, check out these white papers: Understanding Kiosk Requirements: Optimizing Design, Placement and Component Selection and Kiosks are Here—Are You Ready? What You Need to Get Started with Kiosks.

For more about kiosk printing, click here.

Long Checkout Lines? Mobile POS Could Be Your Answer.

BBC News reports that a Barclays Bank survey of 2,000 people showed that “More than two thirds of people have abandoned shopping because it was taking too long to be served.” The survey found that 68% “had abandoned a queue at one time or another.”

If the retailers where those people shop had used mobile point-of-sale queue-busting solutions, they would have seen more satisfied customers. Mobile printers can capture card information, communicate it for authorization, and create sales receipts. Stores can combine these capabilities with mobile computing systems to service customers throughout their facility, prevent long checkout lines or queues from forming, and create other services that improve customer convenience and satisfaction.

Learn more about mobile point of sale here, where you can also see the white paper “Service on the Spot: Mobile Queue Busting Systems for Improved Customer Loyalty and Sales.”

Read the BBC article.