Zebra Aims To Help Retailers Track Everything In Stores — From Merchandise To The Shopper Journey

With its SmartSense solution, the company looks to maximize efficiency in retail environments — addressing the brick-and-mortar sales downturn in the process.

Zebra Technologies has launched SmartSense for Retail, a solution combining RFID, video, and micro-locationing technology in a bid to help retailers seamlessly track products, associates, and the shopper journey in-stores — ideally minimizing waste and boosting sales as a result.

With major big box retailers like Macy’s and Walmart announcing store closures at the start of 2017, it is no longer a question that “traditional” physical retail has been handicapped by an over-extended footprint and operations that don’t fully align with the way consumers shop in the mobile era. That said, retailers still experienced a slight uptick in in-store sales over the holidays, and consumers continue to show an interest in checking out merchandise — especially big-ticket items — in person. It appears that while major retailers like Macy’s may be maintaining too many locations for 21st century shopping habits, there is still a vested interest in keeping key stores open. As such, the question is now what retailers can do to make the most of the retail flagships they do maintain.

Zebra hopes to be a part of the answer with SmartSense. By analyzing data culled from RFID tags, installed video, and mirco-locationing, the solution provides visibility of a store from overhead, with real-time location information on tagged inventory, employees and customers who have previously opted into the network or loyalty app.

Optimizing Foot Traffic

“With that information, you now have ways that you can change how you interact with your customers [based on their traffic patterns], driving different interactive shopping, or different means of customer engagement,” explained Jeremy Pugh, global sales director, mobile applications at Zebra. “The idea is that you can have confidence when you say you have items in the store, that you do have them and you know exactly where they are. We know a big point of frustration is if you order something online, you want to pick up in store, you get there you find out they don’t have it, or they can’t find it.”

In addition to helping customers locate merchandise that they desire based on an online search or previous store visit, Pugh said that SmartSense is designed to bolster retailers efforts at creating an integrated, truly “omnichannel” shopping journey in general.

“We have seen the definition of retail change drastically over the past decade or so. We know successful retailers no longer can be just a physical brick-and-mortar store, we know the online process and really a true omnichannel experience is critical,” Pugh said. “The traditional retailer needs to be able to play in that space, providing a seamless experience across their websites or mobile applications, as well as what they deliver in store.

“With SmartSense, they can also track [products and consumers] throughout the store on the cameras, allowing an associate to go approach the customer and ask if they need any help, or to guide them to a point of sale. [It also] takes away a significant amount of manual labor that the department managers have to do physically — counting inventory, constantly going back and doing physical counts and replenishment. By automating all of that, those associates are now able to spend more time engaging and assisting customers, which also drives an increase in sales.”

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Lauryn Chamberlain Lauryn Chamberlain @laurynchamberla

Lauryn Chamberlain is the Associate Editor of A New York City based journalist, she specializes in stories related to retail, dining, hospitality, and travel.