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What is RFID in the Fashion Industry?

  • Abhishek Shukla
  • Feb 17, 2024
  • RFID
What is RFID in the Fashion Industry?

"RFID technology in the fashion retail industry allows for not just inventory and store operation management but also helps with brand authentication and quick POS operations and insights and reports. "

One thing that can be said with absolute certainty about the fashion industry is that fashion is fast and the fashion industry is always trying to keep up with this fast-changing fashion. Various fashion brands such as Zara, H&M, Dutch fashion label Scotch and Soda, Mango, Adidas, Nike, Prada, you name it, nearly all big fashion brands are trying to leverage technology-based solutions to have better data and insights on their stock, inventory movement and control as well as replenishment. 

Post-pandemic, fashion brands, designers, manufacturers, and retailers have realized the bottlenecks in supply chains and the vulnerabilities that come with manual data collection and lack of insights into day-to-day business operations. 

The changing customer behavior towards shopping is also a cause of worry amongst fashion brands as people now want different channels and avenues of shopping, with in-store walk-ins, online orders, and deliveries, and ‘buy online and pick up in-store’. 

The good thing is that fashion retailers and manufacturers quickly respond and create an infrastructure that facilitates automation in stores, inventory, and even manufacturing units. Many fashion brands are switching to Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-based item-level tagging, EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) system, NFC, and BLE technologies which are heading to replace the decade-old barcode technology to provide better data capturing, anti-counterfeiting, security, and automation in fashion retail and apparel inventory management.

RFID in the Fashion Industry 

Data plays an important role in the fashion industry, just like in any other industry. The use of RFID labels in fashion allows for streamlined manufacturing, inventory management, and seamless store management. Item-level tagging of fashion apparel with RFID apparel tags ensures accurate identification and tracking of the products, right from designing to manufacturing, inventory, and POS (Point-of-Sale). 

Radio Frequency Identification is an advanced AIDC (Automatic Identification and Data Capture) technology that allows businesses to tag items with smart RFID labels that provide enhanced identification and tracking throughout the store, inventory, and supply chains. 

RFID apparel labels are small electronic tags that contain a microchip and antenna to store data about the product and transmit the same to an RFID reader.

Typically, RFID tags are encoded with EPC (Electronic Product Code) which is stored in the 128-bit EPC memory, and some additional data is stored in the user memory and reserve memory of the tag integrated circuit.

In the fashion Industry, the use of RFID not only streamlines inventory operations but offers several other benefits in terms of customer experience, POS, stock clearance, first-in-first out, inventory visibility as well and order fulfillment.

Role of Technology in the Fashion Industry

In the fashion industry, technologies such as Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS), High-Frequency (HF) RFID/NFC, and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) are being increasingly utilized to enhance various aspects of operations and customer experiences. EAS systems help prevent theft and reduce inventory shrinkage by tagging merchandise with security tags that trigger alarms if not properly deactivated at the point of sale. 

NFC technology enables retailers to track inventory more efficiently throughout the supply chain, from manufacturing to distribution to retail stores. You can use RFID or NFC tags for clothing items, accessories, or packaging, and retailers can monitor inventory levels in real-time, improve stock visibility, and streamline replenishment processes. Additionally, NFC technology can be leveraged to provide interactive experiences for customers, allowing them to access product information, view digital content, or engage in loyalty programs.

Furthermore, BLE technology opens up opportunities for proximity marketing and personalized shopping experiences. Retailers can deploy BLE beacons in-store to push targeted promotions, recommend products based on customer preferences or past purchases, and enhance overall engagement. 

What is RFID in the Fashion Industry?

Benefits of RFID Technology in the Fashion Industry

With RFID technology at the helm, many retailers and fashion brands find it easier to manage store operations effectively and implement ways to enhance the shopping experience in-store as well as through online channels. 

Many fashion brands find it easier to keep all the stock in one place instead of going for two separate inventories for online orders and in-store purchases. With the help of RFID, a single inventory allows brands to keep accurate inventory and avoid ‘out of stock’ scenarios as well as overstocking. Brands also allow consumers to place their orders online and pick up the order from the store itself. Moreover, a combined inventory allows brands to ship items directly from the store. RFID thus helps in ending overproduction and improves order fulfillment. 

Fashion brands are also of the view that one cannot offer an omnichannel shopping experience without having enough data on inventory. Therefore, it is necessary to have accurate inventory and real-time visibility. 

Apart from stock accuracy and inventory visibility, Fashion retail and supply chains have to also focus on order fulfillment. As I mentioned before, in a post-pandemic world, customer expectations have changed significantly. After placing an order, customers want quick updates on their orders, right from order confirmation to dispatch and real-time order tracking. The same goes for placing a return. The use of RFID labels on apparel takes care of that. RFID makes it easier for staff to scan items at every order fulfillment junction and keep accurate tabs on orders throughout. 

Since RFID tags can be scanned without a clear line of sight, staff can just press a button on an RFID handheld reader and take stock of orders being dispatched from the store or warehouse. Implementing RFID-fixed readers at crucial junctions inside the store and warehouse also streamlines the order tracking. 

RFID for Authenticity Guarantee of Fashion Apparel 

Many fashion giants, the likes of Alexander McQueen, also offer NFC cards with their products that allow customers to self-authenticate the products they have purchased online or from their fashion outlets. 

NFC, the same as RFID technology, also works on a High Frequency of 13.56 MHz and allows for NFC tag reading by use of smartphone devices. Apart from NFC, dual frequency RFID tags are also available that can be used to store data about high-end fashion apparel, allowing customers to self-authenticate the genuineness of the product by scanning the RFID tag with a Smartphone, which helps in anti-counterfeiting measures of the brand.

Using NFC for authenticity guarantee also allows customers to resell the product without any issues. 

Remove or deactivate an RFID tag from apparel

When Benetton, the Italian fashion giant tried to implement RFID in their fashion lineup in 2003, huge protests were done to get them to back off from this idea of sewing RFID labels into women's clothing. 

But since then, the RFID technology has evolved and the price of RFID tags has decreased significantly. RFID tags now come with an access password and kill password which allows staff to deactivate the RFID tags in apparel after the billing. But that is for RFID tags that have been sewn into the apparel. RFID apparel hangtags can simply be removed from the apparel and can be reused, just like EAS tags. 

To conclude, RFID technology offers significant advantages in the fashion industry whether it is inventory, production, design, or POS and customer shopping experience in-store or on the web. It gives brand owners liberty in efficiently managing fashion apparel inventory, preventing ‘out of stock’ scenarios and overstocking and overproduction.

Frequently Asked Questions on RFID in Fashion Retail

Q1) How scalable is RFID technology for fashion retailers of different sizes?

RFID technology is highly scalable and adaptable to fashion retailers of all sizes, from small boutiques to large multinational chains. RFID solutions can be tailored to meet the specific needs and budget constraints of individual retailers, making it a versatile and cost-effective option for improving operations and customer experiences.

Q2) Can RFID technology be used for anti-counterfeiting measures in the fashion industry?

Yes, RFID technology can help combat counterfeiting in the fashion industry by providing a secure and tamper-evident means of product authentication. RFID tags can be embedded with unique encryption codes or digital signatures that can be verified using RFID readers, enabling retailers and consumers to authenticate genuine products and detect counterfeit items.

Q3) What are the different types of RFID tags used in the fashion industry?

RFID tags used in the fashion industry come in various forms, including passive RFID tags, which rely on external RFID readers to power and communicate with them, and active RFID tags, which have an onboard power source (such as a battery) and can transmit signals over longer distances.

Disclaimer: The information presented here is for general information purposes only and true to best of our understanding. Users are requested to use any information as per their own understanding and knowledge. Before using any of the information, please refer to our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

  • Created on Dec 05, 2023

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