Italian footwear retailer Store of the Future (SOTF) opened its new Florence shop in September 2016, with an EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID-based system to bring more personalized service to customers as they try on shoes, while also enabling omnichannel sales. The solution, provided by systems integrator Temera, uses RFID technology from Keonn for smart fitting room technology and inventory management. Since the system was taken live, the retailer reports, the technology has helped define the store's image as a cutting-edge business, while also bringing visibility to its inventory.
Tommaso Andorlini, SOTF's owner, says the company's management team already had a background in omnichannel and e-commerce sales models and sought a way to make its product available on a more global level. That means not only enabling physical purchases at the store, but also allowing online shoppers access to products, as well as providing sales of goods to customers at the store, when those products are not stocked onsite.
The Florence store comes with five fitting areas in which customers can try on shoes. The fitting rooms consist of booths, open in the front, to provide individualized service without the complete privacy required at apparel stores. Each fitting area contains a Keonn AdvanReader 150, says Guido Mengoni, Temera's chief development officer and partner, along with AdvanMux-16 multiplexers, Avantenna-p11 antennas and a wall-mounted tablet that customers can use to select products.
When new stock arrives at the store, one of each pair of shoes is tagged with a passive EPC UHF LabID Model LUH427-U7 label with a built-in Semiconductors U-code 7 chip. The unique ID number encoded on the tag is linked to the product's stock-keeping unit (SKU) details in Temera's cloud-based software, which also integrates with SOTF's inventory-management software. The products are then displayed on wall shelves, or stored in the back room.
A customer who wants to try on a pair of shoes can enter a fitting room with the product. The RFID reader automatically captures the shoes' tag, and the tablet then displays data related to that particular pair, including information about the shoes themselves, as well as other items of the same size, brand or color. SOTF also owns Sundek, a beachwear company with new Italy-based stores opening next month. The RFID technology is expected to be used at Store of the Future to present content related to products available at the Sundek store that might be of interest to SOTF's customer as well.
Customers can scroll through that content, as well as request that sales personnel bring other products from the shelves. Such request are forwarded to tablets carried by store associates, who receive a notification and indicate that they are responding.
Customers also can use the wall-mounted tablet to purchase the shoes they are trying on, or that they are ordering online. The system enables SOTF to not only ensure that customers have access to its products via the tablet, but also provide employees with real-time stock availability, based on RFID data regarding shoes received, compared against point-of-sale software data. The tablet in the fitting room, as well as smartphones carried by staff members, run the Temera app that enables customers to place orders or workers to respond to them. The orders are then forwarded to the cloud-based server.
The project provided some technical challenges, Mengoni says, in part due to the open environment of fitting areas for shoes. Instead of walled-in fitting rooms, the store offers small benches divided by thin walls. To prevent stray reads, he explains, "We put 16 antennas under each bench, with the minimum power of reading."
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