Personalization in Retail: How RFID tags are helping a German retailer to provide customization of the retail experience

Personalization in Retail at METRO (Source: Piquepaille wrote in a ZD-Net Blog about RFID tags that help you to choose your clothes at a German retailer close to my home.

This application fits perfectly to the discussion we had at the MCPC 2007 Business Seminar a month ago in Montreal on „A total makeover of retail“. Here are some quotes from the posting:

„A German department store, the Galeria Kaufhof in Essen, part of the Metro retailing group, is using RFID technology in a new way. … Men buying clothes in this store will get automatic suggestions. For example, when you go to a dressing room to try a suit, a ’smart mirror’ will tell you what kind of shirt or tie you need to buy with it. Will this technology be deployed elsewhere? Time will tell.

… An RFID reader on a “smart mirror” in the change room determines which clothing has been brought into the room from the RFID tag attached to the apparel, then displays complementary clothing choices or accessories. The system is used in combination with ’smart shelves,’ which can read what merchandise is currently in stock, so that customers can be shown choices in sizes that are available, and in various styles and colors.

… RFID readers are installed in walls, tables, and clothing racks of the men’s department. In addition to providing METRO with data on store floor inventory in real-time, the readers enable a number of consumer-facing applications that METRO hopes will both wow customers and make their buying experience richer and more convenient. The RFID tables are hooked up to an accompanying flat screen, which displays what sizes and styles are immediately available on that table. The RFID mirrors detect which garment the customer is wearing or holding and offer recommendations for complementary items.”

And of course, all this information is extremely valuable to the retail chain. Let’s return to the Baseline article for its conclusion. “Bill Colleran, chief executive of Seattle-based Impinj, says the exciting thing about the Kaufhof deployment is that it demonstrates that RFID can be used in retail for much more than to wring out cost savings in the supply chain. With the use of business intelligence systems like smart mirrors and smart shelves, it can be a new sales driver. ‘People joke that this is the ideal place to start because men need more help” in making choices,’ he says.”

Context information:

– The full blog posting of Roland Piquepaille.
Report in Baseline Magazine which was the source of Roland’s article
Metro press announcement
Press release by the technology providers

About the Author:

Frank T. Piller is a Co-Director of the MIT Smart Customization Group at the MIT Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA, and a chair professor of management at the Technology & Innovation Management Group of RWTH Aachen University, Germany, one of Europe’s leading institutes of technology. Before entering his recent position in Aachen, he worked at the MIT Sloan School of Management (2004-2007) and has been an associate professor of management at TUM Business School, Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Frequently quoted in The New York Times, The Economist, and Business Week, amongst others, Frank is regarded as one of the leading experts on strategies for customer-centric value creation, like mass customization, personalization, and innovation co-creation. His recent analysis of the crowdsourcing business model “Threadless” (co-authored with Susumu Ogawa), an innovative crowdsourcing business model in the fashion industry, has been elected as one of the Top-20 articles in MIT Sloan Management Review.