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The New Balance Experience Store in Boston Runs Away with RFID

The opening of New Balance’s newest store in Boston, The New Balance Experience Store, coincided with the April running of the Boston Marathon. The company utilized RFID on a number of fronts, both inside and outside of the store, to engage customers and extract valuable business intelligence (BI).

Although the dynamic is changing, RFID has not traditionally played a customer-facing role in retail. Instead, retailers have predominately used RFID for supply chain visibility and back-end inventory control systems. However, certain merchants, including New Balance, have integrated the technology into solutions that both attract and empower customers. For instance to promote the store, 6,000 RFID-enabled prize cards were distributed on the day of the marathon to invite customers to the store in order to discover what they had won. The cards, embedded with a Smartrac EPC Gen 2 RFID tag accompanied by an Impinj Monza 4 chip, were encoded with a unique identification number. By redeeming their prize cards at the point-of-sale (POS), customers learned if their card was a winner. 

InMotion Retail Marketing installed an interactive wall display on which a dozen shoe models are displayed. Next to the sneakers is a 42-inch touch screen and an RFID “hotspot,” a separate shelf where integrated RFID reader antennas are installed. Each shoe style is equipped with a Smartrac passive UHF RFID tag with an Impinj Monza 5 chip. Each tag’s ID is linked to the particular product’s SKU to which it is attached, and is stored in a cloud-based server hosted and managed by Freedom Shopping. When a shopper moves a particular shoe to the “hotspot,” a large image of the shoe displays on the touch screen along with the shoe’s features.

This RFID-enabled display provides both a unique shopping experience for customers and a powerful tool that enables New Balance to perform marketing analytics related to customer traffic and products preferences. Two RFID readers, installed above the display, detect and track product movement throughout the day. New Balance can leverage information provided by InMotion’s software to benchmark it against daily sales records, gain insight to consumer interest in particular products, how often that interest generated a sale, and whether promotional efforts are proving to be effective.

What makes this use of RFID compelling is that New Balance’s system delivers dynamic marketing and promotions while performing important consumer behavior and traffic monitoring simultaneously on the back-end. From the perspective of customer engagement and business intelligence applications, VDC affirms that RFID holds customer-engagement and marketing value propositions largely overlooked by retailers. This differentiation could give New Balance stronger footing against competitors.

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