Rebecca Minkoff Brings Self-Service to Its SoHo Store With RFID | Crepak
Rebecca Minkoff Brings Self-Service to Its SoHo Store With RFID

Rebecca Minkoff Brings Self-Service to Its SoHo Store With RFID

13 Oct 2016

Luxury handbag and accessories retailer Rebecca Minkoff is piloting aradio frequency identification-based self-checkout system that allows customers at its New York store to select an accessory they want, make a purchase on an Apple iPad and unlock that item's security tag so that they can leave the store without having to wait in line. The solution is provided by technology startup QueueHop in a display unit modified by Rebecca Minkoff to match the store's aesthetics. The solution consists of the self-checkout unit, which features an RFID interrogator to read a product's hard tag, an iPad mounted on the wall to accept credit-card purchases, and a slot in which the hard tag can beread via another RFID reader. The tag can then be removed after the purchase.

Rebecca Minkoff has been using RFID technology to enhance its fashion and accessories stores since it opened its first location in New York. Its SoHo store, located at 96 Greene Street, is known as the "Store of the Future" and features RFID-enabled magic mirrors in the fitting rooms that, for instance, identify a garment a shopper is trying on and display recommended products he or she could purchase to accompany it (see Rebecca Minkoff Store Uses RFID to Provide an Immersive Experience). "When we launched the Store of the Future, we had two desires," says Uri Minkoff, the fashion retailer's CEO and founder. "We wanted to offer a celebrity VIP experience [such as the personalized shopping assistance provided in the fitting rooms], and we wanted to provide a private, almost anonymous experience for those who wanted it."

The QueueHop technology enables the private anonymity of a sale, Minkoff says, along with the added convenience of reducing waits at a cash register. According to Minkoff, the store has attached the hard tags—which have built-in magnetic electronic article surveillance(EAS) technology, as well as ultrahigh-frequency (UHFRFID tags—to hundreds of its handbags, scarves and small leather goods. The long-term goal, he adds, is to include the technology for other Minkoff merchandise as well—possibly clothing, for example.

 

 

QueueHop's Lindon Gao

Early this year, the newly launched QueueHop developed its RFID-enabled hard tag, app and content-management software, says Lindon Gao, the company's CEO and cofounder. The idea for the product struck him as he waited in a long line at a store to make a purchase. "The line was incredibly long," Gao recalls, "and I was thinking, 'What can I do to remove this friction?'" After all, he says, long lines often prevent sales if customers simply are unwilling to wait.

 

The problem is worse for the latest generation of shoppers, Gao adds. Millennials would rather conduct transactions using their smartphones. For retailers, he notes, the problem is the security tag—they need some way to provide security, to ensure that goods do not leave the store without first being purchased. Locked hard tags traditionally require human intervention from store personnel, however, and that can mean queues.

In addition, at stores like Rebecca Minkoff, some customers simply want privacy. Uri Minkoff refers to it as the "Pretty Woman moment," when a customer at an upscale store feels intimidated—similar to how Vivian Ward, Julia Roberts' character in the film Pretty Woman, feels—fearing that associates will refuse to help her or expect her to steal something. Minkoff says he wants every customer to feel comfortable at his store, and that, in some cases, means enabling a visitor to make a purchase and leave without having to interact with associates.

QueueHop's RFID-enabled hard tag comes with a built-in UHF chip and a pin that locks thetag to a product, such as a garment or accessory. Gao manufactured his own readers in-house and uses chips from a variety of vendors. (The system is agnostic for RFID tag chips, he says, while all hardware built into the reader is made for QueueHop by a third-party manufacturer).

For the Rebecca Minkoff deployment, the QueueHop app is displayed on a tablet mounted to the store wall above a piece of furniture housing two RFID readers. A customer first approaches this self-checkout station, then places an item of interest on the tablet. One of two readers built into the fixture interrogates the RFID tagembedded in the product's QueueHop hard tag and transmits that data to the QueueHop app on the iPad, which identifies the product and displays information about it. The QueueHop software displays this information on the iPad, because it links the ID number with the appropriate stock-keeping unit (SKU) and related information about the product. The shopper uses the tablet's credit-card swiping functionality to make a payment, and the software then updates that item's status as sold.

 

Uri Minkoff

Once the purchase is completed, the customer uses the second readerbuilt into the unlock booth of the self-checkout station to remove thetag. He or she lowers the tag into a triangular slot, in which the readercaptures the tag's ID number. The software then links that ID to a completed sale and—if that item has, in fact, been sold—prompts a mechanical unlocking unit to release the pin. This causes the tag to drop into the discard box at the bottom of the reading device, and the user can remove the accessory without the label and take it out of the store, along with a receipt. The customer can now leave the store, and the hard tag can be reused on another product.

 

Rebecca Minkoff launched the system at its SoHo store this month, and Minkoff says he is pleased with the results thus far. "We're very passionate about this technology," he states, adding that he intends to further test the system after the holiday shopping season. To date, he finds the self-service option is used more often on some days than on others, depending on whether customers are fully aware the feature is available.

The store is using the QueueHop hard tag, rather than simply the EPC UHF tags already applied to products, to provide added security. According to Minkoff, a thief could remove basic RFID tags from a product, or a person's body could block transmission if he or she wanted to steal a tagged item. However, by using both RFID and EASmagnetics in the hardtag, the store can combine security with anonymous self-service.

QueueHop also offers its app-based solution to allow customers to make purchases using their smartphone, if stores choose to provide that option. The system could work with either the QueueHop app or the store's own app, using the QueueHop content-management software. A customer would simply scan the QR code on a product's label and make a purchase using his or her phone. The store would then provide the unlocking station to unlock the hard tag attached to that item, once the QueueHop system had confirmed that the item had, indeed, been purchased. QueueHop is currently in conversations with several other retailers around the world about the app-based solution, as well as the version in use by Rebecca Minkoff.

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