Microsoft survey claims RFID not understood by UK retailers

The greatest obstacle to successful RFID deployment is the fact that no one actually knows what it is, according to two recent surveys.

Despite considerable media coverage, RFID simply is not on the radar for the majority of retailers. Some 86 per cent of UK retailers claim to have little or no understanding of RFID, a Microsoft survey claims.

Of the 50 retailers that responded to the survey, only two claimed to be very familiar with it. Five said they were relatively familiar.

In the same survey, 13 retailers were vaguely familiar with RFID and the rest had either never heard of it or were completely unaware of it.

Unsurprisingly, ignorance was cited as one of the main barriers to RFID adoption, mentioned by 44 per cent of retailers. Some 38 per cent blamed expensive tags, while 36 per cent were unconvinced of the business case.

Nonetheless, many retailers suffer from the problems RFID is meant to cure. Excess inventory levels were cited by 46 per cent of respondents, and 52 per cent said they suffered inaccurate stock records. Some 28 per cent complained about low supply chain visibility.

Shoppers are equally in the dark about what RFID is and what it means. A survey of more than 1,000 US consumers, conducted by the National Retail Federation and CapGemini, suggested that 77 per cent were not familiar with RFID.

However, only 10 per cent of those who had heard of it voiced negative opinions, despite the numerous scare stories in the media about possible privacy violations by RFID technology. Some 62 per cent of respondents wanted RFID privacy protection written into law.

Benchmark Research managing director Guy Washer, whose company conducted the Microsoft survey, said: 'I think it (RFID) will happen, but there needs to be a huge amount of education on how it can be used.'