Interview with Keith Sherry

Face2Face
Keith Sherry
Keith Sherry
COO
SATO Global Solutions
SATO Global Solutions

Digitisation is a threat to brick-and-mortar retailers

Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based SATO Global Solutions (SGS) develops comprehensive solutions based on the Internet of Things (IoT) that address the needs of businesses by unleashing the power of their data. As an innovation integrator, it combines technologies, hardware and applications that connect people and assets through data to make decisions that maximise value across businesses. Keith Sherry, chief operating officer (COO) of the 75-year-old company, speaks to Fibre2Fashion about the benefits of radio frequency identification (RFID) tags.

Please tell us briefly about your company's background.

SATO Global Solutions (SGS), a subsidiary of SATO Holdings Corporation launched in 1940, develops comprehensive IoT solutions for modern retailers. SGS combines IoT technologies, hardware and applications that connect people and assets through data, helping retailers improve operational business performance and the consumer experience. Building on SATO's history, global reach and locations across 25 countries, SGS is focused on integrating emerging technologies to create innovative IoT solutions.

Please elaborate on Acuitas Digital Alliance.

Launched in January 2016, the Acuitas Digital Alliance brings together like-minded technology innovators including SATO Global Solutions, BT, Intel, RetailNext, NexGen Packaging and Valmarc Corporation. This team collectively looks at innovative ways to use technology within the store and across the entire supply chain. Its first deliverable, IoT-driven software platform helps retailers bring the digital experience into the physical store by connecting and serving up information for shoppers, associates and managers.

What are the benefits of IoT solutions for apparel and footwear retailers?

A recent Retail Systems Research study found that 70 per cent of retailers surveyed, including apparel and footwear retailers, felt that IoT would drastically change the way they do business in the next three years.

At SATO, IoT tools are used to create connection points between the inventory, store associates and shoppers. With an IoT strategy in a fashion store, for example, retailers can use a network of sensors and RFID to gain unprecedented visibility into inventory movement, customer behaviours and store operations in near real time. This access to insights can empower store associates and enhance the in-store experience and raise store footfall and brand loyalty.

What are the challenges in getting people to adapt to newer technologies?

Traditionally, deploying IoT in stores was complex, cumbersome and expensive because it required the right mix of hardware, software and networks, while ensuring that each piece was highly scalable, rapidly deployable and easily adaptable. While today's innovations have dramatically simplified the process, many retailers are still stuck in the mindset of complexity and expense. In fact, IoT can be deployed in stages, using small success to sell in the idea of larger deployments to skeptical managers. 

What are the latest trends and innovations ruling the apparel tag and labels market?

RFID tags are being adopted very quickly as a viable, large scale labelling option. The low price and high level of benefits have made RFID the clear choice over low-tech barcodes.

For example, inexpensive RFID tags placed on retail products, combined with a network of sensors, can help optimise inventory both in the back room and on the floor. The sensors can identify location data on inventory and share real-time, accurate location and status information about every single item of inventory - including purchased items, inventory currently in dressing rooms, misplaced items, or alerts that a store display is low or empty - with store associates.

In addition to enabling store associates to make real-time decisions based on the data at hand, retailers can leverage this RFID data to gain insights into customer behaviours, preferences and employee productivity.

Tell us about your comprehensive solution.

The SATO Global Solutions VISION Retail Platform is designed to increase inventory visibility, improve workforce efficiencies and create a personalised shopping experience by leveraging the power of IoT. The platform uses RFID to give stores a complete overview of a products lifecycle within the store, as well as customer behaviour based on product lifecycle. For example, the platform provides insights into what customers are purchasing, but also what they are purchasing and when, what they are taking into the dressing rooms and ultimately not purchasing and how responsive a store's workforce is to customer requests. 

The platform seamlessly connects various inputs such as tags, sensors, gateways and videos to continuously deliver actionable insight on all aspects of inventory management and omni-channel customer engagement. Additionally, it is designed to be expandable, sustainable and scalable, simplifying digital implementation and creating a foundation for future growth. 

Are your IoT solutions just for products in-store? Do you plan to integrate online too?

While the VISION Retail Platform is an in-store solution, it provides a foundation for retailers to continually expand and easily meet the needs of the store of the future. This includes seamless integration of technologies to create a true omni-channel experience regardless of where the shopper is in the customer journey. For example, retailers can integrate the platform with technologies that enable customers to view available inventory online and potentially provide the option to purchase online and pick up in store. 

Published on: 13/12/2017

DISCLAIMER: All views and opinions expressed in this column are solely of the interviewee, and they do not reflect in any way the opinion of Fibre2Fashion.com.

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