How RFID Technology Shapes Decathlon’s Omnichannel Strategy


Equipping each of 100,000 references with an RFID tag, the Lille brand has developed digital tools to deliver a seamless online and offline experience to its customers.

In the aisles of the DX store in Villeneuve D’Ascq, near Lille, as at 1,746 other locations of sports giant Decathlon, all products on the shelves are RFID-tagged. Vendors are equipped with Android phones, exchange is carried out in automatic cash registers and inventory with speculators or even bots. All of these technologies are the result of a strategy that began in 2013 to popularize RFID identification for references, first to footwear and clothing in 2014, and then to all products as of 2019.

The use of RFID tags is behind many of the company’s technological innovations that make the daily lives of its employees easier and make their customers’ journey both online and offline smoother. These tags uniquely identify each product. They are affixed as labels, used to seal packages, or even incorporated directly into sewing garments. They also carry the product’s digital passport with information regarding its composition, place of production and flight, thus providing transparency and traceability. By investing in this technology very early on, Decathlon is now able to offer its expertise to other companies.

ocean of data

“Our challenge since 2015 has been to be the best in RFID technology internationally,” emphasizes Jerome Dubreuy, chief digital officer of Decathlon. Our digital transformation includes hiring talent, ensuring the security of what we offer, but also by leveraging the data ocean. We have and remain a leader in RFID innovation, which we offer as a service to other companies,” he continues.

The Northern brand quickly realized that if its model was doing well today, that might not be the case in the future. Therefore, Decathlon achieved its digital transformation with the help of the Decathlon Technology entity with the aim of integrating digital commerce into the future of the customer experience. Today, the brand records a turnover of 13.8 billion euros excluding taxes, 20% of which comes from digital (whether e-commerce sales, market sales or those made with digital tools). Chief Digital Officer confirms Decathlon’s desire to move towards more experimental stores like its new concept that recently opened in Canada: assortment reduced on shelves, customer comes to see and live the experience, access to available products via QR code, collection and out-of-store inventory are fully automated .

Consolidated stock and 100% cloud

To deliver seamless online and in-store solutions, Decathlon started implementing its cloud strategy in 2013 and moved to 100% cloud as of 2018. If this allows it to manage a database of 200 million users in nearly 70 countries, it is also a resource Flexibility. Like during lock-ups in early 2020 when teams had to adapt quickly to offer new forms of delivery or use in-store stocks for their online sales. The company also rolled out its market with Mirakl in 11 countries in 2021. The challenge is important in order to be able to offer its customers wider ranges, or more niche products, that it does not design itself. In the market, the average basket is also higher (170 euros). “RFID has enabled us to make home delivery possible and globalize stocks in stores and online,” explains Jerome LeMay, Industrial Director of RFID at Decathlon. Previously, we would have had pickup in two different places, in-store and in our inventory, which is Which is a limitation in terms of delivery time to the customer,” he continues.

sales assistance

The group’s strategy frees up the arms of salespeople to dedicate themselves to satisfying customers. The traditional annual or semi-annual inventory has been replaced by a robot roaming store shelves alone: ​​“With robotics and RFID, we no longer have stock closures. In one hour, 1,000 to 1,500 square meters of products are scanned, explains Jerome LeMay. Within five hours. , the robot can perform a full inventory of a store, so our inventory accuracy will be 98 or 99% compared to 95% previously,” he says. These robots have been tested in 30 countries and 30 stores in France. It should be rolled out to 20% of stores this year and gradually to 100% of stores. Employees also use internally developed rackets. It allows them to examine the entire radiology in a short time. Decathlon’s goal is that sales staff do not waste time on gestures that have no added value.

The brand also supplies its employees with an Android phone and its in-house developed apps. With these tools, sellers will be able to offer products that are not available in the store. A godsend when a tiny fraction of 100,000 references are stored on-site. They can order the product for the customer, offer delivery and even pay cash directly on the shelf using a small RFID reader. Behind this application of artificial intelligence will provide products related to the research conducted and help the seller in his decision. The stations on the shelves also offer all ranges to help the customer make the best choice.

second hand

A common criticism of Decathlon was that their customers were better informed than the seller himself. Recruitment is now directed at employees who are experts in their sport and who will provide a new customer experience. He will be able to create his network, organize sports events outside the store, and even make sales directly on the field thanks to the tools he has.

Product notes have also been simplified. In its laboratory store in Villeneuve D’Ascq, Decathlon has set up a stand-alone return station at the entrance where customers can return products that are still new on their own. RFID is used throughout the sale and is also accompanied by the return of this product. It makes it possible to trace the life of a product and facilitate its renewal and recycling, an important component of a brand committed to selling used products with its Second Life platform.

While this strategy of embedding an RFID tag on all products may seem costly, Decathlon Technology teams claim it is profitable, particularly as it reduces the number of thefts. In short, Deca, strictly RFID.

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