“Consumers are becoming more concerned about product origins, from where they were produced to how they were produced, and by whom,” says Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at retail research firm RSR Research. “I believe retailers are going to be ultimately driven to provide this information.”
The continued spread of smartphones could provide retailers with a relatively cost-effective method of doing so. In the fourth quarter of 2012 smartphone sales rose 38.3 percent from the same period the previous year to reach 207.7 million units worldwide, according to research company Gartner.
Already a small handful of retailers are testing or deploying mobile technology that enables consumers to check the provenance and sustainability of the goods in their stores. One is the high-end clothing brand, Burberry, which at the London fashion show in February showed a radio frequency identification (RFID) service that enables customers equipped with smartphones to track the entire production process of an item of clothing.
Burberry sewed RFID chips into the linings of coats and bags, which consumers then scanned with a smartphone or tablet that logged into the company’s site. The RFID chip activated a video that showed the various steps in the item’s production, from initial design sketches through to final display on the catwalk. In addition, customers visiting Burberry’s flagship store in London’s Regent Street can use the same RFID chips to prompt videos to appear on mirrors, which are equipped to turn into screens.
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