RFID vs. NanoBT Tags in Retail: Which One Is Right for Your Business?

In-store Technology | Next Gen EAS system

With so many new technologies reshaping retail, making a strategic decision about your technology of choice isn’t always simple. As retailers seek to incorporate new capabilities offered by RFID, the disruptive NanoBT technology now offers them even greater advantages. 


To better understand the technologies and their respective benefits for retailers, we’ll examine and compare RFID vs. NanoBT tags. 

RFID vs NanoBT

The Retail Problem in Brick-and-mortar stores

With digital sales channels, retailers are used to having visibility into the customer journey and using that data to make decisions that increase sales. 

But brick-and-mortar stores can’t see what shoppers are looking at, what’s available on the sales floor, or why some merchandise gets abandoned before checkout.


What’s more, in store operations also have no real-time store inventory data and rely on too many manual processes to collect information. This negatively impacts broader issues such as inventory management, pricing, forecasting and analytics, customer satisfaction, and hinders the overall ability of executives to make decisions that could grow business. 


To get more visibility and higher quality data into inventory, retailers look to technologies such as Radio-frequency identification (RFID) and NanoBT.

Technology Solutions: RFID vs. NanoBT

RFID and NanoBT, or Nano Bluetooth tags, are wireless tracking technologies that can be affixed to individual items and identify them. 


RFID tags commonly in use on the market do not have an internal power source; they receive energy from readers (receivers) and must be scanned in order to operate. When scanned, tags provide snapshot data (i.e. data from the moment the tags were scanned) to the readers, and from there to the retailer’s inventory management dashboard.

RFID tags meet Bluetooth: NanoBT

NanoBT is a newer, active technology that utilizes Bluetooth communication to identify every item in stock. These advanced, battery-free tags collect energy continuously from readers and store it locally, so they can operate independently without the need for concurrent readers or batteries. The automatic stream of data to a cloud-based platform provides real-time visibility and higher location accuracy. 


4 Critical differences between RFID vs. NanoBT:

  1. Power source: NanoBT tags store power locally and automatically,  whereas RFID relies on manual scanning with readers.

  2. Automatic, Real-Time Data: NanoBT automatically and continuously transmits data; RFID tags don’t.

  3. Range: NanoBT has a longer range in real-world environments compared to RFID. 

  4. Interference: RFID uses backscatter technology which is susceptible to interference; NanoBT uses separate frequencies to overcome this and provide a more reliable link.

Inventory Tracking and Management

Retailers struggle to get accurate inventory location tracking and store inventory control. You can develop item-level identification with both RFID tags and NanoBT tags – but the data you’ll get differs in both quantity and accuracy.  

3 reasons why RFID isn’t accurate enough at tracking inventory 

  1. Accuracy with RFID relies on frequent inventory counts, which are manual, labor intensive and time consuming

  2.  The reading process is manual and prone to human error

  3. Merchandise data reflects only a snapshot of the inventory at the time of counting, and its accuracy degrades quickly after the scan due to sales, returns, shrinkage, etc.

Unlike RFID, NanoBT tags continuously and automatically transmits data, so retailers can have 24/7 real-time tracking.

For example, if a store associate notices that an item with a NanoBT tag is missing, the system can tell you exactly where the missing item was last seen, and when. That information greatly speeds up the reconciliation process. 

What real-time data from Connected Merchandise looks like:

  • zero manual work or scanning involved –  no need for complicated debriefings for store staff;
  • Automated inventory counts aren’t impacted by staff availability or turnover 
  • retailers can opt out of safety stocks, reducing excess inventory and unplanned markdowns while avoiding stock shortages 
  • No need for separate inventory for online order fulfillment vs. store replenishment, facilitating ship-from-store and BOPIS orders more easily 
Decoding Customer Behavior in Retail Stores - Download Report

In-store Location Tracking

Real-time inventory management is a holy grail for retailers: knowing what you have in stock and where, in real time, can reduce overstocks and ensure product availability where and when customers need it. 


Both RFID and NanoBT can give retailers a more accurate picture. However, tracking item location in the store space or fitting room with RFID is virtually impossible. 


Only NanoBT, the Bluetooth RFID tags, can currently offer real-time item location that is refined to tracking in small zones and down to the shelf level.   


Customer behavior visibility with NanoBT


Until recently, fashion and apparel retailers only had limited visibility and anecdotal insights into the customer’s journey from browsing to buying.

Tracking merchandise movement and location live can tell retailers where items are actually located, and how customers are engaging with it.

in store customer behavior

Understanding that user behavior can help retailers make more informed decisions about their merchandising and inventory. 


For example, by knowing how many people viewed merchandise or took it off the rack, retailers can understand which colors and sizes of each item to stock and when to replenish and localize those decisions per store.


Analytics and Insights 

RFID provides limited insights, since it can only provide snapshot data. NanoBT tags enable Real-time retail analytics with a continuous stream of insights that are richer in scope.


Retailers can increase conversion through insights such as the need to replenish, change item location in the store, or promote items by staff. 


Security and Loss Prevention

Retail spaces often use Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems to reduce shrinkage from organized retail crime, employee theft, and shoplifting. But what if retailers could prevent crime on the store floor before it reaches store gates?


With NanoBT anti-tamper alerts, once someone tries to remove a tag or otherwise interfere with it, store staff is alerted.  


NanoBT tags also have EAS sensors embedded in them, compatible with existing security gates. Security with NanoBT is controlled in the cloud, providing a frictionless anti-theft solution


Self-checkout and Returns

Both NanoBT and RFID enable self-checkout kiosks. But when RFID readers are used in a “just walk out” model, they need the support of more tech in the form of hardware like cameras and sensors. 


Only NanoBT enables automated, secure self-checkout and returns  that are completely seamless, including mobile checkout with no kiosk. When customers use hybrid fulfillment, such as BOPIS, the process becomes as easy as walking in, scanning and buying items on your smartphone, and walking out. 


Customer Experience and Privacy

As brands adopt new technologies, they explore more ways to connect with customers across channels.  


NanoBT tags allow interaction with a customer’s mobile device (after opt-in), creating personalized in-store shopping experiences that can increase engagement and basket size. Battery-free NanoBT tags are especially suitable for after-sale applications, content, and services such as brand and product authentication. 


Since NanoBT technology meets global Bluetooth standards and incorporates encryption and secure communication protocols built into the chip, it protects privacy and information better than standard RFID technology. 

The Power of Connectivity

Retailers are in search of technology solutions that can best drive efficiency and growth across the value chain. 


When comparing RFID vs. NanoBT, the two wireless in-store technologies can improve item-level tracking and in-store visibility. But only one of these can provide real-time, real-life in-store data.


With Connected Merchandise, connected stores, and AI-powered analytics and insights, patented NanoBT technology by Nexite has the power to drive more turnover and enable a host of new services that will continue to evolve as fashion brands embrace the technology.   


What's the difference between RFID and low energy Bluetooth?

RFID uses radio waves to transmit data from passive or active tags, to a reader that is in close proximity. Bluetooth low energy or BLE tags rely on short-range radio signals to continuously transmit data to Bluetooth-enabled devices.

Low Energy Bluetooth tags can transmit larger packets of data than RFID, and over longer distances, making it ideal for item-level inventory tracking as well as customer engagement and interactive shopping experiences.