Something new is popping up on supermarket and retail store shelves, but it’s not for sale. The paper price tags on store shelves are being replaced by electronic shelf labels (ESL) with a host of useful digital capabilities.
ESLs are battery-powered e-paper or LCD digital displays with unique IDs that display product prices. Infrared light or radio frequencies are used to update prices electronically using wireless transmitters and centralized label management software. Depending on the need, retailers can broadcast information to all price tags (such as updated stock information), or to use the unique ID to message one shelf label in particular, for instance, to offer a promotional price for that item.
In addition to displaying price information, some ESL systems have added functionality. For instance, some have QR codes that are scannable to display product reviews, comparison prices, available stock quantities, and even nutritional information.
Every shopper knows the frustration of searching for that missing paper price tag. ESLs solve that problem by updating price tags automatically and instantly, even remotely. Here are more of the advantages retailers are enjoying from the switch from paper to digital price tags.
Achieve pricing accuracy
Digital price tags eliminate the human error involved with paper price tags. When store employees walk the floor to swap out paper labels, they inevitably make mistakes. Sometimes a shelf is missed, a paper tag falls off, or a promotional price is left on the shelf after the sale is over. Those mistakes can lead to price discrepancies, which can be enormously frustrating for customers. In the case of pricing discrepancies, consumer regulations sometimes require stores to offer mispriced goods free of charge to customers. Digital price tags take human error out of the process and ensure pricing is consistent across all customer touchpoints.
Accelerate “picking” with automated maps
When it’s run by software, a price tag can be more than a price tag. Some electronic price tag software generates maps of products. This makes it easier for “pickers” – employees who put together online orders for customer delivery or pickup – to quickly locate the items. Some software has even more functionality. For instance, as the picker gets closer to the required shelf, ESLs can read the map and start flashing to help the picker save time and easily locate the right item.
Change prices on the fly
While many supermarkets and large retail chains still use printed flyers to advertise sales, limiting promotions to the print cycle can be too rigid for today’s fast-moving market. Most stores have adopted an omnichannel approach that offers a seamless experience online and in-store. For omnichannel success, pricing has to be consistent, but to react to market conditions, it needs to be easy to change. With digital price tags, retailers can change prices in real time, to keep pace with competitor sales, to slash prices to move seasonal goods, to offer time-limited specials, or to experiment with dynamic pricing.
Reduce printing and labour costs
Making the switch to electronic shelf labels is an investment, but stores will see significant cost savings over time. Retailers spend a considerable amount on label printing and label swapping annually. Instead of paying employees to manually attach and switch labels, they could be stocking shelves, warehousing or helping customers. There’s a green aspect, too: going digital reduces waste.
Improve stock management
Going digital with price tags connects shelf information with other key business process information. Some electronic shelf labels, for example, can share data with point of sale (POS) software. Retailers can correlate the data to track sales and learn how much product is left, and share that data on the label itself or on the store website. When customers are browsing online prior to visiting your brick-and-mortar location, they’ll know whether they need to act fast to get a fast-selling item.
Leverage data analytics
Price tag data is not only a benefit to shoppers, it can be used to generate insights and suggest business efficiencies. Some digital price tags are enabled with Bluetooth tracking software that can identify where shoppers are and how much time they spend in a given location. Knowing where shoppers are spending more or less time can help stores better place and display their product offerings to drive sales. For instance, lower than expected sales of a particular item might not have anything to do with the item itself, or the cost, but with its store location.
Enhance the customer journey
Price is the most important data point in every transaction. But these days, shoppers are accessing price information from all kinds of channels: on the website, in a store newsletter, on social media, or from your sales associates. Any discrepancy causes a headache at the point of sale for shoppers expecting a different amount. Adding consistency to the process through digital price tags keeps customers happy and fosters customer loyalty over time.
So far, digital price tags are seeing widespread use in Europe and Asia, and P&S Intelligence sees Europe as the fastest growing market to adopt the new tech. While electronic shelf labels are still relatively rare in Canada and the United States, the market here is expected to grow. As brick-and-mortar retailers expand their value proposition with an enhanced omnichannel experience, they will start to see the benefits automated, electronic shelf labels can bring.
With so many recent digital innovations in the consumer space, customer expectations have risen dramatically. To keep shoppers invested and to earn their trust and loyalty requires state-of-the-art solutions. With all the capabilities they offer, digital price tags are taking traditional shelf labels in the very best direction: towards a successful retail future.