With 90% of sales made in-store and 80% of purchase decisions happening at the shelf edge, it is quite simply the most influential sales channel. With this in mind, Displaydata's Paul Milner explains why the paper-based shelf label is past its sell-by date and the benefits of centrally managed, fully graphic three-colour Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) for retailers.
The time has come to change labels
Given all of the innovation going on in retail it's curious that the shelf-edge – a very important sales channel – has remained relatively unchanged, with printed labels still widely used; labels that are often tired and unattractive. Beyond aesthetics and material costs, labels cause operational issues, are time consuming to change, often inaccurate and impact the environment too.
Label accuracy: Recently IRI revealed that over half of all goods (54.6%) sold to UK shoppers in supermarkets and major retailers are on promotion. That's a huge number. So much so, that ensuring that the price of goods coming on to – or off – promotion is consistent with the check-out and shelf-edge as well as with online channels is a major headache.
Tying up your staff: The only way to ensure price accuracy is for staff to manually change labels. This is laborious and expensive – (both in staff-time, label printing and logistics). What's more, staff don't enjoy the work and it diverts them from what they do best – creating a great in-store experience.
Inflexible changes: Achieving no limits low pricing, quickly matching competitors' offers, dynamic pricing and more – these are very difficult to achieve with paper-based labels. Indeed, due to the manual nature of label changes, there's a gulf between how retailers want to deploy their price and promotion strategies and what they can actually do. For example, 46.7% currently update their prices once a week, whereas 53.4% want to be making changes daily or in real time.
Static displays: With space on labels limited, it's possible to only display key data such as price and any offers. However, customers want to see more information – such as price per kilo, source of origin, sustainability and recycling compliance, nutrition, to social reviews, currency, and much more.
In today's always-connected Internet of Things world, there has to be a better way to deploy price and promotions strategy with speed, accuracy and agility.
ESLs: the better way
With Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) you can remotely create, change and manage labels on any shelf-edge, anywhere – in seconds. For bricks and mortar retailers this offers a wide range of benefits for IT, marketing and operations teams, with my top five being:
Dynamic price and promotions: With no limits pricing, you can price as quickly and accurately in store as you can online, ensure prices are consistent across channels and build confidence with customers that they're getting the best price, availability and service – always. What's more, dynamic pricing makes it easier to price by events, time of day and store location, respond to competitors' activities, clear overhanging stock and reduce waste.
Embrace showrooming: With the option to display competitors' prices, stock availability, social reviews and ratings on labels, you can show customers there's no better deal elsewhere.
Be transparent: With 'ESL's you can show pretty much any information you want – from origin to price per kilo, sustainability, recipe ideas, compliance data, social reviews, QR codes and many more – responding to customers' desires for more insight about product sourcing, ingredients, recycling, etc...
Connect in-aisle: Using ESLs with integrated Bluetooth Low Energy beacons, you can engage shoppers in-aisle and use your app to send personalised offers to their smartphones at the moment they're thinking about a purchase.
Reduce material costs: Huge savings are made in paper and ink when replacing old fashioned paper labels with electronic ones. In addition to the material costs, the cost of distribution throughout the store estate is also removed which has a positive environmental impact.
Improve staff satisfaction and enhance service: ESLs free in-store associates from laborious label changes meaning they can spend more time better serving the customer and other added value activities, leading to increased job satisfaction.
At a time when retail is becoming ever more competitive, when tech savvy shoppers are demanding more from physical stores (and loyalty schemes), and when competitors are ever more innovative, ESLs offer a new way to drive sales, protect margin and reduce costs.
 Planet Retail NRF Presentation 2016
 POPAI Mass Merchant study
 IRI study: Price and Promotion in Western Europe
 RIS, Pricing Intelligence Goes to War, January 2014