ESL Technology Set to Revolutionise Retail Sector

These days, digital labelling technology is everywhere. And it may soon be on every shelf label in the UK. Electronic shelf labels (ESL) are being tested in several retail environments, and are promising significant benefits to business owners. Currently available in three forms, ESL technology is currently being used for fast-moving lines of product and those products needing to be more competitively priced.

ESL labels are placed like regular labels are, under products on a store’s shelf where a paper label would be. The display is electrophoretic, meaning that it is made up of ink-containing capsules. The label’s colour or lack thereof will depend on the electric charge applied to it.

Benefits of ESL Technology

ESL technology offers a host of benefits to shop owners, staff and customers.

Dynamic Pricing

Electronic shelf labels allow for pricing information to be adjusted from a central server, which takes far less time and is far more efficient than traditional methods used with paper labels. This real-time pricing is becoming more of the norm in retail environments due to the increased price transparency being demanded by shoppers who use online retailers and do their shopping on mobile devices.

Shops can change their prices according to the time of day, customer traffic and popularity of items. Products like fresh produce, which needs to be sold while still edible, can be discounted as the day goes on.

Multiple Label Management

Up to 65,000 labels can be controlled in a 50,000 sq. ft. space using the central server. Because there is no need to manually change price labels or devote the time to do this, staff can be redirected to other tasks which require attention, such as customer service. As well, the instant updating capability that’s possible with ESL means that the high probability of pricing mistakes is eliminated. For the customer, this means the security of knowing the price will be the same at checkout as it is on the label.

Built-In Security

ESL technology also means that these items can be used as security labels. Unlike paper labels which can be removed and placed onto different products, ESL labels are stationary, and can only be changed from the server, meaning that there can be no mistake about the price of a product.

Instant Communication with Customer and Server

The labels communicate with the central server whenever display issues or updates are necessary. In addition, each label is equipped with Bluetooth capability, allowing it to communicate coupons and discounts to customers with mobile devices who pass by. These ‘beacons’ can be turned off or on when needed, and are also capable of supporting all device operating systems including Android and IOS.

No Brick-and-Mortar Barriers

The traditional advantage of online retailers over their brick-and-mortar counterparts as far as dynamic pricing is concerned is eliminated with the advent of ESL technology.

ESL technology continues to evolve. Some labels will offer more information about a product when a customer touches a certain area of the display. Others will allow customers to ‘like’ a product with their mobile device, and the label displays the number of likes for other customers. Some labels can be integrated with mobile apps that allow customers to get recipes, create a shopping list and even acquire help to find the product they want once they’ve entered the store.

These labels are not new by any means, but have yet to take over the country, most likely due to implementation costs. However, a shift has occurred from the necessary investment into specialised hardware at store level to the increased reliance on Bluetooth and communicating information directly to customers’ personal devices. These new technological developments and the resulting lower prices could see ESL reaching even more shelves in the near future.