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ESL – It’s not all about the price tag.

Written by Sean Taylor, Head of Retail Solutions UK and Ireland

ESL – It’s not all about the price tag.

The adoption of Electronic Shelf Label systems by supermarkets across the UK is just the beginning, says Sean Taylor – Head of Retail Solutions in the UK and Ireland for Panasonic Business. It’s not all about the price tag, there is so much more.

 

Back in the Summer of 2021, I wrote about how British supermarket retailers were lagging behind the rest of the Europe in their deployment of Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) systems. Since that time, I’m pleased to say that we have seen a huge uptick in the number of UK supermarkets trialling and embracing ESL. The ability to quickly respond to pricing changes, whilst minimising errors and staff time has been recognised and, over the next three years, I expect these systems to become common place.

But the benefits do not stop there. Once an ESL is in place, it can unlock a whole new world of opportunities for retailers and shoppers alike.

 

Could you show me where…?

I can rarely visit a supermarket these days without having to ask an assistant where one of my favourite products has been moved to or overhearing someone else asking a similar question. It’s frustrating for the customer and time consuming for staff. But with ESL systems in place, this type of question could become a thing of the past.

Imagine just typing milk into your supermarket app and directions popping up with the ESL label starting to flash when you get to the right aisle. This type of geo-location opportunity will be another step forward in helping to orientate and point customers to their favourites in the store.

 

Vital information at your fingertips

Want to try a new product or ingredient but not sure how to use it? Bring your smartphone close to the ESL to use NFC technology or scan the QR code and recipes to inspire you will be displayed on your phone. Alternatively, the same application can be used to show the list of ingredients in a product – for those with allergy or dietary concerns. The ability to provide informative or engaging additional content becomes much easier once the ESL system is in place.

 

Just grab and go

Queuing at the check-out or scanning your own goods can be a frustrating experience for the customer and costly for the retailer. The same NFC or QR technology used for displaying ingredients can also be used for new shop and go solutions. Simply scan the ESL as you pick up the goods and head straight home when your shopping is done. With the ESL system connected to the payment system, your shop can be automatically charged to your debit or credit card. No more queuing or self-checkout to worry about.

AI for dynamic pricing

And this is only the beginning. The ESL system can also be the foundation for linking with AI to provide dynamic pricing for retailers. Imaging being able to adjust the shelf price of products based on the customers in the store and their preferences or being able to lower or raise prices based on stock levels, availability and demand. These types of opportunities become possible when the ESL system connects with key systems, such as the supply chain AI applications delivered by Panasonic’s sister company Blue Yonder.

Ultimately, retailers revolutionising their pricing capabilities can lead to a lot of benefits. It can improve merchandising, labour productivity and deliver a differentiated customer experience.

One UK retailer that is already taking advantage of ESL is Jempsons. The retailer recently completed the installation of ESL systems at five of its convenience stores in East Sussex. Stephen Jempsons, Managing Director, at Jempsons Ltd, has long been a visionary in the use of technology in UK retail and was one of the first to install self-checkouts. He sees ESL as the foundation for a new wave of technology driven improvements for retailers and customers. His system currently manages over 25,000 price tags across five locations with one central price system and the ESL solution has eliminated human error and made an 80% time saving on label updates.

 

Shopkeeper taking stock notes on a clipboard

 

Jempson said, “The result has undoubtedly been a labour and cost-saving for the business. The colleagues no longer have to worry about updating the labels because they can do it within the click of a button. As a result, they can then focus their attention elsewhere in the store. The savings that can be had on paper labels, ink and printers are also a positive benefit that is not to be sniffed at.”

So, the next time you pop to the supermarket, look out for ESL and the benefits this new technology will bring. It’s not all about the price tag. There’s so much more to come once this technology is in place.

 

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