Charles Jackson is doing his second tour as CEO of Pricer – the Swedish company that has taken a firm grip on the Electronic Shelf Label markets around the world. And in talking to him, it is obvious that he is passionate about the business. Electronic Shelf Labelling (ESL) techniques of today can do so much more than communicate prices. In fact, he says, ESL is a central technology for the two main retail trends right now: Outstanding customer experience and improving the execution of store operations. Here, Charles shares his views on how ESL have gone from “dumb and simple shelf labels” to a technology with multiple benefits for the modern retailer.
Ending the task of manual pricing
Today’s retailers are more pressed than ever regarding profit margins and operating costs. Customer demands on service have also never been higher. These two factors prompt retailers to rethink how they can reallocate their staff resources from the back office to more service-oriented tasks.
“Any technology that can help with that is attractive to retailers,” Jackson said. “ESL falls right in that category.”
That it because changing prices manually is one of the most time-consuming tasks in the store. It is also one of the most unpopular and prone to errors. Jackson estimates that a medium-size store in Europe can change a maximum of 2 000 prices per week.
“More than that, and you will have staff revolting and inefficiencies set in. It simply becomes unsustainable.”
With ESL, retailers succeed in doing more tasks with fewer resources and also allocating those resources toward the customer experience. And today, customers expect a much more digitized shopping experience. With ESL, retailers can give that digitized experience, and optimize store operations at the same time.
One way this is done is by helping the customer find the product in the store by using the triangulation capabilities of ESL. Through either a map in a kiosk by the entrance, or by using a smart phone, the customer can identify where a product is in the store.
“The larger the store, the more appreciated this technology is,” Jackson said, adding that the next step will be to link this product guidance with loyalty programmes and promotions.
Click and collect with ESL
Various forms of online shopping are gaining speed. But regardless of the form, at some point, the ordered products have to be collected by staff. One way of speeding up and simplifying that process is by using a flashing function on the electronic labels. In simple terms, it means that the store clerk that walks around the store with the electronic shopping list from an online customer can ask for the label to flash. This makes it easier and faster to find the products.
“The whole click and collect experience is faster this way,” Jackson said. The store can handle more orders faster and customers can get their products faster.”
He sees many future developments for this function in the future.
“Product location and customer location are constantly being discussed today, and technologies that help with that will become increasingly interesting for retailers.”
Another trend he sees is self-scanning making a comeback. This form of shopping, where customers scan their own products as they move through the store, was popular for a short while several years ago, but then met headwinds. Stores have looked at getting customers to use their own devices for the scanning, Jackson said, but they have seen little uptake. It is not convenient to hold your phone as you go shopping.
“This is bad news for retailers, because they have to invest in development of dedicated devices, but it is what customers want. In the end, a mixed offer of dedicated devices and scanning apps for smartphones will be the norm.”
The demand for a more technologically advanced shopping experience coupled with retailers’ desires to improve store operations has led to a more collaborative relationship between technology suppliers and the retailers, Jackson said. He thinks that this relationship with continue to deepen.
“Before we were simple vendors of technology. Now, we sit down with the retailers and help them come up with a plan for improving the shopping experience and improving the executions in the store. That will lead to many more technology solutions in the future.”