If you’ve been to Europe over the last 10 or 20 years, you've probably seen digital prices tags (also known as electronic shelf labels or ESLs) in many types of stores. ESLs were invented by a European company—Pricer, based in Sweden—in the early 1990s.

Today, an increasing number of American companies are coming around to ESLs. For example, Supermarket chain, Kroger, installed EDGE, a cloud-based display solution for shelves that displays prices, advertisements, nutritional data, coupons, and videos. The advanced technology ESL’s employ is helping retailers significantly streamline the product pricing process and opening up other opportunities to build relationships with customers. We'll discuss these benefits up ahead.

For now, let's look at what electronic shelf labels are and how they can be used in a retail setting.

What Are Electronic Shelf Labels?

Electronic shelf labels are digital labels displaying prices (and other information) for browsing customers. Like their paper counterparts, retailers place the ESL below or above each unique item in a store. They may also be featured on table signage, clothing and accessory racks, or window displays.

What sets ESLs apart from generic paper pricing labels is the digital aspect. A base station, controlled by the store manager or other employees, allows control of the price and additional information displayed on each electronic shelf label. The purchase of software typically accompanies the physical ESL equipment for this reason. ESLs come with a great many benefits:

1. Easier price changing

Traditionally, when the prices of items changed in a store, employees would need to change each item’s tag individually. Not only is this activity time-consuming work, it can also lead to errors (more on this below). 

Digital price changing is reliable, easy, and—best of all—fast. With a few clicks and taps of your keyboard, you can change any price tag in your store. This saves you time and money. Paper price tags not only cost money (especially when switched out often), but you also need to pay your employees for this constant and tedious work.

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2.More accurate pricing

When prices change and individual employees need to make tedious changes to all store items, errors can easily occur. Most stores honor these errors when customers catch them, but they generally take the hit.

Digital retail pricing incurs far fewer errors because the base station is where all prices can be continuously monitored. If an error does occur, it can be quickly changed.

3. More content customers

When pricing errors occur with paper tags, customers may feel disgruntled. And when they can check their phones, they may discover a different price online adding to their distrust of the retailer.

Manual signage can also be confusing to customers. It's not uncommon when adding new price tags to the top of old ones (e.g., for sales and specials) that customers misunderstand the ultimate price of an item. This may lead them to avoid a potential purchase altogether. 

In addition, tags can fall off or be purposely moved, which can lead to even more complicated issues.

4. Better customer service and improved productivity

Making price changes can be a time-consuming practice for store managers and employees. When price tags can be digitally adjusted, your time can be focused on doing more important work—like helping your customers and giving them an improved shopping experience. 

5. New advancements offer even more benefits

The technologies associated with electronic retail display systems are always evolving. Today, you can display not only prices, but other information like item color, size, or expiration date, on your digital price tags.

Moreover, ESL "extras" can be added to your system to help you improve your sales tactics overall. If your store sells perishable items, for example, you can instantly reduce the prices of near-expiration items to help them sell better. Infrared readers can even be employed on digital tags to track how many customers stop by different items. This information can help you improve your store displays and ultimately sell more products.

Costs and Benefits: Are There Any Drawbacks to ESLs?

To be sure, investing in an electronic retail display system is not an inexpensive item pricing solution. It is true that most of the costs associated with such a purchase will be upfront, but these are significant. Still, for the most part, the investment can be worth it financially and efficiency-wise when you take advantage of the many benefits outlined above.

In some situations, ESLs may not be ideal, however. For example, if you rarely require price changes to your items, an investment in a digital price tag system might not be worth it for your store.

Similarly, if you have a quite small inventory, you may not spend much time and energy on your item pricing anyway. Therefore, sticking with paper labels could be simpler and better for your establishment right now. Do remember, however, that as the technology associated with ESLs advances and the retail display systems become less expensive, you may want to transition to this pricing option in the future. 

How Retail Display Solutions Can Help 

Innovative retail display solutions attract more business and keep your current customers coming back. Integrating electronic signage labels into your retail displays is a natural next step to leveling up your product displays. InStore Design Display can help your establishment create custom display fixtures that fit your needs and set you apart from the competition.

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