An electronic shelf label (ESL) system is a tool used by retailers for displaying specific product pricing on shelves, electronic display modules are fixed to the front edge of the retail shelving. These use E-paper or liquid-crystal display (LCD) to show the product price to the customer. A communication network allows the price display to be automatically updated whenever a product price is changed. The wireless communication must support feasible range, reliability, speed and battery life. The means of wireless communication can be based on radio, infrared or even visible light communication. Automated ESL systems reduces time and cost for pricing management, improves pricing accuracy and allows dynamic pricing. Dynamic or demand pricing is the concept in which retailers can fluctuate pricing to match demand, online competition, stock levels, shelf life of items and to create promotions.
Maintaining correct stock levels is essential to the retail industry. Too much stock leads to overstocks and not enough stock leads to items being out of stock. Retailers can depend on technology to manage the stock management process and alert store staff when certain items are low in stock and it is time to restock. Despite the sophistication of software, it is still an imperfect process and there will always be the capacity for human error, by understanding the full capabilities of technology already available retailers can help reduce these inaccuracies.
Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) are gaining popularity as a means of displaying and managing product pricing and information. One of the many added benefits of ESLs is the ability for shop managers and staff to use the technology behind them to help manage and control stock levels. Below are six ways retailers can utilise ESLs to manage stock in store.
1. Identifying Stock Information for Customers
Initially the in-store shopper may just see an ESL as a fancy price label. ESLs hold useful information for the customer, including showing current stock levels without the shopper needing to find a shop assistant. When an item is out of stock, the label can display when the next expected delivery date. Also ESLs may display quick response (QR) codes, this allows shoppers to easily find the product online to order now or make them aware of availability at other nearby shops.
2. Showing Stock Details to Retailers
For retailers and shop assistants, the small colourful digital labels contain additional essential information that may not mean anything to the shopper. Showing current stock levels, both in store and in the backroom or warehouse, the labels may contain codes to alert shop assistants about promotions to sell a specific product, add on items or suggested selling and cross selling strategies. ESLs can also identify alternate locations in store of a product to avoid a lost sale if there is no product on the shelf.
3. Establishing Correct Stock Levels
Adopting an ESL solution, retailers are able to react immediately to relevant stock levels and place slower moving products on sale earlier, increase the amount and specific timing of price changes, while controlling stock levels for high demand, rapidly moving products within the same department. ESL can also indicate when to run promotions on seasonal items, which decreases losses from reduced prices or when to sell products about to expire before they pass their sell by date which cuts losses from perishables.
4. Helping the Assistant at the Shelf Edge
With ESL retailers can show stock information directly on the displays to help shop assistants while dealing with a customer. For example, in a shoe department, shoe size information and availability can be displayed on the ESL at the shelf edge, allowing a shop assistant to see if a certain size is available in the back room without having to leave the customer's side. If the size is unavailable the shop assistant can easily help the shopper find out if that product is available online or in another store close by.
5. Highlighting Stock Levels
The data and colour coding available on ESLs can highlight and draw attention to stock that needs to be updated, changed location, removed or replaced. This function can reduce the time spent finding stock allowing shop assistants to focus on selling products and the requirements of shoppers and reducing labour costs associated with manually checking stock.
6. Dealing with Products Out of Stock Before They Happen
The majority of products out of stock happen at the store level, not at the stock management level. This may transpire from a fairly simple mistake, for instance staff not responding quickly enough to decreasing stock levels on shelves. By linking point of sale (POS) data and stock management tools, ESLs can alert staff when stock is running low or needs to be replenished before it becomes a problem. This eliminates the need to constantly monitor or presume, freeing up staff time to focus on selling products and delivering customer service.
ESL technology is one way retailers can help reduce the costs associated with poor stock management. In addition to stock management and pricing display management, there are other numerous uses currently available through ESL technology and others soon to be identified. Because the technology behind ESLs has the ability to accept multiple data streams and present that data at the shelf edge in a meaningful and dynamic way in real time, the possibilities are infinite.
Accurate stock management implemented with ESL technology can be an extensive cost and time saver for both retailers and their shoppers.