- Electronic shelf labels (ESLs) have caught on among grocery retailers in other parts of the world, but besides a few pilot programs, U.S. grocers have not yet widely employed the technology, according to Progressive Grocer.
- ESLs are digital tags that can display pricing and other information and hang on shelves in front of packaged products located in center store aisles.
- While ESLs are a consumer-facing technology, they benefit retailers as well. Stores can save time by using automatic price updates that appear on the digital tag rather than relying on employees to swap out paper tags every time the retailer changes a product's price.
Considering how often grocers change the prices of their products, ESLs could perform a major service. But ESLs further benefit retailers by enabling them to position themselves as more modern, tech-savvy brands, which appeals to many consumers today. ESLs can boost retailers' sustainability initiatives by saving on the paper regularly needed for price changes. The digital tags can also reduce food waste by informing retailers when products are nearing the end of their shelf life and need to be discounted or taken down.
Consumers also benefit from the more accurate, reliable pricing that ESLs can provide. Retailers can easily make changes as needed in real time for sales or other discounts, and they can display when an item is out of stock so a consumer doesn't waste time looking for it deeper on the shelf. If ESLs are properly integrated with a retailer's checkout software, it could negate manual price checks by employees because the information should be synced between both places.
The vast majority of U.S. grocers have yet to embrace ESLs largely because of the investment to install the necessary hardware and software needed to outfit store aisles with "smart shelves."
However, that could soon change with more major retailers jumping onboard this trend. Whole Foods has long used Powershelf ESL technology, and Kroger has started testing the technology in one of its stores.