Are the costs that come with implementing digital shelf tag technology justified when weighed against the expense associated with changing current labels every time prices change? That's a question every retailer considering a move to digital tags must answer before taking the next step.
As manual tags for every item on the shelf were replaced by bar codes and computerized registers, then by simpler shelf tags, customers thought they knew what everything cost. But there were inevitable mismatches. Going "completely paperless by putting small, battery-powered digital price tags on the shelves," as author and business professor, Randall Stross, wrote in The New York Times, means "price changes can then be received wirelessly from the store's network, ensuring that the price displayed on the shelf and the one called up at the checkout counter are the same."
Addressing return on investment, Mr. Stross said that a store with 20,000 to 25,000 digital tags priced at $5 a piece could expect to achieve labor savings that pay for the investment in the new technology within two-and-a-half years. Kohl's is one U.S. chain that has made the investment, recently installing digital signs showing prices.
Frank Hayes of StorefrontBacktalk explained how British department store John Lewis' put in "hundreds of e-paper shelf tags that will display both prices and QR codes that customers can scan to get offers and product information," adding "customers won't necessarily notice that these tags are electronic. That makes them less distracting and possibly less likely to be stolen, both of which have been problems with electronic tags in the past."
Also in the U.K., although designed for rollout in Hungary, Retail Week reports Tesco's trial of electronic shelf pricing that "allows it to update prices minute-by-minute." Focusing on fresh produce, a so-called "Broccoli Cam" monitors the produce aisle to let staff know when trays are empty. A spokesman said, "Every week ... we change between five and 10 million labels and that's an awful lot of labels. The future is electronic."
How much will the use of digital shelf tags improve the shopping experience for consumers in stores?