The Retail Shelf: The Industry’s Last Hold Out for a Technology Disruption

There is no doubt that the digital age has disrupted the traditional brick and mortar retail experience with customers equipped with massive amounts of information right at their fingertips via smartphones. Armed with this information, they are taking the time to be choosy, making purchases based on not only price, but also service, brand and the store environment. Retailers need to work hard to meet these expectations and they’ve started to do so with tablets and mobile POS devices, interactive kiosks and other technologies that offer that omni-channel experience customers demand.

However, the traditional shelf has seen little change over the years. It’s rather shocking considering 68 percent of all purchases are unplanned and 70 percent of brand choices are made at the shelf. Numbers like these make investments in shelving technologies more essential than ever with the potential benefits to the retail establishment, consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies and the customer.

Below are some of the technologies that intersect at the shelf that retailers should consider:

Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs): Ensuring accurate pricing and enabling retailers to remotely change pricing on any SKU in the store in minutes, ESLs save retailers time and money that come with paper label maintenance. Retailers should also be on the lookout for battery-free ESLs that can create significant cost reductions and an attractive carbon footprint friendly solution for retailers focused on environmental sustainability.

Out-of-Stock Sensors: The primary goal of retailers should be to prevent shoppers from leaving the store due to out of stocks. Walk aways can result in an annual reduction of 4 percent in sales, making real-time updates on out-of-stock items essential. Sensors can immediately detect out-of-stocks and notify store personnel to remedy the situation via text or email maximizing on shelf availability sales while maintaining customer satisfaction.

Beacon Advertising: Beacon technology utilizes low-energy Bluetooth communication with a smartphone to help increase the connection between retailers and their consumers, improving the shopping experience. The proximity-based communication and at-shelf advertising allows retailers to offer their own shopping network ensuring customers only receive information and discounts relevant to them.  Customers who have opted into retailer loyalty or CRM apps receive coupons, offers and content that can convert browsing into buying.

Ease of Installation: Retailers should seek out a shelving solution that can be easily installed on top of existing shelves, reducing the need for costly overhauls and the resulting customer disruptions.

Retailers have already begun to make investments in beacon technology and electronic shelf labels and with the revenue opportunities offered by them, this will only continue to increase. We recommend an integrated intelligent shelving solution combining battery-free, wirelessly powered ESLs, beacon activated mobile advertising capability, inventory/price management software and out-of-stock sensor technology that can not only improve the customer experience but also boost sales.

To learn more about Panasonic’s Powershelf solution, check out the below product demo from NRF this past January.