Digital shelf edge innovation in retail

Jack McKenzie

Jack McKenzie

Last Yard

Since making this blog post, SignIQ has changed its name to Last Yard.


Recently showcased by the partnership between US retailer Kroger and Microsoft, digital shelf edge imagery is now a reality. The digital shelf edge label (DSEL) is currently being trialled in two of Kroger’s stores: one in Ohio and the other in Washington. A digital shelf edge allows retailers to change the design, message or price displayed on the shelf edge in a matter of minutes. Essentially, the shelf edge has become a small computer screen, where content can be altered as and when required. As well as static content, a digital shelf edge can also support video content and be programmed to provide interactive content. With enormous potential, the digital shelf edge could be the next big thing to impact the shopper experience. We take a look at what this technology could offer retailers, as well as the changes it could bring to the customer experience.


Bringing retail marketing in line with online marketing

The ability to dynamically alter prices is one of the largest advantages of the digital shelf edge. Currently, prices are often set centrally and may only change once every few days. This means there is a time lag between purchasing behaviour and prices changes. Whereas e-commerce has the facility to allow pricing to be repeatedly tweaked (sometimes several times a day) in order to obtain optimal profit, until DSEL, the same responsiveness hasn’t been available in the real-life environment. Electronic shelf edge options change this relationship, enabling stores to alter prices with just a few clicks of the mouse, or programme automatic adjustment using sophisticated software. This advantage alone has the potential to revolutionise profit margins.


Retail merchandising at the point of sale

An electronic shelf label (ESL) is what the customer sees when they are at the point of decision making. It represents an opportunity to influence purchasing “at the coalface”, allowing content to be put in place that could make all the difference to a sale. Whether you want customers to opt for one brand in preference to another, wish to encourage greater sales or would like customers to be aware of information relating to a particular product, digital shelf edge technology allows you to do this, quickly and easily.

Personalise the shopper experience

Until digital shelf edge technology came on stream, stores have lacked the infrastructure to successfully customise the retail experience to individual shoppers. A DSEL can give customers everything from a personalised route around the store to get the items on their list, through to tailored offers and electronic money-off coupons. Not only will this sort of approach almost certainly boost brand loyalty it can also be used to up-sell, facilitate brand allegiance or encourage shoppers to buy more.

Ditch the paper

Not only are green business practices more ethical they are also potentially more cost-effective and a popular choice with customers who value our planet. Electronic shelf edge labelling removes the need for paper labels, coupons, promotional literature and product information in a paper format. Not only does a reduction in paper use save trees, it’s also cheaper to use an electrical system in the longer term and reduces waste disposal costs.

A more attractive display

Besides the clear commercial advantages of opting for a digital shelf edge, the reality is that they almost invariably look more appealing than a paper alternative. Over time, paper labels can become creased or ripped, to the detriment of in store displays. In comparison, a digital shelf edge stays fresh and inviting almost indefinitely. It also saves labour costs: there is no need to manually replace price tickets or set up fresh displays as the seasons change or fresh products come on stream – simply re-programme the shelf edge and a new look is created.

Enhance synchronicity between portals

A seamless sales experience is always preferable: digital shelf edge technology bridges the disconnect between the digital world (for example online ordering, advertising or the use of a virtual shopping basket) and real life. With appropriate programming, it’s possible for customers to find the information they’ve left online in a suitable format in store. Whether this relates to their shop, their preferences, their special offers or a loyalty scheme, digital shelf edge has the potential to ensure an immersive, fully synchronised shopping trip.

Although the digital shelf edge is still in its infancy, the technology is already there, ready to be utilised. With some major retailers already taking an interest in this concept, it won’t be too long before the electronic shelf edge is the new reality of in store shopper conversion.


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