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10 Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) Questions Retailers Should Ask

ESL: Benefits to retailers
It's not hard to understand why retailers are attracted to the idea of an ESL. A rising volume of price changes meansretailers need a ticketing strategy just to keep pace. When a large network or franchise is involved, the ESL provides an ideal way for marketing departments to ensure the right prices are being displayed in the right place and at the right time. But retailers also see pricing strategies as a way to gain competitive advantage. 
 
Mike Di Michele, National Sales Manager at Black Label Solutions explains that ESL is not a trend but the future of retailing.
 
"Retailers are becoming sophisticated in the way they're conducting pricing and it usually relates to an increase in pricing changes," says Mr. Di Michele.
 
"Large organisations have become very aggressive in their pricing strategies for any number of reasons including time-of-day pricing for competitive price matching. It's very difficult and costly to make daily price changes across a wide organisation without ESL," he continues.
 
"But we're also beginning to see small and medium retail organisations explore pricing optimisation."
 
"There's no way a retail organisation can model data in real time without an ESL solution."

ESL purchasing considerations

Introducing more technology into a tech heavy retail environment comes with risk. Obviously, you'll want to ensure the company stability of an ESL service provider. Beyond that, it can be difficult to identify the key issues if you're relying on websites or marketing collateral to help in your decision-making process. Make sure you consider these vital questions when selecting an ESL solution.

Does your current ticketing system support ESL?

A strategic ticketing solution shouldn't be limited to where it can provide pricing or promotional information. Ideally, you want to look for a solution that capitalises on the investment in ticketing you've already made. Moving to ESL displays could also be an ideal time to evaluate your current ticketing strategy and adopt a strategic system to replace legacy or homegrown systems. (Watch our Moment of Truth video for an accurate representation of what many retailers experience with homegrown systems.)

Will you be required to buy an additional ticketing system to support your ESL?

Most retailers will use a mix of ESL and printed store promotions and tickets. Printed tickets can complement an ESL installation by creating a different visual for the shopper. However, the productivity gains realised with an ESL can quickly become eroded if two separate ticketing systems have to be supported and maintained. Even when retailers cut over to 100% ESL, they'll still want the ability to print tickets in the unlikely event of a failure.

Does the ESL send acknowledgements of price changes?

To ensure pricing integrity, the ESL device installed in your store must be able to receive and send data. Your head office will want to know if the price changes sent to the ESL is received and published on the device. Without a 2-way capability, retailers leave themselves exposed to pricing integrity issues and, in the worst case, compliance problems.

Can the ESL accommodate large volumes of pricing changes?

If your store network is large or you make multiple pricing changes in a short time frame, the speed of transmission for your ESL system is very important. Transmission rates for ESL are broad, ranging from 1,000 changes per hour to hundreds of thousands of changes per hour. Make sure your vendor can handle the volumes your store requires.

Can the ESL vendor supply multiple sizes of tickets including shelf edge and promotional talkers?

Ideally, a retailer will need multiple sizes of tickets throughout the store. In addition, each different ticket or promotion will need different layouts and, quite possibly, multiple layouts per size. Make sure your vendor can manage multiple templates and apply them to the ESL and printed promotions and tickets.

Can individual stores control pricing and, if so, is head office aware when it happens?

Despite marketing needing to control ticketing across a retail enterprise, store managers will always have the need to run their own promotions to effectively manage their stock and support local events. It's imperative an ESL system provides this flexibility but equally vital that it's done with full knowledge of the corporate marketing department.

What insights are provided to marketing from the ESL backend?

Is the reporting sufficient enough to inform head office about what prices have been applied to what stores? Can marketing tell immediately where stores have overridden prices or not implemented pricing changes? A truly effective ticketing strategy puts the marketing department in control of all promotions and provides insight into how the tickets are being implemented at the individual store level. Importantly, this information should be consolidated across all tickets and promotions, both ESL and printed.

Does the ESL vendor have a local presence?

While everyone has local numbers and 24-hour telephone support, is there a local team available to answer questions, give advice and provide training? Can that team help you design your templates? Are you able to request customised reports and insights into the effectiveness of your enterprise-wide ticketing activity?

Can the ESL vendor provide local case studies?

Knowing about a local implementation and having the ability to visit a store successfully using ESL is extremely useful when making your purchasing decisions. Ask your vendor to arrange a visit with a current customer or share a case study with you.

What is the roadmap for future developments?

It goes without saying technology is constantly changing. Before you invest in an ESL solution, you want to understand what the vendor has planned for the future. It doesn't hurt to ask how much investment is made in research and development and what enhancements you can expect in the months and years to come.

What this means for retailers

The retail industry is already managing highly technical and complex operating environments. Introducing more technology with ESL can provide dramatic productivity gains in making as long as it dovetails with a current ticketing solution. Adding ESL to your organisation could just as easily complicate your ticketing even further if a comprehensive ticketing strategy is not in place. Retailers are encouraged to look for solutions with a local presence and an expertise in overall ticketing strategies.
 
If you'd like to find out more about ESL and ticketing strategies, contact us. Alternatively, Mike Di Michele of Black Label Solutions would be very happy to have a conversation with you.
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