Shelves have become more than just a surface for storing and displaying objects. Using proximity sensors, 3D cameras, microphones, RFID readers, and weight sensors, technology vendors are enabling interactions between real-world shoppers and the shelves they’re standing in front of. In the process, they’re redefining the role of the shelf in retail marketing.
So-called “smart” shelves are changing the way retailers interact with customers on the sales floor and offering added value to consumer-facing store apps. Although just 13% of U.S. retailers were using electronic shelf-labels in 2015, and 3% were using smart shelf sensors, that number is expected to rise as smart shelving technology opens the door to a type of highly personalized shopping experience that fundamentally improves the way consumers move inside physical stores.
Here are five examples of smart shelving technologies being used by retailers right now.
Pricer is an electronic shelf labeling solution that offers product positioning and device-tracking data. With Pricer’s shelf labels in place, retailers can adjust pricing from a computer, rather than changing paper price tags. Pricer also offers a way-finding solution that large retailers can use to help shoppers find specific items on store shelves. Pricer’s way-finding technology detects the physical location of shelf tags and automatically updates those locations on virtual store maps, which are used by salespeople and within consumers-facing mobile apps. Pricer is used by the electronics retail giant Best Buy.
2. Smart Shelf by AWM
Brands and retailers can use Smart Shelf by AWM to engage shoppers one-on-one. Using super-wide-angle low light HD cameras, retailers using Smart Shelf are able to view and track their products in real-time. Retailers can also take advantage of the AWM Product Mapper to identify placement drift and track optimal product positioning. The solution improves operational efficiencies by highlighting specific shelves that need product stocking and allows for real-time on-shelf marketing to consumers. When retailers connect Smart Shelf to their mobile apps, they can help shoppers locate products themselves through their smartphones and tablets. Smart Shelf by AWM clients include Pepsi, Walmart, and Albertsons.
Powershelf claims its smart retail labels (SRLs) embody the latest evolution in electronic shelf labels. Using proprietary technology, Powershelf enables two-way communication between in-store shelves and mobile applications and devices, with the intention of delivering advertising, merchandising, and pricing services. Out-of-stock sensors notify sales associates when inventory is low, while SLRs let retailers remotely change prices. With beacon-activated mobile advertising, retailers can connect with consumers’ smartphones to make sure shoppers are seeing product information and discounts at the moments they’re most likely to engage.
Although WiseShelf bills itself as an appliance that provides retailers with real-time information on the stock level of products, it actually does much more than that. Using dozens of sensors to detect light levels, WiseShelf is able to alert both store personnel and suppliers when stock levels get low. The system also analyzes the data it collects from stores to produce actionable business insights. For example, the WiseShelf system detects the location of products on shelves to help retailers avoid poor positioning. A mobile app is also available for retailers looking for real-time status information and operational analysis data.
5. Kroger Edge
Kroger Edge is a shelving system for Kroger grocery stores. As of last February, the company had deployed its shelving system at 14 store locations. It’s expected to be rolled out to almost 200 stores by the end of this year. The system itself features high-definition digital screens that update the prices of items in real-time. Screens can also display other information, like product details (for example, if an item is gluten-free or Whole 30 compliant), and highlight items that might be on sale for a limited time. Kroger’s system is capable of connecting to shoppers’ smartphones to help with in-store navigation. With Kroger’s mobile app, shoppers can also get alerts when they’re nearby items they’ve added to their shopping lists.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.