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Mobile retailers take ESL lead

Wednesday December 12 2012

E-paper specialist Shaun Gray examines how cutting-edge electronic shelf labelling (ESL) technology is enhancing the look of new stores, as well as simplifying pricing and labelling

E-paper specialist Shaun Gray examines how cutting-edge electronic shelf labelling (ESL) technology is enhancing the look of new stores, as well as simplifying pricing and labelling


The mobile phone industry stands out as a leader in innovation. Fuelled on by the ongoing demands for the latest smartphones, technological investment continues to grow rapidly and keeps operators fiercely competitive.


The moment a new version of a phone is launched customers seem only too willing to pop into their nearest shop to upgrade their handset. In this industry new is always better, so businesses need to make their shops as appealing as possible to attract their customers away from their rivals.


Taking instore experience a step further


Shaun Gray, chief executive of ESL maker ZBD, told Retail Technology that, in Europe, mobile retailers have taken the consumer experience one step further by not only sourcing the best phones on the market but also showcasing them in an environment that looks as cutting edge as the products they sell.


T Mobile, the second largest mobile operator in Austria, is one of the first operators to invest in epaper systems to give their shops a modern look. Commenting on the decision to use the technology, Ma Klaus Slamanig, T-Mobile Austria vice president of shops, said: “We sell the most advanced technologies and we want to use them as well.”


Gray said ZBD’s epop 500 price labels have been integrated into T-Mobile Austria’s complete store concept, with each display embedded into the store fixtures. “The sleek price labels are impressive to customers who appreciate they can include a lot more visual information apart from the price, such as make of the phone and its bandwidth and weight,” he explained. “The fact that e-paper makes mobile shops look brilliant is a definite perk, but it doesn’t draw away from its real purpose, which is to enhance the multichannel offering of businesses. Within seconds a wireless system can transfer all of T-Mobile’s latest product and pricing data to all the stores in the country with just a click of a mouse.”


Since using digital price labels, T Mobile has saved about 40% on material costs and employee hours. Previously staff members had to come into work 30 minutes early or cut paper price tags during their break. Now they don’t have to worry about price updates and can spend more time with customers.


Staying at the forefront of innovation


Orange Slovakia, the largest mobile phone company in Slovakia, is also using e-paper systems in its retail stores. “Its strong ‘early adopter’ ethos has ensured that the company is at the forefront of technology innovation and always looking for ways in which to differentiate itself from the competition,” explained Gray. Adopting e-paper digital displays also forms part of the company’s nationwide store renewal programme.


Before implementing e-paper Orange Slovakia was using paper tags before that were time consuming, inflexible and a drain on resources. They also made it difficult to develop creative and timely promotions because of the time and money lost in updating printing and replacing paper labels. “From a visual perspective, paper tags made the store look cluttered and old-fashioned – not a look that a visionary company like Orange wanted to convey to its customers,” he added.


“With 900 e-paper displays across four stores, Orange can enjoy the benefits of a true multichannel experience. They are able to update pricing and promotion instantly and introduce promotions quickly. They can also respond to competitor activity in real-time by updating pricing or displaying competitor pricing. From an aesthetic point of view, epaper makes Orange shops look modern and hip. They are also easy to read and contain the right information so customers know what they are paying when they go to the till.”


Delivering seamless multichannel experience


Gray continued: “E-paper is all about delivering a seamless, consistent experience to customers, whether they are online shopping or browsing in a megastore. It gives retailers peace of mind and more time to focus on their growth strategy. It’s also easy to use. Wireless technology enables new e-paper systems to be up running within 24 hours, without the need for extra cabling or networks. Installation is easy too and takes between two hours and one day per shop installation, depending on the size.


“Some UK companies like Kiddicare are moving towards an e-paper environment and are undoubtedly enjoying the immediate benefits that come with that strategy. Let’s hope that more British companies will follow their lead in 2013 and finally get rid of an old fashioned process that is completely incompatible with the latest multichannel innovations,” he concluded.