Retailers shun digital luxuries for pragmatic efficiencies

26 Jul, 2017
Hendrik Bredenkamp, MD of XON Retail

Digital disruption is everywhere and now retailers have their own spin on it, bringing it to consumer living rooms, cars, offices, the doctor’s waiting room and anywhere else we have idle moments. But is it really that pervasive, asks HENDRIK BREDENKAMP, MD of XON Retail, exclusive African distributor of Pricer electronic shelf labels?

Shopping. People love it. We build meccas to worship at the feet of retail gods every day of the week. Particularly in South Africa, new shopping malls seem to explode from the earth like the giant offspring of magical commerce beans, every new steel and concrete retail tower seeming to lay claim to the title of biggest in Africa, the Southern Hemisphere, the country – it can never be too advanced.

Retail competition is subsequently fearsome. And sophisticated. Retailers long ago embraced technology to leverage efficient supply chains, power consumer psychologies, and map store layouts against advanced big data analyses.

From the very first product catalogue, printed and shipped in 1872, to the emergence of standardised chain stores in the early 1900s, planograms in the 1970s, and e-commerce in the mid-‘90s, retail has chased technology in search of fresh revenues and firmer customer loyalties.

And now electronic shelf labels once more change the entire shopping experience. They’re harnessing existing technologies for smart shopping that improves peoples’ lives.

The smarter labels, unlike the simpler ones, don’t just get a price beamed to them from a server. They can reply. It’s been an advantageous reciprocation to retailers in many ways, such as ensuring that prices beamed to the labels are in fact correct through a check and balance process. Managers using a special remote control can also find out how fast specific products have been selling, at the push of a button, how much stock is in the back room or the central warehouse, what orders have been placed for more – anywhere up to 32 different pieces of information – because of that reciprocal relationship.

But that ability to receive – and send – information gives retailers new options. Information is sent to and received from shelf labels by electronic eyes mounted on ceilings, distributed throughout stores. And now, with smart code and precision technology, they can triangulate the locations of individual labels attached to shelves.

Pushed into an app with additional features such as entire product catalogues, barcode information, product nutritional information, and recipes, puts powerful tools in the hands of consumers. They can create shopping lists through in-app search bars, by scanning product barcodes in their homes, offices, or anywhere else, through saved shopping histories, saved lists, and even online searches. And the app will lead them along the most efficient route to collect their products from shelves once they arrive in-store in much the same way a GPS does. Products on promotion can be pushed to the app as shoppers pass nearby since the system can detect their location from the app. A “Find My Product” feature will display the exact location of any product on an in-app map of the shop floor and lead shoppers directly there.

So why aren’t local retailers adopting it?

Times are lean. Retailers feel the effects of the poorly stimulated economy amidst a global economic crunch. New digital systems can be complex to deploy which adds costs, albeit low, to retail’s operational overheads. That’s a big no-no as consumers rail against rising basket costs.

Retailers do what they can by getting back to basics. And that means nice-to-haves don’t get a foot in the door. And it’s why retailers are keen on refurbished electronic labels. They’re older labels replaced in stores overseas by newer, more advanced – but more expensive – labels. The old ones are pushed through certified facilities here in South Africa, cleaned, the batteries replaced, quality controlled, and repackaged then re-sold with full warranties – at much better prices. And the new batteries are good for another five years.

It gives embattled retailers the ability to ensure they always offer customers the products they need, at the right prices, and don’t lose the opportunity to eke out their small profit.

Recent Post

Africa’s top MNOs and SPs gather for 5G and ORAN conference

Select South African mobile network operators (MNO) and Internet and telecommunications service providers (SP) will on 7 July explore a rapidly growing movement to break the shackles of vendor lock-in using OpenRAN (ORAN) solutions as they transition to 5G. NEC XON is...

Digital price tags a massive hit with Kalahari SPAR and TOPS

Kalahari SPAR and TOPS in Upington has been using digital price tags from NEC XON Retail since November 2021 to eliminate price discrepancies, manage prices, stock, inventories, and improve customer experiences. “I don’t know why I waited so long to do it,” says...

SABEN boosts TVET college connectivity on FortiGate from NEC XON

South African Broadband Education Networks (SABEN) has increased bandwidth for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, many up from 10Mbps, to 200Mbps using FortiGate devices from NEC XON. SABEN has connected and upgraded 256 of a targeted 283...

NEC XON and Mimecast partner for SADC’s best email security

NEC XON has partnered with Mimecast Limited to complete its turnkey cybersecurity offering to South African organisations with secure email platform, integration, and managed cybersecurity services. Mimecast is recognised by analysts and customers as one of the...