Innovation at the edge of the shelf

Müller has created a game changer in an area that has been in desperate need of innovation for years, according to Carol Hand, category manager in the yogurt and dessert division at the dairy giant.

It refers to a state-of-the-art Müller digital marketing display that went live in Asda stores across the UK at the end of November 2020.

Screens displaying marketing content stretch above the upper shelves along the aisles of 35 Asda stores in England, Scotland and Wales, creating what Hand describes as a “shocking” display that was almost a year in planning.

“Our execution of digital devices gives us the ability to constantly update content while linking to our marketing campaigns above the line,” he says.

“It’s eye-catching, it grabs attention, and it will inspire shoppers to explore what the entire category has to offer. When Müller grows, so does the category, so we are confident that this innovative partnership will boost the overall value of the category. “

While traditional non-digital carton brand advertising displays in stores are profitable, “it’s increasingly difficult to stand out from the crowd,” according to Hand. This new approach, which has been adopted by several other brands in association with Asda, such as French fry maker Walkers, is seen as the way to go in the right places.

Müller’s rollout is a brand awareness game about the yogurt aisle showing the latest Müller Corner TV ad. This content will be regularly updated to also include top brands such as Müllerlight and Müller Rice.

Müller promotes its products on digital screens on Asda store shelves

Additionally, Asda’s Wakefield store has larger displays with changing images that currently highlight the variety of Müller Corner options available. Audio-visual technology, supplied by a number of companies including Shropshire-based Skratch, gives brands the opportunity to be more specific in their marketing, and Müller said it will monitor the performance of new-style ads and adjust them throughout. of 2021.

However, the introduction of a more digital approach does not represent the end of cardboard POS marketing. Müller launched a one-year static point-of-sale (POS) aisle acquisition at 233 Asda stores in October.

Digitization brings benefits

Increasing digitization could bring several benefits to retailers and brands.

Bryan Roberts, Retail Consultant and Analyst and Founder of Shopfloor Insights, says: “Cardboard signage is just wallpaper from the buyer’s perspective. Buyer marketers get very excited about cardboard on floor displays or wobblers, [but] I think it is not practical from a replenishment point of view. Digital displays are more effective, eye-catching and dynamic, and from a retailer’s perspective, it’s centrally controlled, doesn’t require a specialist to replace things, and is more scalable because it’s largely or fully vendor funded. “

There have been many examples of technological innovation in stores in the UK food sector this year. The supermarket sector in general has also been experimenting with the digitization of loyalty schemes and the introduction of “scan and buy” services, the use of which has increased during the coronavirus pandemic.

For example, Marks & Spencer recently announced that it was arming staff at 200 stores with Honeywell devices, allowing them to receive payments in the shopper queue with a small number of items.

In October, Asda installed 23,000 electronic price tags at its Stevenage store as part of a broader exploration of cutting-edge innovation. He also plans to test QR codes that can display allergen information or LEDs that flash when a home shopping collector enters a hallway to help him locate items quickly.

Asda’s RollBack strategy can be replicated using labels, and the company says that displays “made of electronic paper” can be changed centrally using cloud technology. Such functionality means that entire areas of the store can receive price changes in minutes, reducing staff workload and maintaining price consistency.

Electronic Shelf Edge Label (eSEL) provider SES-imagotag integrates its technology with the store’s Wi-Fi network, which means no additional technology infrastructure is required on the Stevenage site to incorporate the new labels. of prices. Panasonic also collaborated on the project, supporting Asda in defining the requirements, managing the installation and selecting the hardware used.

James Sands, Innovation Project Manager at Asda, says: “As one of the biggest tests of this technology in the store, we want to understand how it interacts with our existing systems and where we can improve our processes in the store. through the additional functionality offered by eSELs. “

Benefits versus cost

The use of eSEL is common in continental Europe, which in part is a reflection of punitive regulations on incorrect prices. Retailers face penalties if they fail to provide transparent, accurate and consistent pricing information.

But in UK retail, its use has been piecemeal. Tesco and Sainsbury’s are among those who have tried it, along with electrical product retailer Dixons Carphone and convenience chains Spar and Nisa.

Kiddicare, the now-disbanded baby and children’s goods brand, used eSEL in all of its stores when Morrisons owned and operated the business.

In UK retail today these are small success stories amid broader resistance to making what is a significant investment in technology.

Earlier this year, a Kent-based franchise of the Costcutter convenience chain integrated eSELs with its central price management system. It says that the technology implemented by Panasonic has provided an 80% time saving on label updates.

“Without the huge stick looming over you about wrong prices, the carrot is greater efficiency and the ability to react to competitors with the click of a switch. Until the price of eSELs and the back-office kit drops significantly, it may not be an easy choice. “

Bryan Roberts, Shopfloor Insights

Costcutter sends a price update to their stores each week, which typically results in 30-100 price changes for this particular Culverstone Green store. This process generally took a staff member a full morning to update the paper labels. On top of that, promotions are launched every three weeks, increasing the price change workload.

With centralized control from your in-store computer, Costcutter Culverstone Green can now complete this process much faster. An added benefit, says the store’s owner, Peter Juty, is that staff feel more secure working through the boxes because they are less concerned about discrepancies between the factory price and the box price.

“Now they can spend more time on customer needs,” he adds. “Visual promotions have also influenced an increase in product purchases.”

On Valentine’s Day, for example, electronic tags can display a photo of a love heart and a simple message to mark the product as an ideal gift. “This was tested in another store and the result was an increase in turnover of up to 100% on these products,” says Juty.

“Electronic shelf labels will give us a lot of flexibility and potential to market products throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing how this will affect our sales,” he adds.

Roy Horgan, Managing Director of SES-imagotag UK and Ireland, adds: “With hundreds of stores now installed in the UK and Ireland, the time for electronic pricing and the IoT [internet of things] for retail is finally coming. “

For Roberts of Shopfloor Insights, while the benefits of eSELs are obvious, there is still no incentive for wider implementation anytime soon.

“Without the huge stick hanging over you over the wrong prices, the carrot is greater efficiency and the ability to react to competitors with the click of a switch,” he says. “Until the price of eSELs and the back-office kit drops significantly, it may not be such an easy choice.”

Despite 2020 being a particularly challenging year for UK retail, the introduction of new technology continues, often in a test-and-learn capacity.

“During the first half of 2020, supermarkets focused on availability and store operation,” says Roberts. “But if we look to 2021, there could be a return to experimentation and exploration with in-store marketing and in-store efficiency.”

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