Will Smart LCD Shelving Strips Revolutionize Retail?

Haniya Rae, Contributor

In-store shopping, especially at convenience and grocery stores, is ripe for disruption. Launching mid-last week and now on display at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show, is a smart retail signage system called ShelfPoint.

“What we found is that, in most retail stores, the applications of screens are way up high, but people shop at eye-level,” says Gordon Davidson, CEO of Cloverleaf and its new retail signage product, ShelfPoint. “There’s actually a lot of technology in retail stores: Beacons, RFID tags. But these cause shoppers to do something different than they’d normally do, which is to shop.”

Davidson’s solution was to take advantage of existing shopper behavior, namely the fact that customers read the labels on the shelves with the price of the item they’re interested in purchasing. By putting a couple of Cloverleaf ShelfPoint strips on the shelf, Davidson isn’t causing the retailer to install anything beyond its current capabilities—it’s just sliding the strips into the bracket. “We can have this whole thing up and running in an hour,” said Davidson.

Retailers would pay an initial setup cost, and data from the signage can be updated over cellular wireless broadband technology. Once the shelf is installed, customers would see the signage advertising the project, and walk toward it. At this point, Davidson said that the shelf would change content to further entice a consumer with more product-specific information. As the consumer gets within 5 feet of the sign, an optical sensor scans the consumer’s face to gauge their reaction to the product and/or the sale that’s being offered. This scan, Davidson said, would be done anonymously and would only check for consumer reaction, age, and ethnicity, but wouldn’t store identifying information.

“Retailers already charge brands for displays and endcaps,” says Jan Murley, chief strategy and marketing adviser at Cloverleaf. “What we’re doing is offering a premium surcharge on what they’re already charging. In someways, we’re offering better compliance and better results.” Essentially, brands would have access to the data and also change their campaign to reflect how consumers are responding to it.

Cloverleaf has already tested the signage through Procter & Gamble’s Beckett Ridge Innovation Center (BRIC) with two identical store setups, though one was equipped with the SelfPoint displays, the other more traditionally outfitted. The results are what you’d expect with new flashy signage at eye-level: double-digit sales uplift.

“We know that everything can’t be special, and that the signage can’t be all over the store,” said Davidson. “But, we did realize through the testing at BRIC that consumers trust the digital display more because they assume it’s current and connected to the store’s POS system.” For now, Cloverleaf’s BRIC results suggests that brands with impulse buy-potential, ie: health and beauty, snacks and drinks, cleaning products, will perform best.

Only real-world results can prove whether the BRIC testing was accurate, according to J. P. Gownder, vice president and principal analyst for Infrastructure & Operations Professionals at Forrester. “But our research suggests that system’s like this one can grab attention, increasing the number of people who consider the product,” said Gownder. “They are also effective at articulating a value proposition and possibly creating larger purchases than shoppers had planned. At the moment, it’s pretty complex to install these systems, so end caps make the most sense.” Gownder expects that retailers will slowly test the signage out in real-world situations, and carefully track results for return on investment. Still, Cloverleaf’s ShelfPoint system has a lot of potential.

“Cognitively, people are inured to the large amounts of static information around them,” Gownder said. “By adding digital, in-motion information, the sign stands out in a sea of same-ness.”