In France, Carrefour, Système U, L’Entrepôt du Bricolage, and Leroy Merlin have all moved in this direction. Retailers, from grocery giants to specialist independent brands, are faced with the need for comprehensive digital transformation, which is prompting them to rethink their point of sale to see them through this inflationary environment. Increasingly complex and smart electronic shelf labels have become a must-have. Awareness of this technology is extending beyond France, particularly to the United States where Pricer is growing rapidly, while keeping hold of its European roots. Interview with Gilles Gagnier, Deputy Director General of Pricer France, by Stéphane Pedrazzi for the program #Décryptage on BFM Business.
The Covid-19 pandemic pushed many retailers to go digital. What have been the consequences for your business?
Gilles Gagnier: For over 20 years, France has pioneered electronic shelf labels, particularly due to the strength of innovation in French large-scale retailing. It is a mature market in which France, more than ever, is well ahead. More than eight out of ten hypermarkets are fitted with electronic shelf labels, and they are using them in increasingly innovative ways. The optical wireless communication technology used by Pricer in the grocery sector has seen a strong resurgence of interest with the rise of Click and Collect over the past two years. While the electronic shelf label used to be a way to differentiate, it has become a must-have. Its key benefit is the instant flash: The flashing labels allow staff to find store products quickly and also avoid any risk of error during picking and order preparation. For many, this has been the starting point for the growth of process digitalization. I am thinking, for example, of the DIY brands that we are adding to our pool of clients.
Does this also mean that a growing number of medium-sized retailers are installing the technology?
Gilles Gagnier: In France, the market is mainly made up of large-scale grocery retailing and, in some cases, specialist large-scale retailing. This doesn’t mean that independent stores are not involved at all. On the contrary. Digitalization of point of sale also relates to these businesses, particularly in the current inflationary environment that demands frequent and costly shelf label changes. In terms of electronic shelf labels, the pharmacy market stands out. This technology allows those in this market to optimize their working hours, particularly when laboratories ask them to introduce promotions on specific products. Changing labels by hand is time-consuming. With electronic shelf labels, the change can be completed very quickly.
So these labels sit at the center of the digital revolution of point of sale...
Gilles Gagnier: Absolutely. Electronic shelf labels have become an essential means of communication for brands faced with the need for comprehensive digital transformation, a means of communication for consumers and point of sale store teams alike. The store teams can use the labels to view the inventory status for upcoming orders and identify all products and any shortages. For consumers, this technology gives them access to the correct price and the best promotions in real time, as well as more of the product information that they want, such as allergen details, Nutri-Score, repair score, etc. The electronic shelf label can also provide a geolocation service. This gives customers the ability to find the shelf location of the product they are looking for, by using an in-store terminal or scanning a QR code.
For a business like yours, is the contest for the market more in the United States or in Europe?
Gilles Gagnier: It is everywhere. While general attention continues to be focused on Asia, the United States is entering the electronic shelf label market. We must therefore conquer this new market, in which we have already gained a number of active customers, such as the American retailer Best Buy. However, to finance this conquest strategy, we are relying on our success in Europe. As a Swedish company, designing our products in Europe and Sweden is in our DNA. This allows us to build digital solutions with our clients, as closely as possible to the needs of their sites, rooted in the situation on the ground. Europe is also the home of our project to build a new production facility. Because now more than ever, Pricer sees itself as a European business.