An Ultimate Guide on Electronic Shelf Label Technology

Electronic shelf label (ESL) is the new innovative and trendy technology for turning brick-and-mortar retail stores into digital enterprises. With the continuous increase and heavy competition coming from online stores, now more than ever, every retail store needs ESL to serve customers better and upscale their business.

The technology helps to clear up incorrect pricing and labeling, hence saving customers and store staff from any hassle or misunderstanding. In fact, some electronic shelf labels manufacturers produce improved ones that also show the product brand, the quantity inside the product, and many other details.

In this blog post, we will be dishing out a complete guide on electronic labels, including the types, how it works, benefits, applications, components used in the making, and the future of the technology.

What is Electronic Price Label

A Detailed Electronic Shelf Label
Source: Pinterest

An electronic price label also known as a digital price label, digital smart label, digital price tag, or electronic price tag is a digital wireless display system that shows product prices. With this, there is better pricing accuracy and a reduction in pricing management and labor costs. Usually, ESLs (the short form for Electronic Shelf Labels) are fixed at the front of retail shelves.

ESLs have an e-paper (electronic paper) display inside them that allow product information to be updated remotely and within a few seconds. What this means for retail stores is that prices on the shelves can be automatically changed to the current price remotely. With the help of a professional epaper display manufacturer, they can be connected to the store’s Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Point of Sale (POS) systems, making them able to reflect the prices of products universally.

Introduction of Electronic Shelf Label System

Electronic Shelf Labels in a store
Source: Zhsunyco

In a bid to improve retail businesses, retail sellers have moved to online operations as the new development of the internet means a lot of money doesn’t have to go to store rents and utility bills. However, there is still an undeniably large market for physical stores. For an upgrade, advanced technology like Electronic Price Labels is used to optimize business operations.

Here is the development of their introduction from the first generation to the third generation.

First Generation: LCD and Infrared Communication

Electronic shelf labels were first used to display product prices at stores and malls directly from the ERP and POS through the diffusive infrared spectrum principle to the front edge of retail LCD shelves. But LCDs need a steady source of power to feed their image display, thereby not really causing a big reduction in total costs as a lot of money goes to the power supply.

Today, the digital and wireless structure of the e-paper system is excellent in terms of enabling dynamic pricing and enhancing information accuracy. Also, the use of low light and power to display information as opposed to the traditional LCDs offers better comfort and protection to users’ eyes. This is why the second generation e-paper display tags generally replaced LCDs.

Second Generation: E-paper and Infrared or Radio Communication

The second generation replaces traditional paper labels, stickers, and LCDs with e-paper technology that’s usually connected to 2.4 GHz, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, or other proprietary radio communication technologies through routers and access points. Each pigment particle and component in the thin film of the e-paper display are electronically powered and show different colors. These particles are the major elements of the e-paper displays of battery-less RFID-enabled tags.

Using the infrared or radio communication technology connected to the back-end platform, the administrator can control the data to make batch adjustments to product prices. This is another benefit of the electronic shelf label system as it is eco-friendly and power efficient.

For improved retail operational efficiency and optimal control over product price and information adjustments, entrepreneurs are seriously investing in the application of ESL solutions in their retail fields.

Third Generation: Geo-location and Planogram

Coupled with electronic-paper price tags, geo-location and planograms function as location-based technology to improve store management and save staff from the tedious labor of finding random products. This also gives shelving staff better latitude and accuracy in replacing information pertaining to target commodities, like pricing, placements, picking merchandise from an online order, and managing the planogram from gondolas.

With the planogram, workers are able to control sales from remote locations and shoppers have access to the entire store as they can easily navigate through the shelves and find their desired products. Also, picking items one by one based on online orders will be done quickly. In fact, bulk purchases can be done cart by cart with ease.

Types of Electronic Shelf Labels

NFC Electronic Shelf Labels in food store
Source: Zhsunyco

There are several types of electronic shelf labels. They are usually categorized by their connectivity. Here are they:

NFC Electronic Shelf Label

This ESL enables customers to receive accurate, timely, and up-to-date pricing through a fast and secure transmission process while saving costs and power in the long run. The NFC electronic shelf label works by inserting an NFC reader on a mobile device, which is pointed at the label to control the display. Customers can easily make changes to the image from the app, which will quickly reflect on the label.

Also, NFC electronic shelf label uses a wireless power supply, maintaining the connection and display for a long period of time without having to recharge the battery constantly.

Electronic Shelf Label Bluetooth

Presenting updated prices becomes extremely easy with the fast linking and long-distance reaching Bluetooth ESL. The BLE ESL uses Bluetooth 5.0 to transfer images to the product label by editing and saving them on the server cloud, which effectively stores the images for reference purposes. The images are then transferred to the mobile device from the cloud through which the electronic label display is updated.

Electronic Shelf Label Wi-Fi

This electronic shelf label is similar to the Bluetooth ESL, but instead, it uses Wi-Fi for connectivity purposes and has the capacity of reaching a longer distance.

With a standard WIFI electronic shelf label, you will be offered modern information management through an original wifi network system. All that’s needed is a simple software deployment that’s docked to your information management system, which helps to realize digital display and efficient digital office in enterprises.

Electronic Shelf Label 2.4G

This is a wireless and super-efficient digital price tag used across many systems in various applications. It’s highly reliable for real-time price updates. The 2.4G ESL technology is suitable for data transmission in retail stores i.e., small-scale stores with servers and devices that are not far apart. Electronic shelf label 2.4G is also capable of withstanding interruption and can penetrate surfaces, allowing for a hassle-free transfer of data.

Electronic Shelf Label 433 MHz

The 433 MHz ESL is a wireless automated price tag system used for POS, ERP, CRM, and MCR systems in several establishments. It allows for real-time adjustment and barcode information transmission. With this, retail stores have great price control across many stores and offer customers stress-free payment options. This technology features an anti-interference and superior penetrating strength that ensure the smooth transfer of data between long distances.

How does Electronic Shelf Label Work

How does Electronic Shelf Label Work
Source: Zhsunyco

While the design and construction of electronic price tags require a level of expertise, the system is very seamless to operate. All that’s needed are:

  • Electronic shelf labels.
  • Profiles, adapters, and brackets for mounting the shelf labels.
  • ESL software that links the merchandise management system and cash register to the electronic shelf tags.
  • An access point (gateway) for transferring data from the ESL system to the shelf tags.

The ESL easily integrates into your business’s existing POS or ERP software. This is controlled via a centralized command center, allowing the management of your pricing from one point.

Benefits of Electronic Price Labels

benefits comparison of different electronic price labels
Source: Zhsunyco

Over the past years, retailers have always welcomed automation ideas to improve their business operations, hence the wide adoption of electronic shelf labels across many applications. Here are the main advantages you will enjoy from using electronic price labels.

Dynamic Pricing

In simple terms, dynamic pricing is the ability to set flexible prices and make adjustments based on the current market demand, world events, weather, trends, and many more.

Unlike traditional labeling where you would have to effect the changes manually (which is demanding by the way), electronic shelf label makes these changes within seconds from a central point. The technology eliminates the need to bend for long hours over shelves to change price tags. With this, staff will have ample time to engage in more interactive services with customers, helping them with their shopping.

Dynamic pricing keeps your business on its toes, making sure you keep up with trends and competitors’ prices, thereby ensuring that you set a reasonable price that will help your sales grow fast. Also, when there is an opportunity, you can increase the prices of commodities to maximize margins.

Reduce Pricing Error Rate

Electronic product pricing eliminates human errors that sometimes occur with traditional product labeling. The system is programmed to circulate certain prices to products and that’s just what it does. It doesn’t get affected by fatigue or confusion that could cause wrong pricing. With this, customers won’t be disappointed or confused by price differences.

After integration with the retail point of sale, electronic shelf label systems can check through the products to make sure the overall information supplied is in synchronization with the correct details, thereby contributing to the improved promotion and advertising campaigns.

Improve Omni-channel Presence

In addition to reducing employees’ store work, electronic price tags can be used to enhance the omnichannel sales experience and boost customers’ loyalty as they will be provided with the information and answers to questions running through their minds.

  • Detailed product information: The whole information needed about a product can be displayed on the electronic shelf tag, such as the manufacturing company, the number of pieces inside, the weight, the production & expiry date, etc.
  • Stock level display: The digital shelf labels can be programmed to show the product quantity remaining in the store.
  • Competitors’ prices display: This action adds more credibility to your brand as you will be showing that you offer the best price on the market.
  • Ordering with QR codes: When the products in the physical shelves are finished, customers can easily make orders from your online store.
  • Product reviews: Customers will get to know what others who have bought the products have to say – good or bad.

Reduce Operation Cost

There will be significant changes in labor and material costs when digital shelf labels are used. Traditional labeling requires the use of paper, ink, printers, and human effort. But digital price labeling requires a lesser workforce and the elimination of papers, ink, and printers. Price updates can be made to thousands of products from the ESL electronic shelf label server within seconds. This allows the resources to be invested in other parts of the business.

Environmental Sustainability

Deforestation is one of the major causes of the carbon footprint increase and paper is made from trees being cut down. As the world struggles to attain carbon neutrality, digital shelf labels are helping the movement as the use of paper is eliminated. The lesser the use of paper, the more safe the environment is to live in.

Perishability Management

Expiration dates can sometimes be difficult to notice on products, especially if the item has spent a long time on the shelf. But thanks to the ESL price tag; the date of expiration can be boldly displayed for customers and staff to see. If the product is due to expire in a few days or weeks, the store manager can place discounts on such a product, so that it will be easily sold off. For instance, the product manager can automate the display of a 50% discount on the cost of an item that’s due to expire in 48 hours.

This action shows the good intentions of the management to protect the well-being of customers and ensure they don’t use expired products. In the same vein, this action increases the goodwill of the store.

Electronic Shelf Label Solutions

Electronic shelf label solutions are applicable across many industries, including supermarkets, warehouses, offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, 3C stores, gift shops, and many more.


Electronic Shelf Labels in a Supermarket 1
Source: Zhsunyco

Electronic price tags in supermarkets are greatly beneficial to both customers and management. Customers will be able to make informed decisions since all the information they need about the items they want to buy is already available on the digital price tags. The store management, on the other hand, will need less staff in the building to attend to the customers as major questions like price and quantity are already answered by the digital price tag.


Electronic Shelf Label in the Office
Source: Zhsunyco

The electronic labels popularly serve as digital meeting room signs, calendars, and event updates in the office, thereby alerting the staff of meetings and conference room scheduling. This helps in creating an all-around intelligent management of the office premises, as well as exhibiting a professional corporate image to clients.


Electronic tags used in hospital

Electronic price tags used in hospitals can reduce the work pressure on medical staff. They no longer need to use pen and paper to record the patient’s condition every time. The digital labels can update the patient’s condition in real-time, such as name, age, and the main doctor in charge. Adjustments are made on the device, and all information can be updated synchronously. Electronic labels play an important part in digital signage in healthcare.

Grocery Store

Electronic Shelf Label in a Grocery Store
Source: iStock

The grocery store enjoys the benefits of digital shelf labels not only in pricing, but also in brand promotion and directing customers. While the digital shelf labels display the cost of goods, they can also be customized to have the grocery store logo and the floor area (if there are multiple floors in the building) for customers to find their way around easily.


Electronic Shelf Label in the Pharmacy
Source: Pinterest

While drugs are properly assembled in categories based on the solution they provide, the ESL goes further to name the price and other information like the illness they cure, the number of tablets, and many more. The pharmacist will then provide additional information to be sure you picked the right medicine for your need.

3C Store

Electronic Shelf Label in 3C Store
Source: Zhsunyco

Before customers choose any product to buy in the 3C store, they usually require solid information, which the ESL price tag can provide. Computers, communications, and consumer electronics are often expensive, which is why customers demand that their final choice tick all the boxes under consideration, most especially functionality and durability.


Electronic Shelf Label in the Warehouse
Source: Zhsunyco

The electronic shelf label solves the major challenge that often occurs in the warehouse, which is stock control. The integration of the ESL with the ERP system ensures that real-time synchronization is made with incoming and outgoing items, thereby ensuring that the books are balanced at the end of the day. Lost, blurry, and wrong pricing labels will be eliminated as the ESL displays placed on each product will be vivid and correct. 

Gift Shop

Source: iStock

Choosing gifts to buy for people can be demanding sometimes. But thanks to ESL displays, asides from the price, the brand, performance, and best application of gifts will be displayed to guide you while choosing.

Components and Accessories of Electronic Price Tags

A typical electronic shelf label uses ultra-low-power CPU and wireless communication to counter low cost and low power because of the large number of label tags needed in a retail store. The ESL comprises three major components to function.

  • Label Management Software: This is a centralized software saddled with the function of building and maintaining a network for data communication between the label management software and the terminal display. This part is responsible for the configuration of the system, properties on the label itself, and database update to change the list of prices.
  • Communication Station: This component’s function is to ensure stability and reliability of information transmittance from the label management software to the label regardless of how far the distance is.
  • Terminal Display: This part is responsible for receiving information from the communication station to display the price configured by the label management software.

The label management software functions by processing and packing the product data and prices into packets of information. The information is then sent to the communication station through a wireless network, which is afterward forwarded to the terminal display to update the price labels.

The communication network is the major accessory and what really makes ESL a great solution. It ensures that the price display is automatically updated whenever the price of a product is changed. Also, it must support the desired distance, speed, battery life, and dependability. The preferred choice of wireless communication can be radio, infrared, or visible light. But currently, radio communication networks are popularly used for ESL solutions.

Design Considerations of ESL

Two major design parts are to be considered. They are hardware and software designs.

Hardware Design

plastic clip to fix electronic lables
Source: Zhsunyco

The hardware design of the electronic shelf label is majorly made up of the communication station circuit design and the terminal display label. The interaction between the communication station and the terminal display label is managed by a radio-frequency module. For the terminal displays to function, electronic ink, electronic paper, and liquid crystal display can be used.

Software Design

ESL shelf label software design is majorly compartmentalized in three modules. They are application, communication, and display modules. The software design covers the network, transfer of data, and file systems while the display module receives the transmission from the application module.

  • Application module: It’s made up of the database and controls product and user information to effectively manage the terminal display labels.
  • Communication module: It’s made up of the network and communication links needed for the label management software to transfer information to the terminal display.
  • Display module: It contains the display of the electronic label that is used with either electronic ink, electronic paper, or liquid crystal display to show the information entered via the label management software.

Future of Electronic Shelf Labels

E -ink price tag applications can be envisioned across many sectors, including automotive, healthcare, consumer products, educational institutions, as well as private and public institutions. This technology is indispensable because quick information sharing has become one of the most fundamental and vital aspects of life.

For instance, it improves communication between health specialists, patients, and patient families, allowing hospitals to save more lives. Additionally, traffic will benefit from more accurate transportation plans that include precise dispatches and meticulous mass transit planning.

E-commerce is greatly challenged by the opportunities provided by digital price labels. By integrating ESL into retail store POS and online platform systems, retailers can effectively manage businesses centrally through the back-end platform. The same price strategy can be implemented for all channels, allowing quick and intelligent responses to competitors’ pricing mechanisms.

Customers love to be provided with detailed information to make informed decisions. ESL price tag provides basic information shoppers need. Also, its emphasis on green development and environmental sustainability is a highlight that everyone wants to promote.

These improvements provided by E-ink price tag are merely some of the many available presently. And more developments are currently in work.

Why You Should Choose Zhsunyco for Your Digital Price Tags Supply


Zhsunyco is a reliable electronic shelf label supplier with over 5 years of experience in offering all-round ESL solutions for effective price labeling to various establishments. We specialize in manufacturing and supplying electronic shelf labels, e-ink displays, and LCD displays that can be customized to promote your business. To get the best ESL and improve your business management for more profit, you can contact us. We have a lot of custom and after-sale services ready for you.

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