John Lewis (UK) pilots electronic shelf labels

23 Apr 2013 3:30 PM - Competing online requires a re-think of price delivery in store

John Lewis in the UK is piloting electronic shelf labels as part of its strategy to deliver an omni channel experience whilst competing with prices online.

This week the UK department store John Lewis announced that it’s online store has delivered the equivalent of $1.5 billion in sales over the past 52 weeks. This is quite an achievement. John Lewis has become one of the retailers to watch.

I think their success stems for three important factors.  Firstly, of course they have a very trusted brand, known for quality. Secondly, they have executed the strategy well and structured the portfolio to avoid cannibalization. Thirdly, they have had one of the longest running consistently delivered price promises of any retailer in the country (if not the world). Their promise to shoppers is “Never knowingly Undersold”. Price reassurance has always been an important part of any retailer’s strategy and it has served them well for decades, but it’s when this well established promise is rehearsed in the online world that it really sets them apart.

The big challenge looming for retailers who play online and offline is quickly becoming about the consistency of the delivery of the offer instore and online. Especially when it comes to price. An increasing number of shoppers are checking prices before they buy in a store using their mobile.  So, whilst it’s vital to be nimble online to compete, it’s the ability to tie the online price with the store price which is becoming the rate limiting step in the evolution of omni channel.

It’s no wonder that John Lewis are actively piloting the British company, ZBD’s electronic shelf labels as a way to compete. With Electronic shelf labels prices can be changed in store almost instantly and kept in line with the prices online. So if you need to react quickly, you can.

Sensitivity to prices is even higher in Australia than the UK, and the requirement to compete effectively online will be the determinant of success or failure for the majority of our retailers here.

I noticed today that one of Australia’s leading department store retailers was more that $350 out of line on pricing on a TV compared with one of their main competitors. This was made worse by the fact that it was a flagship product and one of only 4 TV's on sale.  But with the current manual process for changing prices in store it’s difficult to respond quickly enough and for those shoppers who see such a price disparity the trust in the retailer’s value is shattered.


Joe Blundell is a Director of Mirador, a leading company in technology solutions for retailers in Australia



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