The Ultimate Guide to Choosing the Right Electronic Shelf Label System

Electronic Shelf Labels (ESL) are modern tools that help stores display product prices and information right on the shelf. Surprisingly, “80% of brands employing digital signage record an increase in sales, up to 33%.” However, many businesses struggle to choose the right ESL system because there are many options and features to consider. 

This guide will explain ESLs, highlight businesses’ main challenges when selecting them, and introduce critical factors to consider. And we’ll also explore how ComQi’s solutions can meet these challenges and improve your business operations.

Key Takeaways

  • Vibrant Displays: Choose ESLs with vibrant displays that update pricing accurately and engage customers with features like QR codes and dynamic promotions.
  • Strategic Alignment: Select ESLs that align with your inventory management and customer service goals to support dynamic pricing and efficient operations.
  • Seamless Integration: Opt for ESLs that integrate seamlessly with your existing systems to simplify updates across platforms and enhance consistency in customer interactions.
  • Systematic Implementation: Implement ESLs systematically with focused staff training and phased rollouts to ensure smooth adoption and minimal operational disruption.

Deciphering ESL Technology

ESLs are digital displays that replace traditional paper price tags on retail shelves. Each ESL is linked to the store’s pricing database through a wireless connection, allowing prices and product information to be updated instantly and remotely. This feature ensures that the displayed data is always current and accurate, which is crucial for managing sales and inventory effectively.

Over the years, ESL technology has evolved significantly. Initially, these labels were simple digital tags with basic text displays. Today, they are highly advanced, featuring high-resolution screens that can show prices, barcodes, promotions, and even QR codes. So, many reasons exist for switching to ESL as soon as possible. This evolution has brought several benefits to businesses:

  1. Accuracy and Efficiency: With ESLs, pricing errors are significantly reduced, and the time spent manually updating price tags is eliminated.
  2. Dynamic Pricing: Retailers can quickly change prices to respond to market demands and promotions or clear out inventory.
  3. Enhanced Customer Experience: ESLs can display rich information, including product details and comparisons, which can help customers make informed purchasing decisions without needing to consult store staff.
  4. Environmental Impact: ESLs also contribute to a store’s sustainability goals by reducing the need for paper tags.

On average, businesses adopting modern ESL systems find that these tools streamline operations and enhance the shopping experience, leading to higher customer satisfaction and boosted sales.

Identifying Your Business Needs

To determine the right ESL system for your business, assessing your business model and understanding how ESLs can align with your objectives is essential. This process begins by examining your operation’s specific needs and how ESLs can address them.

Consider the scale of your inventory, the frequency of price changes, and the level of customer interaction you aim for. For example, a grocery store with frequent price fluctuations on perishable goods might benefit more from ESLs than a bookstore with stable prices. 

Other considerations include:

  • Speed and Efficiency: If quick response to market changes is a priority, look for ESLs that update in real-time.
  • Customer Engagement: Choose ESLs that support rich media and interactive features if enhancing the shopping experience is your goal.
  • Cost Management: For businesses prioritizing budget, basic ESL models that offer straightforward price displays might suffice over more advanced, costly options.
  • Sustainability Goals: If environmental impact is a concern, consider ESLs that boast low energy consumption and reduced waste compared to traditional paper tags.

Key Features to Look For in an ESL System

When choosing an ESL system, it’s vital to consider essential features that enhance efficiency and competitiveness. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the key features to look for and additional functionalities that could give your business an edge.

Essential ESL Features

  • Wireless Communication: Ensure the ESL system can integrate seamlessly with your existing wireless infrastructure for real-time updates.
  • Display Clarity: Opt for high-quality, easily readable labels under various lighting conditions.
  • Battery Life: Choose labels with long battery life to reduce maintenance costs and ensure continuous operation.
  • Durability: The labels should be durable enough to withstand your store environment, whether it involves exposure to moisture, cold air, or frequent handling.
  • Ease of Installation: Systems should be easy to install and configure, minimizing disruptions to daily operations.

And here are a few additional elements to consider as well. These are optional and should be 

chosen if you feel they match your business needs specifically:

  • Interactive Elements: QR code capabilities for enhanced customer interaction.
  • Customizable Displays: Choose ESLs that allow customization of label layouts to match your branding or promotional needs.
  • POS System Integration: Ensure the ESL integrates seamlessly with your POS system for consistent pricing and simplified inventory management.
  • Analytics and Reporting: Opt for ESLs that offer analytics to help optimize pricing strategies and promotions based on customer behavior.

Integration and Compatibility

Before implementing an ESL system, ensuring your current infrastructure can support it is crucial. Proper preparation will allow for a smooth integration of the new system, helping you maximize your technology investments and ensure a seamless transition.

To do this, you’ll need to double-check two things:

  1. Assess Your Technology: Thoroughly assess your current technology stack, including hardware, software, and networking environments. Understanding these elements helps determine your new ESL system’s specifications.
  2. Vendor Collaboration: Work closely with your ESL vendor to understand their system’s integration capabilities. 

Addressing compatibility issues early can save significant costs related to modifying or replacing systems that don’t align well. A well-integrated system ensures consistency in data, such as pricing and product information, across all customer touchpoints—from your point-of-sale (POS) system to online channels.

Additionally, it’ll also help to:

  • Choose a Flexible System: Opt for ESL systems known for their adaptability to integrate with various technologies, including older systems and different POS configurations.
  • Pilot Test: Conduct a pilot test to identify any integration issues in real-world conditions before a full rollout.
  • Ensure Ongoing Support: Select a vendor that provides robust support and regular updates to ensure the system remains compatible and effective as business needs evolve.

Cost Considerations and ROI

Investing in an ESL system isn’t just about the upfront costs like purchase and installation. You should also consider the ongoing maintenance expenses. However, the financial picture includes savings as well as expenditures. By switching to ESLs, you’ll reduce labor costs associated with manual price updates and cut down on the expenses of traditional paper labels. 

Essentially, it’s about finding a balance between the initial investment and the long-term financial benefits:

  1. Ongoing Expenses Ongoing expenses for maintaining an ESL system routine hardware maintenance to ensure longevity, and accessible technical support to quickly address any operational issues. These costs are essential for keeping the ESL system operational and efficient over time.
  2. Long-Term Savings The transition to ESLs can lead to significant savings. By automating price updates, you reduce the labor required for manual changes, which can lower payroll expenses. Additionally, ESLs eliminate the need for paper tags and the associated costs of printing and supplies, further reducing operational expenses.

Let’s consider some hypothetical examples to illustrate how you might calculate the potential ROI for an ESL system.

Example 1: Small Retail Store

Let’s say a small retail store spends about $2,000 annually on labor for updating traditional price tags and an additional $500 on materials for the tags themselves. They invest $10,000 to install an ESL system and then incur $1,000 annually for system maintenance. By switching to ESLs, the store eliminates the $500 material cost and reduces the labor cost by 75%, saving $1,500 yearly. 

So, the total annual savings are $2,000. The savings would take about five years to cover the initial investment, after which the store would save $2,000 annually, minus the maintenance cost.

Example 2: Large Grocery Chain

Imagine a large grocery chain that spends around $50,000 a year updating prices manually across multiple locations, with an additional $10,000 spent on materials. They decide to install ESLs for $200,000 with an ongoing annual maintenance cost of $10,000. By switching to ESLs, they save all the material costs and reduce the labor costs by 90%, saving $45,000 in labor. 

This equates to a total annual saving of $55,000. The initial ESL system costs would be recouped in just under four years, and the grocery chain would see net savings of $45,000 per year after that, again, considering the maintenance costs as well.

ComQi’s ESL Solution

Seeing these savings, it’s clear how effective modern ESL systems can be in cutting costs and boosting operational efficiency. So, if you’re in the market to streamline your retail operations and ramp up customer engagement, you might want to check out our Easel ESL solutions.

Powered by our robust cloud-based content management system, EnGage, these labels keep your pricing and product information consistently up-to-date across all store locations. Let’s review the most common issues retailers experience and how Easel solves them.

Tackling Common Retail Challenges with Easel

Pricing Accuracy and Efficiency

A common issue in retail is the risk of pricing errors—something that our Easel ESLs easily handle. By automating updates, our system ensures simultaneous changes across your network, reducing human error and the manual labor typically involved.

Dynamic Pricing

Adjusting prices quickly can be challenging when the market shifts or inventory levels change. Easel ESLs streamline this process, making it easy to stay aligned with online pricing strategies and react swiftly to market demands, keeping your store competitive and agile.

Enhanced Customer Interaction

To tackle the challenge of engaging customers directly on the sales floor, Easel ESLs enhance the shopping experience by incorporating QR codes. These codes allow customers to access detailed product information and promotions directly from the shelf. In fact, ESLs enhance the entire customer journey.

Seamless System Integration

Our ESLs integrate smoothly with your existing retail systems, such as POS and ERP. This integration ensures that pricing updates are accurate and consistent across all platforms, contributing to a more cohesive retail environment.

Supporting Sustainability

Switching to Easel ESLs also means supporting environmental sustainability. These digital labels reduce the need for paper tags, waste, and replacement frequency.

Implementation and Support

Implementing an ESL system effectively and ensuring robust support afterward are key to reaping the full benefits of this technology. Here’s a streamlined approach to make the process more manageable and effective:

  1. Plan and Prepare: Begin by mapping out your current pricing and labeling processes to identify your specific needs. This prep helps you choose the right ESL model for your store’s goals.
  2. Train Staff: Train your team on operating the ESL system, covering system management, troubleshooting, and updates to minimize disruptions.
  3. Test pilot: Start with a pilot test in a limited area to evaluate the ESL system and make necessary adjustments based on real usage.
  4. Rollout Gradually: Deploy the ESL system in stages across different areas or locations, allowing you to address issues without affecting the entire network.

After installing your Electronic Shelf Label (ESL) system, the significance of post-installation support and service cannot be overstated. Continuous support from your ESL provider should include the following:

  • Troubleshooting and Technical Assistance
  • System Updates and Maintenance
  • Quick and Easy Communication

Incorporating these support elements ensures that your ESL investment continues to deliver value, helping optimize pricing strategies and improve the overall customer experience.


Selecting the right ESL system is crucial for ensuring pricing accuracy, enhancing operational efficiency, and improving customer engagement. You should also consider factors such as system compatibility, the range of features, ease of implementation, and support quality.
Now, if you’re looking to upgrade your retail operations and enhance customer interactions, ComQi’s ESL solutions might be just what you need. To see how ComQi’s ESL technology can benefit your business, explore our Easel ESL solution today!