How do we digitize shelves in the sales floor?

Havasi Zoltán

A MOHAnet alapítója, IoT szakértő

Bejegyzés dátuma: 2024. 05. 10

In traditional commerce, a quarter of the shelves in the sales floor are always empty. The reason behind this is the inability of the staff to monitor inventory depletion in real-time. There's a considerable delay in noticing shortages and replenishing stock. Inventory shortage not only undermines the customer experience by causing frustration but also results in revenue loss for manufacturers and retailers.

Traditional shelves lack the capability to signal the need for replenishment to the staff in real-time, thus preventing the potential occurrence of inventory shortages.

The current quantity of inventory is determined by the speed of product depletion and the reaction time for replenishment. Domestic and international players in the FMCG (Fast-Moving Consumer Goods) market have been trying to improve the efficient organization of shelf restocking for years. However, due to the lack of real-time information flow, they cannot keep up with the depletion rate of shelf inventory.

Digitizing shelves enables the measurement of product depletion on a SKU (Stock Keeping Unit) level, tracking the current quantity and timing of replenishment. When the quantity of a product drops below a critical level, the digital system immediately notifies the stock clerk and the replenishment staff to ensure timely replenishment before inventory shortage occurs.

In summary, with shelf digitization on a SKU level:

  • Inventory quantity can be tracked.
  • Inventory shortages and revenue loss can be prevented.
  • Replenishment of stock depletion can be automated.
  • Timeliness of replenishment can be verified.
  • Staff reaction time and capacity can be measured.
  • The store's assortment and the number of individual product variants can be optimized.
  • The most efficient shelf layout can be planned.
  • Shelf profitability can be predicted based on depletion.

What is needed for shelf digitization?

Most retail chains already have spring-loaded merchandise pushers, providing continuous visibility and easy access to the products within. In practice, imagine attaching a plastic rail to the loading surface of each shelf, onto which adjustable product dividers can slide, and spring-loaded pushers are fixed in between. To enable digitization, this simple mechanical structure is complemented with electronic and informational components. In other words, a sensor capable of continuously tracking the position of the pusher (facing) is integrated into the plastic rail of the spring-loaded pushers. This sensor is wired to signal the depletion of inventory to the staff in real-time. The technology can be easily and quickly implemented, as the wiring and interconnection of the merchandise pushers do not require any specialized knowledge. A swinging plug at the end of each merchandise pusher connects to the spine-mounted distributors hidden inside the shelves. Due to its simple design, anyone can relocate it at any time, and in case of malfunction, the damaged component (mechanics, electronics) can be immediately replaced without causing any downtime.

Each shelf is equipped with radio transmitters, transmitting the information from the smart merchandise pushers to an IoT (Internet of Things) device installed in the sales floor via Wi-Fi. The IoT device sends the real-time depletion data from all merchandise pushers over the internet to the cloud server, where the data is processed, displayed, acted upon, and evaluated.

In conclusion, smart merchandise pushers monitor the shelf condition 24/7 and send real-time status reports to the staff's computer or smartphone. The system electronically logs the depletion data collected from the merchandise pushers' counters. Through a large-scale data analysis, it provides analysis and forecasts for sales, trade, brand marketing, and operations. Enhanced transparency leads to more efficient work organization, improved competitiveness, and sharply rising returns, all while reducing costs. The return on investment for smart merchandise pushers can be realized within a few months for a retail chain. Shelf digitization can increase annual turnover by a minimum of 20%, allowing for additional spending on marketing or the establishment of new sales channels. Furthermore, it ensures constant awareness of shelf conditions.

What does this mean in practice?

The facing sensor for depletion tracking can be installed in every spring-loaded merchandise pusher, regardless of the product:

  • Beverages (beer, wine, soft drinks, energy drinks)
  • Foods (soup and pudding powders, spices)
  • Confectionery (chocolate bars)
  • Cheese products (vacuum-packed sliced ​​cheeses)
  • Meat products (vacuum-packed salami, sausages)
  • Tobacco products (cigarettes)
  • Cosmetics (creams, perfumes)
  • And virtually any product that can be placed in a spring-loaded merchandise pusher in the sales floor.


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