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Smart Shelf 101: What Are Smart Shelves?

Smart shelves can help modernize retail operations and meet the demands of consumers. Find out more about smart shelves and their role in retail here.

Have you ever heard of smart shelves?


To grow and stand out in an ever-growing industry like retail, one must always know how to adapt. With the industry heading into digitization and consumer behavior changing every season, retailers need to stay ahead.


Retailers need to innovate if they want to modernize operations and improve the experience for shoppers. And one of the innovative solutions to look out for is smart shelves. Smart shelves can catapult retailers into the digital era without ignoring the needs of modern consumers. But what are smart shelves, and how can they help retail?

What are smart shelves?

In the simplest terms, smart shelves refer to the implementation of various technologies on retail shelves. This is particularly done in the hopes of improving the shopping experience and streamlining the process of stocking and inventory. These smart shelf technologies are all about transforming retail solutions and bringing the customer experience to a new level.

How do smart shelves work?

Smart shelves work to make things easier for all kinds of retail stores. Together, various technologies can connect with each other and be utilized to streamline store operations.


For example, smart shelves can use a combination of sensors, digital shelf labels, digital signages, RFID technology, cameras, management systems, and more to create a dynamic and efficient overall process in retail. Customers can get personalized advertisements when they browse aisles; they can get all the product details from electronic labels; and shelves can detect when an item has been removed or purchased. Retail staff can then be alerted once shelves need restocking. Meanwhile, some smart shelves can also collect data and insights that will let retailers know more about their shoppers.


At the end of the day, smart shelves can help retail stores function, from the marketing and the customer’s buying decisions to the inventory management, and formulating new retail approaches and decisions.

What features or technology can shoppers expect on smart shelves?

Digital shelf labels

Digital shelf labels, or electronic shelf labels (ESL), are some of the first technologies retailers can use for smart shelves. Digital shelf labels replace traditional paper labels as a much more sustainable and efficient way to list product prices.


However, digital shelf labels also do so much more than show accurate prices. SOLUM Newton labels, for instance, can show product information of up to 7 pages, help in product stocking, help attract customers, allow efficient daily task executions, and more. Newton labels can also be integrated into a modern ESL management system that will help retailers design digital labels, check stock and inventory levels, as well as manage product labels in one place.


Electronic shelf labels like these are a great way for retailers to utilize smart shelves and improve their stores for the better.


Shelf sensors

There are different types of sensors that can be used as technology for smart shelves. For example, weight sensors can help detect stock levels on every shelf. As shoppers remove products from a shelf, the sensors will be able to track the difference in weight. This allows for better inventory and shelf stock as the sensors can help determine when restocking is needed. Retail staff will be able to quickly fill up shelves, and shoppers won’t have trouble with out-of-stock shelves or sold-out products.


Other IoT-powered sensors, Bluetooth, and NFC (near-field communication) capabilities have also been added to smart shelves. These sensors help track and monitor a lot of data for retailers, such as shopper proximity and motion. These can also help customers perform mobile payments and self-checkouts, view digital coupons, visit websites, and more.


Shelf cameras

Shelf cameras are also a good addition to smart shelves, and this is because of their benefits to inventory management and customer analytics or behavior. Shelf cameras can make sure that every shelf is well stocked. In the event of low stocks or misplaced items, retail staff will immediately know and have the chance to restock and organize items once more.


Shelf cameras can also capture customer analytics since they can monitor shoppers who get products from every shelf. Information like gender, age, and mood can be gauged by these shelf cameras. In return, retailers can use this data to learn more about their customers, formulate proper marketing strategies, and adjust their store layout or display to make shopping more efficient for customers.


RFID technology

RFID technology in retail stores is also common. RFID, or Radio-frequency identification, uses radio waves to read and transmit data. It’s good for asset identification and tracking, which is incredibly beneficial for retail operations.


Smart shelves with RFID technology come in the form of RFID tags and RFID readers. RFID allows for accurate and real-time tracking and stock-taking of a retailer’s inventory. Not only that, but it also helps enhance the supply chain management for retail. RFID technology also helps prevent theft, as tags can be used to track purchases and alert staff in case there are unpaid items being taken out of the retail store.

How can we use smart shelves in retail?

Smart shelves can be used in retail in a number of ways. Depending on what kinds of technologies and devices have been implemented to create smart shelves, the retail experience can change for the better. Various kinds of retail stores can take advantage of smart shelves to put themselves ahead of the competition. Smart shelf technology can even transform supermarkets.


Here are a few ways retailers can use smart shelves:


  1. They can use smart shelves to keep shoppers informed through digital shelf labels or signages.
  2. They can use smart shelves for better inventory and stock management.
  3. They can use smart shelves to know about common shopping patterns or buying decisions.
  4. They can use smart shelves to facilitate better customer service and support.
  5. They can use smart shelves to reduce manual labor and save time.
  6. They can use smart shelves to allow NFC capabilities and self-checkouts.
  7. They can use smart shelves to facilitate omnichannel retail processes.
  8. They can use smart shelves to show or send personalized advertisements or suggestions to shoppers.

Finding smart shelf solutions from SOLUM

SOLUM has solutions and technologies that can make smart shelves. These smart shelf solutions can help improve overall efficiency, productivity, and ingenuity in retail operations. Here are some SOLUM solutions for smart shelves:


Newton ESL

SOLUM’s Newton digital shelf labels are powerful and systematic. They can take the shelf labeling process to new heights and modernize the entire shopping experience. Here are a few distinct features.


  • 10x faster update speed for price updates
  • 7-page display information for product details
  • 7 LED color indicators to help operations
  • Two programmable buttons
  • NFC capability for mobile payments and transactions
  • IP67 rating for dustproof and water-resistant features
  • Customizable design
  • Ten years of battery life



SOLUM’s AIMS, or Advanced Information Management System, also helps retailers when it comes to smart shelves. This is because all digital shelf labels can be integrated into AIMS, where assigning, designing, and managing labels or inventory are possible. Here are some of the features and benefits of AIMS SaaS:


  • Cost-effective
  • Good scalability
  • Easy implementation and maintenance
  • Real-time software updates and upgrades
  • No hardware or physical data centers are needed
  • Privacy and security measures
  • Sustainable solution


When utilized properly, smart shelves can be a crucial factor in a retail store’s growth. With smart shelves, retailers can meet the needs of the modern world and enhance the overall experience for the customers.

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