Participants in the JLAB 2018 programme
Participants in the JLAB 2018 programme

The detail of international expansion always has to be worked on, for every one of the European Economic Area’s leading retailers (plus Switzerland). Offers and approaches that work in one country can be transplanted to another – but will need refining to be effective. Real innovation is also constantly coming through, and effective roll-out is challenging. Here Christian Annesley picks out four more approaches that impressed us this year – some offering pointers to the future and some that are having an impact now.

1. Look again at digital labelling

After plenty of false starts down the years, there’ s evidence that electronic shelf labelling could soon go mainstream. The big four UK grocers are trialling ESL (electronic shelf labels) in a variety of pilots, prompted in part by improved technology. Morrisons is testing a colour LCD video shelf-edge system, for example, which is a lot more sophisticated that previous trialled displays.

The ESL devices of today are full colour that have a much higher quality image than previously, allowing them to display more information than price alone. Battery life has improved significantly, alongside the ability to communicate and integrate with a retailer’s inventory and pricing systems. The change in use case for ESL is being driven in part by regulations in the UK around pricing, and EU-wide requirements for the display of food information at the shelf.

2. Take steps to nurture innovation

Retail tech innovation doesn’t have to take place beyond retailers in start-ups, as department John Lewis shows by expanding its JLAB retail technology programme. Up till now the programme, which was started in 2014 and sees technology teams develop relevant software within the John Lewis environment, has run for 12 weeks at a time. Now the programme is ramping up: it is to run for a year, offering three chances for established businesses, as well as start-ups, to prove their technology, with opportunities…