Smart Shelf Technology Shapes Retailing

By Mahesh D., Business Analyst, Digital Transformation Services at Happiest Minds

Digital Transformation is riding the next wave of innovation in the retail industry.  E- retailers are enticing the shoppers with ‘anywhere any time’ shopping, faster delivery, personalized offers and easy returns. To keep in pace with the technology advancements and increasing competition from the online space, retailers are now rethinking of their in-store strategies. Dissatisfaction of the customers due to ‘out of stock’ items in physical stores is one of the biggest current challenges the retail industry is currently facing. Failures in internal processes, resource constraints, data disconnects or poor data sync contribute to some of the reasons behind this in store experience failures. How to address such ‘out of stock’ challenge in physical retail stores? 

Since ecommerce space with even the most sophisticated technology cannot deliver the visual and sensory experience of shopping in physical stores, retailers are exploring ways to optimize this in-store experience by enabling innovative technologies like Smart Shelves technology.

Implementing Smart shelves, the electronically connected shelves which can automatically keep a track of the inventory in a retail establishment is one of the most feasible solutions to address this retail in store challenge. The Smart shelves technology benefits both for the customers’ shopping experience and the retailers’ selling experience. The smart shelf concept will enable the inventory and store executives to:  

  • Refill stocks from stock room as they get depleted from the store shelf
  • Intimate the buying group about the demand and Out of stock situation
  • Inform warehouse / Direct shipment vendor for immediate replenishment

Smart Shelves technology enables the business owners to take more informed decisions, by keeping a real time tracking on what products are being taken from the store shelves and what is remaining. The real time analysis of data enables retailers to stock on more fast moving products and reduce the number of slow moving items.

How Smart Shelves Work in Physical Stores

Smart shelves are wireless inventory control systems that have been fitted with weight sensors.  The weight sensors can be built-in the shelf itself or be installed under normal shelves. These weight sensors consistently notify the back-end system about the existing quantity of items on the shelves. These wireless devices use RFID tags and readers to scan the products in the display and stock shelves and alert store associates when product levels are running low or when a theft is detected. It will also trigger the back-end system about the items that do not belong to certain shelves as "misplaced items". The smart shelves provide retailers with various ways of improving their customer service, increasing sales and reducing cart abandonment to a larger extent.  

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Features of Smart Shelves

Inventory Automation

 Effective inventory management is critical in managing costs, measuring shrinkage and improving the customer shopping experience in retail. With smart shelves technology, retailers can auto track the stocked goods and make sure there is surplus inventory to avoid being “out of stock”.

Real-time Inventory Management

Real time inventory management enables retailers to save time, make informed decisions and optimize in-store sales. Smart shelves enable real time and accurate management of inventory data to empower retailers to optimize the in store sales with the timely filling of stocks, review of items etc.

Remote Monitoring Provision

Remote monitoring provision enables retailers to remotely keep a track inside the store. The remote monitoring capabilities of Smart Shelves help in quickly identifying and fixing problems inside the store if any, before it impacts the customers. All hardware continuously run with automatic remote alerting and dispatching capability to insure non-stop operation.    

Stock Availability Assessment

Availability of stocks when customers ask for it is critical for any retail stores. Smart shelves technology enables automated tracking of stock availability and informs retail store managers if the items are running out of stock or misplaced.

Cross and Up-selling for Out of stock Items

Cross and upselling normally happen when there is a shortage of products that customers are looking for. If the retailers are already aware of the out of stock items with smart shelves technology, they can offer customers better or complementary products compared to what they are currently interested in.

Offline Model Working

Stores need to be functioned in offline mode also at times. Even when there is a data disconnect, smart shelves will work in offline scenarios also.

Hardware Compatibility

The hardware associated with smart shelves are compatible with any mobile network provider / any radio frequency (RF) devices / language.   

In this age of technology proliferation and increasing demands from the customers, delivering an enriching customer experience is equally an opportunity as well as a challenge. Smart Shelves empower a retailer to deliver more focused and optimized shopping experience for the in- store retail customers. It enables the store executives to have a seamless information exchange with various participants in the supply chain. Furthermore, it is capable of proactively avoiding “loss of sale” scenarios to a larger extent. Even in this era of digital revolution and internet, brick and mortar stores still continue to be relevant for retail shopping, because of the unmatchable real time shopping experience it can provide compared to e- commerce shopping. Unique and optimized in-store experiences enabled by technologies like smart shelves, where technology and operations go hand in hand, can lure even more customers back to the stores.


Author Profile

Mahesh D. works as a Business Analyst in the DTES Business Unit of Happiest Minds Technologies. With an overall experience of 7 plus years, he develops technical solutions to business problems and assists in the sales efforts. His work involves, defining, analyzing and documenting requirements and managing requirements at the project level to help fulfill business needs. As a Business Analyst, he also handles some of the key functions like Market research, Requirements analysis, Requirements management and communication, Assisting with the business case, Planning and monitoring etc.


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