How Do Digital Price Tags Work? | Freshwater Digital

How Do Digital Price Tags Work?

July 8, 2022 LaFleur Marketing

How Do Digital Price Tags Work?

Digital price tags, otherwise known as electronic shelf labels (ESLs), are the new alternative to print labels and signage. These tags can best be described as E-ink digital displays that show many forms of data and information, beyond what a standard print label can provide. ESLs come in various sizes and configurations, ranging from 1.6” to 12.2” (diagonal measurement of the display), and have display color combinations of black/white/red, black/white/yellow, or black/white/yellow/red.

When originally designed, the main purpose of this technology was to replace print labels in retail settings to bring accuracy, consistency, reliability, and accountability for end customers and store management. Now that the technology has evolved to become even more innovative, there are many other use cases and applications that this technology can help with. And that extends even beyond retail spaces—which we cover later in this article—for both customers and store associates alike.

The most common places where you can see this technology publicly, of course, are still in traditional retail settings and grocery stores, such as Kohl’s (especially in their shoe department), Walmart, Amazon stores, and many more. If you’re near any of these retailers, you most likely have an opportunity to check out electronic shelf labels in action for yourself!

This overview video will give you a brief rundown of the technology as well:

CocaCola Price Tag D850 Nikon Camera Price Tag Fatboy's Iconic beanbag price tag

How Do Electronic Shelf Labels Work?

At a high level, electronic shelf labels are nothing more than displays until you link them with information. That said, they are capable of a lot once linked to the right data and information, such as pricing, product information, and inventory levels. Even though they are only displays, ESLs come with some very useful tools built right into their frame (NFC, LED, etc.).

The general requirements to get digital tags up and running so they can start working for your company are as follows:

  • Digital Tag Hardware. There are various hardware sizes available and no limit to using multiple sizes within a store or location. There’s also no limitation on the number of digital tags that can be used in a store or location either.
  • Wireless Access Points. Just like any traditional Wi-Fi access point, the dedicated access points provide bi-directional communication between the digital tags and the cloud-based management software. The tags do not run on Wi-Fi, but instead on their own proprietary network through radio frequency.
  • Cloud-Based Management Software. The V:cloud/Studio software package stores and designs all data, information, and reporting.

With these three main pieces of the puzzle, you now have the tools to manage your solution successfully. (Click here to learn more about ESL infrastructure and requirements.)

The most important thing to remember when working with this technology is this:

Data is king.  

Put simply, if data is accessible, it can be displayed on an electronic shelf label, often with just a few clicks. Whether it comes from a POS system, ERP system, or another database, you can display text, images, barcodes, QR codes, and more (see image below).

Multiple examples of digital price signages

Benefits of Digital Price Tags

By utilizing Eink technology, electronic price tags have many benefits compared to traditional paper labels and signage. Dating back to 2018, the biggest benefits to the retailer space have been quite evident. Some additional benefits include:

  • Economic. Digital price tags allow retailers, manufacturers, and others to save time and money by removing the processes of printing, replacing, and disposing of traditional paper labels. Updates can be made instantly or scheduled for the future, without the need to dedicate an employee to make replacements and updates for dynamic pricing.
  • Efficient. Digital price tags are battery operated and only draw power during updates, giving the battery a lifespan of up to 5 years with 1-2 updates per day. Once batteries die, they are very easy to obtain and replace. You do not have to purchase new tags; all you need are new batteries and they’re ready to go again.
  • Versatile. Because electronic price tags are battery operated, they do not require any power outlets. And beyond versatility offered with that battery life, they can also be attached to almost any surface. These electronic labels can be mounted to walls, endcaps, shelves, racks in warehouses, and more.
  • Easy to Use. The general infrastructure (of the three elements discussed above) is quite easy to set up and install, especially with the full-support services Freshwater Digital provides through scheduling, customized design, installation, and support.

Some of the most beneficial features of the electronic shelf labeling technology utilized in many cases and industries include:

  • LED Lighting Capabilities: Most of the electronic shelf tag sizes come standard with a 7-color LED light embedded within the frame of the tag. This technology allows end users to trigger the LED for certain use cases, such as “pick to light” for shopping or inventory management.
  • Configurable NFC Capabilities: All tags come with NFC (near-field communication) embedded within the display, which can be configurable to lead end users to other data and information.

For reference, here’s a definition of NFC: “Near-field communication is a set of communication protocols that enables communication between two electronic devices over a distance of 4 cm or less. NFC offers a low-speed connection through a simple setup that can be used to bootstrap more-capable wireless connections” (Wikipedia). 

  • Design Flexibility: With the studio design software available, customers have the ability to show off multiple SKUs, items, and other useful information on one tag. (See the previous image for more inspiration on how you might use this modern technology in your own business!)

How Freshwater Digital Works With Digital Price Tags

While different names can be used, we prefer to call them digital tags because they have many uses beyond simply showing product pricing in retail businesses. We pioneer outside of standard retail use cases and dive into other industries (manufacturing, automotive, healthcare, corporate, and more) to utilize digital tags in a variety of innovative ways. 

The technology is flexible, customizable, and most importantly, extremely versatile in its capabilities. And as a technology integrator, our Freshwater team has the expertise to build on top of existing technologies to provide custom solutions and applications to our clients that may not be readily available off-the-shelf. Here are a few great examples of some of our clients we’ve helped.

Common Industries and Use Cases 

As mentioned, Freshwater Digital caters to many different industries to help bring clients the best strategies and solutions for utilizing this technology in their businesses. Here are just a few examples: 

  • Show off retail promotions and advertisements directly at the product shelf.
  • Easily adjust prices when changes fluctuate.
  • Maintain accurate pricing and ensure that online prices are consistent with what customers find in physical stores.
  • Offer additional experiences and information to customers through NFC and QR codes.
  • Determine if in-store prices lead to greater customer satisfaction.
  • Provide inventory and out of stock information for customers and staff members.
  • Provide inventory levels and part information within a warehouse.
  • Streamline your manufacturing processes with accurate and consistent data.
  • Display stock levels to assist with cycle counting.
  • Replace boring car window stickers and provide customers with real-time ratings and lease prices.
  • Mitigate risks and human error in healthcare by providing accurate data to patients and staff.

Why Digital Price Tags? And Why Now??

Digital price tags are becoming increasingly more popular as time goes on. The technology will eventually reach a tipping point where you’ll see them in every retail store and many other places you probably wouldn’t expect.

If your business is looking to streamline processes, take away unnecessary costs and time, and get on the fast track to being a future-thinking company, then now is the best time to start thinking about digital price tags.

Freshwater Digital can help you find the right strategy and solution to best fit your needs. Just give us a call or shoot us an email at [email protected] – we look forward to connecting with you!

Author: Zack Rinvelt


Hidde, R. (2018, November 26). 5 Benefits of Electronic Shelf Labels.