Walmart Canada Testing LCD Ribbon SmartShelves That Show Pricing AND Consumer Reviews

June 27, 2024 by Dave Haynes

Walmart’s Canadian operation is running an interesting trial program at its biggest store in the country – using LCD ribbon displays in the crackers section of the grocery department as digital price tags, but also as product reviews.

The crackers section has 28 feet of ribbon displays, and pulls consumer product reviews – let’s assume curated positive ones and not those that say the crackers taste like cardboard – from Walmart’s e-commerce site.

Walmart says it is beta testing what it calls its SmartShelf Platform, noting in PR that it is patent-pending, Walmart-created hardware and software.

LCD ribbon strips have been around for years and have become much more feasible to deploy as costs have come down and display manufacturers have been able to natively make units in that form factor, rather than the original approach of taking conventional 16:9 displays, cutting them to ribbon or bar shapes, and then essentially re-manufacturing them.

But there have not been a whole pile of roll-outs, as the aggregate costs would still be substantial to do full stores or even sections of stores. Electronic shelf labels would be much less costly and wouldn’t need the power infrastructure like these do – whether by electrical cables or POE.

One interesting wrinkle of what Walmart is doing is helping store staff with stocking or re-arranging shelves. “There’s operational benefits … When an associate goes to set the shelf, the computer screens can be turned on to show where items go, so it helps in the efficiency of how we build our modulars in the store,” Walmart Canada’s COO John Bayliss told Canadian Grocer.

The Square One Walmart Supercentre in Mississauga, Ontario has been around for 30 years, and is in the same general area as the company’s Canadian head office. Mississauga is its own city in terms of local government, but part of greater Toronto. The international airport, for example, is in Mississauga.

The store is Walmart Canada’s largest by square foot, at approximately 223,000 square feet, and underwent a big facelift that was completed and celebrated with a grand re-opening in April.

This Linkedin post by a brand strategist has a quick video that shows how the shelves work and use reviews.

I find it a bit odd that the LCD ribbons are just black between the tags, but I could also make the case that they are more easily seen and viewed than they might be if the background was Walmart blue or there were animations. Doing the background in the powder-coated grey of the fixture would be interesting.

Crackers also seems an odd thing to focus on for reviews. Shoppers definitely whip out their phones to look at reviews on unfamiliar products, but it’s hard to imagine crackers being a category where buying decisions owe a lot to what other consumers say.

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