Why Switch to a Wirelessly Powered Electronic Shelf Label System Now?

The Answer Lies in the Enormous IoT Opportunity for Retailers

Paper price tags are labor-intensive and, obviously, lack any type of smart functionality. Digital price tags have been around a long time now, and they provide dynamic pricing capabilities, but only within tight limitations, they offer minimal IoT features, and they require frequent battery replacement. All pain points that most retailers are not ready to bear.

It’s no wonder that the existing, battery-powered electronic shelf labels (ESLs) have not become ubiquitous.

What if retailers could overcome those limitations? Imagine going beyond an electronic label to an entire digital price tag system that could:

  • Be constantly powered without batteries
  • Have valuable, forward-thinking “smart” IoT features, such as enabling an immediate purchase at the product shelf and skipping the checkout lines
  • Enable smart shopping carts and customized digital signage that responds when people are near
  • Enhance the entire in-store shopping experience, while satisfying the need to comparison shop online

This type of system would fundamentally disrupt the status quo. To compete with the likes of Amazon, retailers have got to continue to push the envelope of experience and benefits for the in-store shopping experience. That is exactly what retailers have been telling Ossia, and to satisfy this need, our engineers have created a wire-free Cota-enabled ESL System that supports a wide range of retail IoT potential.

The Cota-Enabled Electronic Shelf Label System

With cloud connectivity, virtual control, and on-site automatic powering up, the Cota-enabled ESL system is also the ideal platform for future retail growth opportunities: growth that is even more essential than ever in the upcoming months.

From our research, we predict that an end-to-end wirelessly powered ESL system will offer retailers revenue enhancement, increased operational efficiency, and higher customer satisfaction. Let’s take a closer look at each of these Cota-Enabled ESL System benefits.

Revenue Enhancement

A wirelessly powered ESL system like Ossia’s Cota-Enabled ESL System offers retailers several revenue enhancement opportunities:

  • Dynamic pricing and a recommendation engine can lead to increased revenue by more than 2-5%
  • Additional real estate to advertise related products per tag provides additional ad revenue
  • Increased purchase volume at point of sale without additional on-floor labor

Operational Efficiency

Operational efficiencies are much improved when comparing paper price tags and battery-powered ESLs with a Cota-Enabled ESL System:

  • Alert employees of products that need immediate restocking with LED flashing on tags
  • Eliminate the need to maintain accurate paper tags to decrease workload and costs
  • Automate price changes in real-time in response to real-world behaviors, inventory, and e-commerce activities
  • No battery monitoring or replacements required by staff
  • More customer self-selection and decreased sales team labor costs

Customer Satisfaction

Increase customer loyalty and satisfaction by wowing in-store customers with the information they need right when they need it most, without having to look it up on their phone.

  • Save customers time finding the latest price
  • Offer shoppers valuable information about products and “frequently purchased with” cross-sell products
  • Give confidence they are getting the best price with instant price matching
  • Enable shoppers to check out with a unique QR code at the product label itself

Most retailers understand the benefits of ESLs, but up until now, the benefits simply didn’t outweigh the challenges. A wirelessly powered ESL system not only solves those challenges, but also opens up a whole new world. It’s easy to see how when we compare the two options side by side.


Battery-Powered ESLs

Wirelessly Powered “On Demand” Cota-Enabled ESL System

Dynamic Pricing

Can make 1-3 price changes per day over 3 years to conserve battery life

Can compete with e-commerce pricing minute by minute, with no concern for power preservation

Enhanced Functionality

Limited IoT features available, due to finite stored energy available

Virtually unlimited smart IoT features, such as real-time LED flashing of ESLs to enable retail stores to act as fulfillment centers for e-commerce.


Batteries need to be continually developed and disposed of; a process that is harmful to the environment

Completely battery-free; powered wirelessly on demand over air. Prevents the use and disposal of billions of ESL batteries.

Simpler, Sturdier Design

To allow for batteries, ESL housing is bulky and prone to breakage

Slimmer design with fewer components that could wear out leads to a more reliable, attractive shelf label


Missed price adjustment opportunities, increased maintenance costs, and slow store-by-store implementations of paper* and battery-ESLs can lead to a slow or negative ROI.

Dynamic price adjustments in real time across multiple stores and multiple products, several times per day can lead to a fast ROI.

Use Case

Single use case; set up is for ESLs only

Multiple use cases; once installed, Cota Transmitters can power other retail IoT devices, including multiple in-store sensors and scanners


At this point, you might be thinking that a Cota-Enabled ESL System must cost a whole lot more than a battery-powered one. But that’s not the case: the price should be similar. The Cota-Enabled ESL integrates the traditional CPU, communications, and the small battery of the battery-operated ESL units into a tiny chip. As a result, Ossia estimates that the Cota-enabled ESL unit will have the same or similar bill of materials at scale as the older battery-operated ones.

Cota-Enabled ESLs also require a Cota Transmitter to deliver power on demand. But the premium for that is manageable when comparing to the several WiFi routers that are required for connecting to current ESLs.

Taking into account that the price for set up is similar, yet the retailer gains so many more growth opportunities, it’s easy to see how battery-operated systems will soon be a thing of yesterday for retailers.

And yet retailers are not the only companies that will benefit from wirelessly powered ESLs. The whole system is transferable to inventory management, warehouses, fulfillment centers, and broader operations.

Curious about how a Cota-Enabled ESL System could work for your business? Contact us today.

*One large box store spends up to $1mm USD in labor costs to change the price across thousands of stores for one product when dealing with paper price tags.

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