Belgian retailer Delhaize was facing an operational challenge to efficiently manage pricing systems in its growing network of stores. Despite having adopted a degree of digitalization through electronic shelf labels, local IT infrastructure left many gains in efficiency on the table through the need to still update pricing information store by store. Delhaize needed the ability to centrally manage its electronic shelf labels (ESL) and other IoT devices across its entire store network for faster and more consistent update and upgrades.

Deploying scalable and affordable enterprise grade IoT applications in the retail industry was previously constrained by technology limitations. But digital retail solutions leader Hanshow developed a SaaS solution on Microsoft Azure that accelerated this digital transformation by connecting store shelves to retailers, store operators, and customers for Delhaize stores across Belgium and Luxembourg.

Delhaize and Hanshow began partnering in 2018 to install electronic shelf labels and other digital solutions for their store network. ESLs are the building blocks of retail digitization, and effective solutions for connecting them are crucial to maximize efficiency and new possibilities. ESL allows customers to easily obtain product information and pay conveniently with mobile phones or NFC cards, and it also allows for quicker and more dynamic pricing methods such as automated price reductions for items close to expiration date. While ESLs already greatly increase store operational efficiency, the ability to remotely manage millions of ESL across hundreds of stores through one cloud-based network is a new and encouraging development.

Delhaize had been using ESL for several years already, however all their affiliated brands across Belgium and Luxembourg were all managed under separate local IT infrastructure. This causes a range of problems and inefficiencies for the retailer. Costs to maintain multiple localized IoT device management networks are high both financially and in time usage. For instance, if Delhaize needed to update the design templates on their ESLs, this would need to be done at each location on the localized servers.

Delhaize was looking for a way to solve these inefficiencies along with the ability to centrally manage ESL and other devices on one cloud for their entire store network with stores in Belgium and Luxembourg. With plans for continuing to add digital solutions beyond ESL to this network, the need for a one cloud-based management system became even more important.

To realize cloud-based management of the Delhaize store network and its over 4 million ESL, Hanshow partnered with Microsoft to develop a SaaS solution that can handle this massive amount of integration. Hanshow’s operating system was tailored to run on Microsoft Azure Database for MySQL, unlocking the full potential of cloud-based management. And with Microsoft’s established and industry leading Azure service already in place, these stores could now be operating ESL and other in-store digital solutions instantly.

“ESL improves pricing and promotion management and enhances the client’s digital shopping experience. With this technology costs go down, and efficiency goes up,” notes Rolf Vanden Eynde, Regional IT-Manager for Ahold-Delhaize.

Benefits of a SaaS on Azure

The Hanshow SaaS solution addresses numerous challenges for Delhaize such as staffing surges during peak hours, labor costs, space constraints, and overall productivity. Under previous scenarios, retailers must install and operate their own system of servers and infrastructure on premise requiring a massive investment, untold time to set up, and significant input from IT professionals. Large retailers need to update several million price tags across their stores on any given day. Through the Hanshow SaaS system, 3 million ESL can be updated in just 80 minutes and can be done simply from a system login anywhere.

The Hanshow SaaS solution provides global retailers an intelligent, easy-to-deploy, user-friendly, and analytics driven platform:

  • No need for traditional on-premises deployment involving complicated, expensive, and time-consuming hardware and infrastructure installation. Adopting Hanshow SaaS can basically eliminate these direct costs while significantly increasing IT operational efficiency. Hanshow SaaS is ready on arrival and can be accessed instantly anytime, anywhere;
  • Data can be shared across geographies with seamless remote monitoring and updates. Through SaaS, this data sharing and remote monitoring can manage store systems around the world. This dramatically increases efficiency and allows for quick fixes to any errors or system issues;
  • With a focus on the heightened security needed from a cloud-based network, Hanshow carried out third-party security testing through a leading global security firm to certify data safety of the Microsoft Azure-backed Hanshow SaaS. This allows users to easily access system security status and provides the highest possible prevention measures to security threats.

“This scale and advancement in retail technology was made possible through the safety, stability, scalability and speed of Microsoft SaaS with Hanshow’s innovative management software,” said Raj Raguneethan, regional leader, Retail & Consumer Goods at Microsoft Asia. “With this work, we’re seeing only the beginning of what’s possible with IoT and SaaS.”

On the horizon

With the building blocks of retail digitalization in place with ESL and the Azure cloud management system, Hanshow and Delhaize are also entering into a proof-of-concept phase for AI-powered solutions that monitor planogram management and out-of-stock occurrences. Being able to receive and act on real time data in these areas will further help Delhaize maximize efficiency and profitability while providing a more optimized customer experience.

“By integrating retail digitization with SaaS, the possibilities are endless,” said Hanshow Executive Chairman and CEO Shiguo Hou. “Digital store solutions can now become a reality for the world’s largest retailers. This is the future. We are already seeing the wide-ranging benefits this technology brings to customers and retailers, and Hanshow is dedicated continuing these breakthroughs on an even grander scale.”