The need for social distancing technology has gained urgency as government-enforced Covid-19 restrictions are gradually being eased.
On May 11th Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that some ‘non-essential’ shops may be able to reopen as early as June, although social distancing is expected to be in place for at least a year.
Here’s a round-up of some of the technology solutions being launched in our sector, designed to help retailers trade safely, in line with ongoing guidance about occupancy levels and proximity of people to each other in stores and warehouses.
“Retailers want to get back to work, but are seeking ways to protect their staff and customers at this challenging time,” says Chris Field, CEO of Fieldworks Marketing and Chairman of Retail Connections “We’re seeing retail tech firms rising to the challenge of social distancing, thinking creatively about addressing this pain point. Whether social distancing is a temporary arrangement or a long-term consideration, reliable solutions must be deployed at speed.”
ShopperTrak Real-Time Occupancy
ShopperTrak, a brand of Sensormatic Solutions, has developed a Real-Time Occupancy solution that enables retailers to accurately understand shopper density within a store. “The Occupancy solution can help businesses comply with local or government ordinances to adhere to social distancing guidelines, meet maximum limits and optimise traffic management strategies,” says ShopperTrak.
A key benefit is that a store will know when it is approaching maximum occupancy. Real-time alerts and an easy-to-understand dashboard aim to make the system as user friendly as possible,
Having this knowledge will help retailers adjust occupancy thresholds to support social distancing guidelines. They can optimise staffing and cleaning schedules for common facilities such as checkout areas or toilets in the store based on real-time traffic patterns.
Tharsus Bump personal motion system
Robotics firm Tharus is poised to launch new technology to help staff social-distance in the workplace as businesses are gradually freed from the Covid-19 lockdown.
Northumberland-based Tharsus – which has already worked with Ocado – has been developing its Bump alert system since the early stages of the crisis. Tharsus is producing 2,500 devices this month for a range of trial partners.
Bump is a Personal Motion System that helps change and improve personal distance behaviour immediately and long-term. The system would particularly suit retail warehouses.
It uses tried and tested radio frequency technology to alert people instantly when they’re too close. It’s peer-to-peer, GDPR-compliant and allows wearers and site managers to access the whole system’s analytics in the cloud.
Bump also collects data on contacts to allow managers to monitor social distancing behaviour, as well as identifying potential workplace hotspots where social distancing has been difficult to maintain.
OneStock Click and collect
By prompting customers to buy online for collection, it’s possible to reduce overcrowding in stores. A system like OneStock can help retailers manage inventory, both across a warehouse and stores.
It’s possible to reduce in store browsing time using click-and-collect – something that many more customers will want to do in the coming months it’s predicted. With OneStock companies can manage inventory across stores and warehouse, making it possible to gear up to click and collect with ease.
As productivity at e-commerce fulfilment centres drops, as a result of social distancing, fulfilling from store (ship from store, click-and-collect) is one way to help ease pressures in this part of the business too.
Mishipay Scan & Go
To speed up the flow of customers and reduce queue times, and the handling of cash, one option is to deploy mobile self-checkout.
With Mishipay customers can simply ‘scan and go’. This means they skip the queue, pay by phone and leave the store with their items. It’s a seamless and contactless solution for customers, reducing the number of people in queues. There are security measures in place to avoid theft assures Mishipay.
Decathlon uses the system in some of its European stores. Customers can scan and pay for items using their smartphone, automatically disabling the RFID security tag to leave them free to exit the store without any need to queue or wait at the checkout.
Reflexis Appointments ™
A key requirement for re-opening will be providing a store environment that supports social distancing protocols. To address this, many retailers are introducing store visit by appointment-only policies. Many of these retailers have little to no experience delivering a customer friendly appointment or reservation experience for their customers, nor do they have the systems or tools in place to do so.
Reflexis has an appointment setting tool specifically designed for retail which promises to provide long term value to the business as requirements change.
Reflexis Appointments is schedule aware, which means customers can book an appointment that aligns with the schedule and availability of their preferred associate. that appointment will automatically populate into the associate’s schedule.
The tool is able to support queue management and virtual queue management so that waiting customers do not actually have to stand in a line. It can be seamlessly linked to the retailers’ website or mobile app, which suggests it would be useful long into the future as retail adapts to newly emerging shopping habits.
Social distancing retail technology needed ‘now or never’
It’s clear that the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated digital transformation in retail, and this is confirmed by a report from GlobalData.
The data and analytics firm says that with increased competition from ecommerce, massively reduced footfall and low consumer confidence, the need to build digital capabilities was a case of ‘now or never’ for physical retail stores.