The coronavirus pandemic has given retailers “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to embrace digital technologies and restore shoppers’ confidence in physical stores.
According to GlobalData’s disruptive tech analyst Venkata Naveen, retailers around the world are adopting new technologies in order to increase footfall while maintaining strict safety measures in stores, and its now or never for them to do so.
“As stores began to reopen doors, retailers are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR) to offer hygiene-centric shopping experiences to customers with ‘contactless retail’ and increase their confidence to shop during the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.
“Tech-enabled applications like virtual queuing, footfall analytics, contactless payments, self-checkout and chatbots have suddenly seen an uptick at point-of-sale for retailers.”
US grocery giant Kroger is using Quevision technology to count the total number of shoppers entering and exiting the store with a network of cameras.
The system alerts workers when the store is at 50 per cent capacity so they can open more tills to ensure social distancing is maintained.
In the UK Asda has launched a virtual queuing system, allowing customers to remain in their cars or at home until they can enter the store, preventing them from coming into contact with other shoppers for extended periods of time.
Meanwhile Lidl has launched a Whatsapp based chatbot in Ireland which informs shoppers about the best time to attend the store in an effort to reduce lengthy cues and overcrowded stores.
Sportwear retailer Decathlon has partned with MishiPay in Germany for an initiative which allows customers to scan items with their smartphone as they shop, disabling the products RFID tag and allowing them to exit the store without cueing for checkout.
“While the long-term social and economic impact of the pandemic on retail stores is still not clear, it has brought the industry a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and created an imminent need to build digital capabilities,” Naveen added.
“The shopping behaviors of consumers, shaped up by the implications of the pandemic, can only be met with the digital savviness of retail stores. Contactless retail is here to stay until a vaccine is ready and even continue to do so as the world emerges from the pandemic.”