Supporting the retail industry in challenging times

13 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the challenges already being faced by many retailers.

Stores that have opened during the crisis have provided an essential service for communities and have had to navigate many operational and logistical obstacles to ensure the safety of customers and staff. The requirement to maintain social distancing, controlling the queues on entry and ensuring a safe flow of customers around each store has been an unprecedented feat managed on limited resource and a lot of common sense. But to be sustainable in the event of a predicted second wave, many retailers are now looking at how technology and data might be able to help them.

Intelligent occupancy

Utilising cloud technologies, specific tools have been developed to assist store management and security teams, not just for immediate crisis management, but as they plan for the longer term too. Being able to determine, control and measure occupancy levels can prove invaluable in the transition from lockdown towards a ‘new normal’, and beyond. Through the use of sensors placed at entrances and exit points, a dedicated system can count the number of customers coming and going, calculating how many people are inside the shop and presenting the data in real time.

Retailers can decide the optimum occupancy based on the size, layout and resourcing requirements of the store, with the system creating prompts as the occupancy limit is reached. The prompt can also be used to trigger audio announcements or present digital display messages. Importantly, this allows staff to focus on other areas of service and control, providing useful operational data and confirmation of occupancy levels at any time in any location.

Health and safety

Retailers will always put the health and wellbeing of customers and colleagues first. Store occupancy data, backed by video surveillance validation, can be used to provide documented evidence of full compliance. Customer limits can be set according to the size of the store, or other factors, ensuring that the system can be tailored according to specific requirements. The same system that monitors customers entering a store, for example, can be combined with systems at point of sale and key service areas to provide information to the retailer that will reduce queues, increase efficiency and improve the customer experience.

Remote monitoring

For retailers, as we slowly return to a more normal way of interacting, being able to understand changes in buyer behaviour and provide a shopping experience that continues to meet customer expectations will be key to success. Access to data and the ability to respond effectively will be crucial in determining a longer term strategy. Remote monitoring and benchmarking makes this possible, providing wider visibility over multiple stores and locations through access to data directly through a recipient’s device.

Monitoring occupancy generates insights that can lead to improvements in operations, security and safety. It can enable retailers to enforce and prove compliance in the case of social distancing, together with optimising store performance more generally. While of great benefit in these changing times, intelligent occupancy should not be viewed purely as a tool for a crisis, but as a mechanism for encouraging the right behaviours at the right time. Greater visibility results in the ability to coordinate operations across stores and, ultimately, to serve the customer better, which is always the priority.