How Mobile Technology is Helping Retailers Adjust to the New Normal
For retail stores that are still open, like supermarkets and pharmacies, mobile technology allows customers and store staff to safely shop and work.
Once a customer enters a store, and activates the store app, beacon technology tracks them as they make their way from aisle to aisle. When they arrive at a certain location, beacon technology serves up product-related alerts and promotional discounts.
How it helps during COVID-19: In order to observe safe social distancing, people must be at least six feet apart. When customers get too close (easy to do when concentrating on your shopping list), beacon technology can send out a warning signal alerting people to step back from each other and maintain a safe distance.
Using scan-as-you-go technology, shoppers can simply scan the items they are planning to purchase. When they are ready to checkout, they simply pay for the order and walk out of the store.
How it helps during COVID-19: Minimizing contact is critical to curbing the spread of COVID-19. Scan-as-you-go mobile technology eliminates the need for customers and cashiers to interact with each other. It also eliminates the need to handle or pass cash or credit cards back and forth
Facial recognition software
When a customer opts into using this technology, facial recognition software identifies their face when they walk into the store. Upon recognition, the customer can receive custom text messages, offers and discounts from the retailer.
- How it helps during COVID-19: Facial recognition software is being improved to positively ID people if they have taken the extra precaution of wearing a mask. It’s also being combined with thermal scanners to detect if customers are running a fever.
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Mobile Technology and Retail After COVID-19
Nobody truly knows when the coronavirus pandemic will subside. As one prominent physician said: “You don’t make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.”
Yet, it’s possible to predict what new trends will become permanent based on how mobility and IoT are transforming retail. Shopping convenience and store cleanliness will continue to be top-of-mind among consumers. Retailers must find a way to fuse those elements with current expectations of a more personalized shopping experience.
It’s not inconceivable, for example, for stores to employ handheld devices to scan shopping carts for the presence of harmful viruses or bacteria. Any cart that’s deemed a health risk is taken out of circulation for a thorough cleaning. Some stores in Germany are even using 3D printers to print “hands-free” cart handles to allow for a safer, cleaner shopping experience.
In addition to the mobile technology mentioned earlier, retailers are looking to add things like voice activated satellite navigation to their shopping apps. Customers say which item they want, and the app guides them to its location. This gets people in and out of the store quicker and minimizes contact with other shoppers and store employees.
Mobile technology can also be used to limit the amount of people inside a brick and mortar store. For example, retailers can contact customers as they’re about to enter alerting them that the store is at maximum capacity. Alternatively, customers can use apps to make appointments when they want to visit based on personal schedules or anticipated store traffic.