The phased re-opening of stores is being planned across Europe and North America, as we all begin to imagine our lives out of confinement post-pandemic.
In physical retail, the big questions are: “What should our stores look like?”, “What are consumers going to want?” and “How can we protect our staff and customers?”
Social distancing in stores will continue
Every corner of retail has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and consumers have become accustomed to the idea of ‘social distancing’. Indeed, many governments are insisting on continuing precautions in order to avoid a second outbreak.
The accepted view from governments, trade bodies and business analysts is that social distancing will continue for some time – whether enforced by law, recommended in guidelines, or simply sustained by consumers who may not feel comfortable spending time in busy, crowded shops.
Occupancy limits and proximity control
The ongoing social distancing issue creates many practical challenges for retailers who want to welcome shoppers again, but do not intend to risk the health of their staff or customers. Technology solutions are at hand. At ShopperTrak, we have created a dedicated Real-Time Occupancy Solution, as we feel people counting technology, analytics and alerts will be key to overcoming future market challenges around occupancy levels and the proximity of people in stores and shopping centres.
Our Real-Time Occupancy solution enables stores to accurately understand shopper density within a defined area – ideal as a means of meeting compliance requirements. It’s highly likely that retailers will need to meet maximum visitor limits and keep records of the numbers coming into their stores. Having access to traffic management tools will therefore be vital.
Meeting social distancing compliance guidelines
Knowing how a store’s occupancy changes during the day – in real-time – enables compliance to social distancing guidelines. And thanks to alerts, the solution can advise security teams when maximum occupancy limits have been reached. The store manager can also flex and adapt staffing to ensure marshals are on duty when needed, and that essential cleaning of high-touch areas is being carried out, for example.
Mapping shopper journeys post-pandemic
Another benefit is being able to build a picture of post-pandemic shopping behaviour using people counting, and traffic and occupancy counting analytics. It might be that shoppers begin to use fashion stores more as showrooms, rather than trying on outfits in fitting rooms. Their dwell time may reduce as they browse items but complete the purchase and ‘try on’ at home, which will impact staff scheduling and merchandise management strategies.
There is likely to be more demand for in-store returns and Buy Online Pick-up In-Store (BOPIS) services, but again this must be managed responsibly so that social distancing is observed at service desks too. Real-time occupancy data and alerts will help retailers quickly react to emerging shopper needs.
Managing continuous uncertainty
Social distancing compliance will undoubtedly become part of everyday life in store in the coming months. Retailers are being urged to protect the health and welfare of their workforces and their customers, and to do this, reliable real-time solutions must be in place.
The beauty of ShopperTrak’s Real-Time Occupancy solution is that it provides solid evidence that continuing safety measures are being met. The data gathered will also help retailers manage the continuous uncertainty that lies ahead, revealing valuable insights into how shoppers are behaving, at a time when competitors may well be in the dark.