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Helping retailers open up shop in a COVID-19 environment

Jul 13, 2020 11:31:17 AM Camilla Bonanni data analytics, retail technology, Internet of Things (IoT), COVID-19

At the start of the year, the physical store was regaining its competitive edge in the battle against online retail, in many cases as a result of the adoption of new technologies that supported customer experience. The brick & mortar Retail environment would have been in the midst of a digital transformation of course, had the coronavirus pandemic not disrupted the world 2 months ago. With massive worldwide lockdowns that spared essentials stores such as supermarkets and groceries, any retail vertical was stopped in its tracks and the image of our own daily lives as in-store customers was shifted.

With a new normal emerging, consumers, retailers and economists have questioned whether the adoption of smart retail technologies will go into decline, mirroring the decline of the high street at large.

Given the realities facing businesses as they reopen their doors, the opposite would in fact seem true. For retailers looking to reopen safely to customers, technology solutions exist that meet urgent business needs.

Computer vision will provide retailers with the ability to track social distancing and measure how volatile movements will be post-lockdown using cameras or lidars. UV robotics devices will also disinfect and measure widespread areas. Automated RFID soap dispensers will ensure that employees in critical areas sanitise themselves regularly. Infrared cameras will also detect potentially contagious shoppers, employees and passengers.

A new collection of biometrics is set to accelerate interactivity completely. Thanks to the transformative power of vocal inputs and Natural Language Processing, touchscreens will be touchless. Such AI capabilities will also make way for an array of remote customer service possibilities, with smart mirrors avoiding congested fitting rooms. Retailers will now be competing in a whole different ball game. With a societal pressure to have safety as a top priority, they’ll have to balance customer experience and engagement alongside it.

AI and data will also give retailers the power to eliminate any potential waste of resources that do not translate into value for the store or customer. AI algorithms can help forecast demand and the decrease in nominal purchasing power pro capita. As a result, retailers can optimise stock management and operate on just in time stock models. With the help of GPS-tracking of assets and cargo, supply chains will become smarter and delivery journeys more predictable in their disruptions, from production to distribution. This amount of control provides value, compensating for expected drops in revenue.

By allowing retailers to manage large volumes of data, cloud services will thrive at the core of AI technology capabilities. As social distancing will be put to the test, retail tech will enable those to sustain that sociality is at the epicenter of shopping. Tech Data is a partner of choice for all integrators and retail businesses that want to demonstrate the ability of resilience amongst the spectrum of possibilities.

Camilla Bonanni

Written by Camilla Bonanni

Camilla Bonanni, EMEA IoT/Data Industry Lead, Retail, Tech Data, is a former 'Googler' who has witnessed the evolution of eCommerce into Omnichannel Retail over an 18 year international career in the technology industry. Camilla now advises on digital transformation in this industry, helping partners and their end customers adapt to the changing circumstances resulting from COVID-19.

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