Turning to Tech: How Data and Devices Can Help Retailers Comply With COVID-19 Safety Measures
Amid the coronavirus pandemic, a retailer’s ability to operate safely depends on the dual effectiveness of its social distancing measures and sanitation protocols. It’s the new reality of 2020, which only intensified with the resurgence of the virus across the U.S. in July. That showcased exactly why retailers must have the right precautionary measures in place to prepare for a potential second or third wave of the virus. Without them, stores will have no choice but to close their doors again this coming fall.
While the need for social distancing and sanitation is a given, ensuring both sides of the safety compliance coin are consistently followed by employees and customers alike is still a challenging task. However, implementing the use of advanced technology can aid in those efforts. By leveraging data and devices that automate internal processes, monitor foot traffic, and provide prescriptive actions for improvement, retailers can keep a pulse on their COVID-19 safety compliance levels to remain aligned with the high-risk environment of a global pandemic.
Monitoring Customer Checkout Speed
Before the pandemic, retailers recognized checkout speeds as a primary key performance indicator (KPI). Quick checkouts kept lines moving, which equated to more sales and improved customer experiences. However, with safety now a top priority, checkout speed goals have been relaxed. The new priority is to ensure lines are moving at an adequate pace for social distancing as employees take time to wipe down registers and surfaces in between each transaction.
This is where advanced analytics tools, like prescriptive analytics, can help. Retailers have long leveraged prescriptive analytics at the register to maximize productivity and efficiency. Now, in light of COVID-19, it can be utilized in the opposite fashion. The solution can be configured to verify compliance around safety protocols by measuring cashiers’ scanning rates. For example, if an associate is scanning items or moving from customer to customer at an above-average rate, the associate is likely not enforcing social distancing or failing to sanitize his or her register belt between orders. If the solution identifies this anomaly within the data, it will alert a manager to verify the associate is complying with safety measures and provide retraining as necessary.
Contact Tracing and Storewide Social Distancing
Wireless location-tracking devices can be used for contact tracing and social distancing enforcement purposes. A retail store’s staff can wear small locating devices pinned to their uniforms or leverage mobile computers they already have on hand. These devices track wearers’ movements throughout their shifts using Bluetooth technology. The data gathered can then be fed into another application to compile it into a report or analyze it and extract critical insights.
If a specific employee contracts COVID-19 later on, management can leverage the data to identify where and with whom the infected has been. This makes it easier to pinpoint any co-workers that might have been exposed and need to quarantine, as well as areas the infected associate frequented that must be sanitized. Furthermore, the devices provide real-time verification that employees are practicing social distancing and fulfilling extra sanitation responsibilities. The locating devices can be configured to issue alerts when two or more wearers are not standing the required six feet apart.
Maintaining Sanitation Inventory
With amped up sanitation protocols, retailers must have ample cleaning supplies readily available at all times. A prescriptive analytics system can help retailers monitor their stores’ stocks of critical sanitation products — e.g., hand sanitizer, paper towels, disinfectant wipes — that are needed to maintain a safe environment for workers and shoppers. If a store is running low on specific sanitation products, the right solution will issue an alert directing store management to place an additional service order before it runs out. In a crunch, it can even identify other stores nearby with extra inventory to spare.
Considering the uncertainty around having an effective vaccine in the near future, the need for COVID-19 safety compliance isn’t going away anytime soon. Unlocking the power of data and devices for monitoring social distancing and sanitation compliance is one way retailers can align with the times and help safeguard the health of those inside their stores.
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Guy Yehiav is responsible for setting the organic and nonorganic growth, leadership strategy, and customer success for the Zebra Analytics business unit.
As a leader in enterprise AI solutions at the edge, with 25+ years of experience driving profits with data and IoT in the retail and the supply chain industries, Guy oversees the corporate strategy, direction and success of Zebra Analytics at Zebra Technologies. He was previously the CEO of Profitect, where he guided the company through multiple years of significant growth, including 182% revenue growth and 137% headcount growth from 2018-2019, before being acquired by Zebra Technologies. This was his second exit for his shareholders, after growing the Demantra supply chain optimization software company and selling it to Oracle. He has lead companies that keep complexity at the back end and simplicity at the front end, cultivating machine learning and smart decision-making based on data to deliver stellar results for customers.