these applications in their bid to makeconsumers feel safe.
Mobile apps have long been able to
enable the use of augmented reality, says
Emil Waszkowski, head of consulting for
the software development company Future
Mind. Their use is bound to proliferate
post-coronavirus, he claims. “For example,
they make it possible to create a 3D model
of a product and ‘apply’ this model to the
external environment. In many cases, this
might be enough for customers to see your
products in action without actually going
anywhere.” IKEA has been using this tech-
nology for a while, he notes. Its app “makes
it possible to place any piece of furniture
inside one’s home without the need to pur-
chase it first.”
Spatial sensors is another technology
that can be redeployed to promote social
distancing in retail stores, says Scott
Hauman, EVP of strategy and innovation
for the Integer Group, a commerce agency
and a member of Omnicom Group.
He points to retail solutions provider
BlueFox.io, which has developed an appthat notifies on-site teams when the number of people in a store or in a public placeexceeds a preset threshold. A single sensorfor the app can cover an area of up to
30,000 square feet, he notes.
And as an added bonus, Hauman reportsthat besides spatial compliance, the appalso provides valuable marketing data andadvanced analytics such as real time andhistorical foot traffic counts, cumulativeimpressions, dwell times, recurrent visitsand peak hours.
A WHOLE NEW CHANNEL
Industry veterans such as Nate Flemming,vice president of marketing for the retailplatform Bamboo Rose, also believe thatpost-coronavirus, curbside pickup will continue to remain popular and even morphinto yet another channel for shoppers.
“ We expect this crisis to be a catalyst for
deeper consumer adoption of curbside
pickup,” he says. “As more and more con-
sumers adopt curbside pickup, it will intro-
duce new operations and supply chain pro-
cess requirements for retailers, which will
also have to maintain a convenient cus-
tomer service experience while also operat-
Here too, technology will play an impor-
tant role, says Jaime Sturgis, the founder
and CEO of Native Realty. “Having the lat-
est credit card technology will be para-
mount, as some credit card readers simply
require the consumer to tap the credit card
to be read,” he says.
At the same time, retailers will need todouble down on their omnichannel strategies, says Tango CEO Pranav Tyagi. Tangoprovides store lifecycle and workplace management systems. “More than ever, businesses will be relying on their omnichannelstrategies such as online ordering, promotions through social media and special offersto encourage repeat business,” he says.
A CONTACTLESS EXPERIENCE
Perhaps the channel that will require themost technology will be the in-store point-of-sale.
“Without a doubt, the most important
piece of technology for post-Covid retailers
is a contactless POS system,” says Sean
Nguyen, director of Internet Advisor. In
addition to the safety that they provide, a
contactless POS system will show that the
retailer is taking the risk seriously. Such an
initiative shows that you care and that your
business is connected with the community,”
Nguyen says. “This builds trust and loyalty,
two things that will serve your business well
even long after people shake the fear of get-
ting sick for simply going outside.”
Some examples are solutions like Scan &
Go or Click & Collect, says Future Mind’s
Waszkowski. Both options typically use a
dedicated mobile app, which enables scan-
ning products or ordering them, as well as
paying for them with just a few clicks. “As a
result, there’s no need to stand in lines and
spend a lot of time inside the stores—espe-
cially if the purchased items are collected
by the entrance of the store via the Click &
Collect option,” he says. These applications
are already being used by such retailers as
Walmart, he adds.
Another option for retailers is to use a
model similar to Amazon Go, in which they
develop an app that is linked to a form of
payment that will automatically be charged
when the product is scanned with a smart-
phone, says Michael Bevans, industry solu-
tions manager at ActiveViam, an analytics
Some retailers are already well on theirway to becoming completely check-outfree, says Liu Yang, a PR specialist with AiFi.AiFi is an AI-based technology companythat automates stores. She notes thatCarrefour, Valora and Zabka are using theAiFi technology throughout Europe.
One store in Shanghai has been operat-
ing during the Covid- 19 outbreak, she says.
“Store operators of an AiFi-empowered
Shanghai store shared feedback that they
feel safe to work in a contactless autono-
The Covid- 19 outbreak will accelerate
this trend of autonomous retail, Yang says.
“SARS led to the birth of China e-com-
merce including Alibaba and JD.com. This
time, it may lead to more contactless ser-
vices in China.”
RETHINKING THE PHYSICAL
Watching the turmoil in the retail sector asthe coronavirus crisis unfolded, NingWang, co-founder and chief business officer of PingPong Financial, a merchant payments and commerce tech services provider, was surprised at how nimblydepartment stores were able to react.
Practically overnight they managed toupgrade the efficiency of their operations around getting goods shipped toconsumers. How? They used their storesas supply centers, she says. “Therein liesthe power of a physical store — proximityto one’s consumers — and it is something department stores can use as a lifeline, at least in the short term”. The question going forward, says Wang, is whetherthey have the ability to permanently shiftto this model.
Interestingly, this is a pivot that willrequire both new technology and good old-fashioned business acumen. Indeed, for allthe promise that technology offers retail, it isstill hard to say which is more important. ◆