Today, a consumer’s retail journey has drastically transformed due to the pandemic. What used to be an exciting in-store experience with customers physically picking up stuff to either try on or compare with has now moved online. In India, e-commerce saw a huge rise in sales since the nationwide lockdown, when people had no access to retail outlets and shopping malls.
The Government of India has taken a stance towards adhering to the Covid-19 guidelines as against imposing a nationwide lockdown. It has made State Governments responsible for assessing respective situations and enforcing local restrictions as and when required. However, the effects of Covid-19 on the economy will be long-lasting. Social distancing will remain an important part of the fight against the virus to prevent renewed waves of infection. The associated regulations and restrictions present many retailers with new challenges and questions.
The adoption of video software technologies can help create a secure environment for employees and customers. Implementation of such technologies will also ensure customers have a pleasant shopping experience despite the applicable security regulations and aid in increasing efficiency and sales, both now and into the future. After all, the same solutions that help businesses comply with Covid-19 regulations can provide them with interesting insights into your customers’ buying behavior post-pandemic.
Listed below are few tips for retailers in the Next Normal.
Keeping track of the number of customers inside your store is a challenge, especially when you have large or complex spaces. Your store may be considered overcrowded in minutes under the new requirements. To avoid this and not risk penalties, retailers should know the number of customers at any given time in their store. The most elegant solution would be a real-time video analysis, which counts the people in the entire area or a part of it and automatically notifies when the maximum number of people has been reached. Appropriate measures can be set in advance to prevent overcrowding.
Access and Door Control:
The number of customers in your store can be regulated not just by people counting, but also with video-based access control. This can be done with the help of a video management system (VMS), which functions with a “one in, one out” policy. Waiting customers are notified about when they can enter the store. This technology would cut down on manpower, as it does not require gatekeepers for regulation.
With a VMS, you free up your employees, avoid putting them at unnecessary risk of infection and possibly aggressive reactions from the customers, while ensuring the numbers' accuracy and avoiding additional personnel costs.
Automated door control goes simultaneously with access control. This technology used with automatic doors allows you to control your doors from an integrated door control system. If the VMS detects that the allowed number of people in your store has exceeded, either with people counting or access control, the automatic doors will no longer open for additional customers. Only when enough people have left the store will the doors be unlocked, and others allowed to enter.
Mask and Distance Detection:
Masks are a part of one’s outfit today. To comply with current regulations, customers must comply with mask requirements. Video software can detect if someone is wearing a mask or not with the help of facial recognition that lies behind it.
Should a person enter the store without a face mask, the VMS will notify management for immediate action.
As for distance detection, customers may sometimes find themselves standing right next to another customer. Now with the help of an application based on video technology, it can be detected when people overstep the required safe distance, and this immediately sets off an alarm. Customers can then be reminded of practicing safe distancing either by automated cues or personally by the staff.
It is very important to know where most customers are in a retail outlet- are they near a particular product, the trial rooms, or in the lobby. Heat mapping identifies high traffic areas within the store and helps management to strategically position products in a manner that can equalize highly frequented areas in the store and avoid unnecessary crowds.
Thermal maps, or so-called heat maps, are created from the footage captured from your cameras. In time, these shows where customers tend to linger in the stores can continue to remain helpful even after the pandemic for business recovery and better product placement.
The detection of inappropriate behavior like failing to wear a mask requires an efficient response. Intelligent video systems can be programmed to react automatically. Automated audio messages (loudspeaker announcements) or visual cues (via monitors or smart walls) in real-time can be used to remind customers of the regulations.
To avoid close contact in a limited space, the store can plan and guide customers through pre-defined “one-way routes”. Modern VMS can then detect when people are moving against the prescribed walking direction and signal via the loudspeaker system to remind customers of the correct walking route.
Depending on whether your business is a single store, a shopping center, or a chain with centralized management, video technologies can be tailored and integrated with the right open VMS.
The added advantage to video technologies is the use of an open platform, that is not bound to a specific hardware or software provider(any camera manufacturer or video analytics company).
Shopping centers and campus-like environments with multiple buildings and stores in the same location require different technologies as compared to a large retail operation with a centralized headquarter and stores in different sites. Hence, it would be wrong to say that a one size fits all model can suit the world of retailers when it comes to video technology, but any video technology implemented during the pandemic will find relevance and importance post-Covid-19.