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How COVID has Impacted Retail Technology Two Years On

COVID-19 has caused a lot of major changes to the way people live their lives, and more specifically the way that people shop. In this blog, we’re going to break down how Covid has impacted the retail industry, and more specifically retail technology, two years from the beginning of the pandemic.

The abrupt change in the way most things ran caused a lot of businesses to think on their toes in terms of the way they would continue to operate. New rules like social distancing, having to close completely due to being an ‘inessential store’, and limited supplies and staff, all meant that the need for updated technology was heightened. There was a major spike in online shopping from home, and for physical stores, this meant a significant fall in foot traffic. On the flip side of this, the pandemic caused a lot of retailers to rethink how they could better use technology to provide a more seamless experience for their customers, both for the short term and the long term. Due to fewer people being in a physical shop space and all the other Covid-related challenges, the in-store technology throughout Covid had to be far more efficient, to make the most of the customers that were still shopping in person, and to ensure that they continued to come back safely and seamlessly.

This can be seen as a positive, as it helped retailers to understand the great value that retail technology can have on a business. As technology continues to evolve it was only a matter of time before retailers came to this realisation, however, Covid made it happen sooner. QR codes can be used as an example here, necessary at the beginning of the pandemic to make signing in and tracking where people shopped much easier. Nowadays, due to how quickly people were forced to adapt to QR codes, consumers are now highly responsive to them, and retailers can take advantage of this by using QR codes for more marketing-based purposes rather than just for Covid.

Kiosks and Touchscreens

Contact-free shopping also became semi-essential in the retail sphere. Social distancing meant that many were unable or unwilling to shop in a physical store where workers or customers got too close. Since Covid, most businesses now make use of some retail technology in their stores. Whether this is digital signage reminding customers of the latest health and safety protocols, or self-serve checkouts to alleviate queueing bottlenecks, technology continues to evolve to fit the growing needs of customers. Kiosks and touchscreens allow customers to access and manage a wide range of information and functions without the need to speak face-to-face with a staff member. This appeals to many people who still wish to maintain an adequate social distance, or to people who are now used to the experience and like to have more independence on their shopping journey. We’ve worked with several service-based retailers to assist in streamlining their checkout process through the deployment of kiosks and touchscreen technology, along with health services needing to improve their digital queue management.

Queue Management

Queuing systems became an integral part of the day-to-day functioning of many retail stores during the pandemic. Without them, customers would have found it difficult to maintain adequate social distance from each other whilst shopping in stores. A lack of direction for social distancing meant that many customers did not want to shop in-store, as they were worried about the potential risk of spreading illness. While strict queue management took some getting-used-to, we can see two years later that these kinds of solutions; especially the digitally enabled ones, have greatly improved the efficiency of queuing today. Some customers may still be concerned about social distancing for health reasons, thus if there ever is a resurgence in Covid cases the majority of physical retail stores will be well-equipped to handle this. Digital queue management systems take the guesswork out of it, allowing people to comfortably shop with ease and adequate personal space. Read up more on digital queue management.

Digital Concierge

Due to staff shortages becoming a common occurrence around covid-time, developments in ‘digital concierges’ have been extremely helpful. A digital concierge can assist with the first point of customer contact when they walk into a store. Much like a door greeter, the digital concierge ensures that customers are pointed in the right direction to their specific needs. While digital concierges were necessary at the beginning of the pandemic to assist with relaying important information to customers and helping them with where to go, nowadays they can be used for more casual directions and information. Two years on, the pandemic has allowed many customers to become more comfortable interacting with retail technology in different ways, whether that be via staff-assisted or self-service checkouts and information kiosks. Many people are now confident using less traditional methods of shopping, and this in turn has created a more seamless customer and staff experience. Read up more on digital concierges and how digital technology can alleviate staffing pressures.

Engagis has been offering a wide range of digital retail technology for over 20 years. This technology helps provide better outcomes and experiences for retail customers. This includes products like digital signage screens and kiosks, as well as media display players. We also offer services such as digital signage content management and creation, installation and support.

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