Retail safety: how data can help keep staff and shoppers safe from Covid-19 spread

Retailers have done exceptionally well to adapt to the new way of shopping. Safety measures such as screens at tills, face masks, contactless payments, sanitiser stations, one-way systems etc can be found in almost all retail stores. However, compliance of the new rules vary.

Covid rules non-compliance.

Let’s discuss an easy one, face masks. Face masks have been mandatory in indoor public spaces since the outbreak of Covid-19. Spotting non-compliance is easy since it is visibly clear. Stores have the right and responsibly to not allow customers in without a face mask and most retailers have placed staff at the door to remind customers of the rules; the UK government can also fine individuals £200 for non-compliance, and up to £3,200 for repeatedly failing to wear a face mask.

In spite of these efforts, some shoppers fail to wear their face masks. There have been several reports of individuals removing their masks once inside the store or when speaking to someone. Furthermore, in Morrisons, one shopper had noticed another shopper walking in without a face mask, in spite of signs stating “no face covering no entry”, and not be challenged.

Of course, there are blurred lines with individuals being exempt from wearing a face masks for health reasons but there is non-compliance of other rules such as one-way systems in stores which makes social distancing in stores difficult. Since, some of the responsibilities lies with retailers, let’s look at data as the solution.

The solution.

People Counting:

AI powered video analytics is a solution for retailers- the software converts video images into big-data analysis in real-time. They can be automated to count the number of shoppers in the store, and control the “one in, one out” rule. Tesco, for example, uses a people counter in certain stores which informs the traffic light device at the door to invite shoppers in or wait. Many stores still use a member of staff to count shoppers which is a drain on valuable resources. Thus, automating this could mean better use of the staff and higher accuracy.

Modern software can even contain a face mask filter alerting staff of anyone shopper not wearing a face mask, or removing it upon entry.  

Queue management:

The pandemic has made shoppers less willing to queue for long periods of time, so management teams must make sure queues move quickly and social distancing is also being observed. Software analytics tool helps management teams predict queues and make decision on the number of staff required.

Alerts can be created to inform management teams of real-time changes so they can quickly move staff to where they are needed, moving shoppers smoothly through the buying process and helping shoppers as required.

Crowd management:

Despite limited the number of shoppers allowed in a store, crown management is lacking inside. Retailers have little control over where crowds gather and if they follow the one-way systems.

With path and heat maps, retailers will know which areas are most congested and be able to make better use of the floor space: perhaps the store will change the layout and spread popular products/departments around the store; or open a second set of fitting rooms to reduce queues. Having the data on popular areas could lead to social distancing being observed and staff and shoppers having a safe working and shopping space.

Hygiene:

Retail stores have levelled up store hygiene to fight against Covid-19. Areas such as toilets and fitting rooms are being cleaned more frequently as a result. Real time data on footfall, time spent in specific areas, and heat maps will indicate whether one area needs more regular cleaning than another; and staff can be deployed for cleaning duties on demand.

These are only a few examples. Retailers can discuss their needs and have the software tailored to their business to make sure they extract the data they require.

Ultimately, video analytics software can help retailers create a safer environment for customers and employees by making better use of the space, having real time information on the store occupancy, and accurately predicting future traffic. The data is easy to read on smartphones, laptops and PCs and can be deployed quickly. Most importantly, it is the most cost-effective and accurate way to manage staff and customers, as well as keeping them safe from Covid-19.

These are only a few examples. Retailers can discuss their needs and have the software tailored to their business to make sure they extract the data they require.

Ultimately, video analytics software can help retailers create a safer environment for customers and employees by making better use of the space, having real time information on the store occupancy, and accurately predicting future traffic. The data is easy to read on smartphones, laptops and PCs and can be deployed quickly. Most importantly, it is the most cost-effective and accurate way to manage staff and customers, as well as keeping them safe from Covid-19.

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