Coronavirus and social distancing have us talking about things that were not on the radar at the start of the year. For example, who would have considered the idea of contact tracing being implemented by default in smartphone operating systems? Likewise, we have some older capabilities that might be given new life in the coming months.
One such capability is in-store retail tracking. Through the use of RFID tags, motion sensors and video cameras, retailers have long had the capacity to track retail customers in brick-and-mortar stores. Such capabilities have not been widely embraced because they have been deemed unnecessary. Social distancing might very well change that.
More Space, Less Contact
Now that states are reopening in phases, we are seeing the retail sector subjected to certain restrictions. Social distancing demands more space between retail patrons as they shop. More space between patrons and staff is also required. Physical contact is being discouraged as well.
As such, touchless payments are on the rise. Retail operations are more reticent than ever to accept cash when doing so is avoidable. Customers are being encouraged to pay with smartphones and smart chip-enabled credit cards compatible with tap-and-go systems.
With so much focus on social distancing now, what happens to the old sales floor model? It is no longer acceptable for sales representatives to directly engage customers on the floor. Without that engagement, it is more difficult to meet customer needs. It becomes more difficult to answer questions, offer advice, and explain features. Enter in-store retail tracking.
Technology Taking Its Place
In-store retail tracking utilizes fairly mature technologies like RFID, barcodes, and motion detectors. By properly outfitting a store and its inventory, it is entirely possible to track customer behavior from the time a person walks in the door until the time he/she leaves.
Such capabilities have many practical implications. For example, California’s Rock West Solutions explains that custom RFID signal tracking makes it possible to know whenever a customer handles a retail item. Motion detectors can tell retailers how long customers spend in a given area of the store or, even better, how much time they spend looking at a particular product.
Bar and QR codes can be deployed as a means of giving customers information about products at a glance. One example would be that of a customer using his/her phone to read a QR code attached to a piece of clothing. After reading the code, the customer’s phone would display pertinent information.
Getting to Know Customers
Rock West also explains that the data gathered through in-store tracking helps retailers get to know their customers better. And the better they know their customers, the more they can meet customer needs. It all leads to a better experience that builds loyalty, solidifies branding, and turns browsing customers into paying customers.
Of course, making all of this work requires a keen understanding of how to use the data gleaned. After all, data is useless if it is not actionable. There is no point in tracking customers in a retail setting if the data gleaned is not used to improve the shopping experience.
Solving the data problem is one of the things companies like Rock West tackle. Data analysis experts are continually developing new ways to analyze and use data. To that end, deep learning and artificial intelligence are seen as the future of big data. Both technologies offer practical applications for retail.
Social distancing is bound to change retail shopping in the coming months. For one thing, it could encourage more in-store tracking in place of direct and personal customer engagement.