As winter approaches and the Covid-19 pandemic continues to impact health services, the economy, and daily life, innovation in technology solutions is providing a beacon of hope. At a time when retail businesses are grappling with new restrictions and adapting to government guidelines, they are also attempting to recover from the lack of footfall during the lockdown and the decrease in buyers’ confidence.
Not only has Covid-19 changed day-to-day life, but it has also significantly altered the way businesses operate across Europe – at the outbreak of Covid-19, the retail sector in Europe expected losses of over four billion euros. With the crisis wearing on and losses likely to steepen, the retail industry will need to continue to adapt to ensure the survival of businesses.
Despite summer months showing some signs of recovery, Covid-19 numbers have once again picked up – creating more uncertainty for economies across Europe. Businesses have once again been forced to rethink their approach, and though many have already proved they are up to the challenge – such as supermarkets, a leading example of how business can stay open safely during the pandemic – wise investment is needed to ensure the health of business during the winter months ahead.
As businesses reopen indefinitely, they have had to rethink basic processes in line with government advice and customer expectations, such as implementing social distancing measures, hand sanitising posts, as well as track and trace systems. It is in this space that innovative technology will play a significant role in supporting the retail sector in adapting to this new environment. For example, we have already seen the widespread implementation of devices such as temperature screening cameras and the development of multiple apps and digital tools.
In some countries, guidelines suggest employers should introduce one-way flow systems, limits to customer numbers allowed in a store at one time, as well as screens to create a safety barrier between customers and employees. Not to mention, cashless payments and refunds and a limit on customer services. These methods make sense as basic requirements; however, looking forward, decision-makers should be investing in innovative technology to support their retail businesses as the battle against the virus continues into 2021.
With many not yet comfortable with the idea of returning to in-person, in-store shopping, there has been a clear shift towards online shopping. Although convenient, online shopping is not an all-encompassing solution – especially as people are consistently spending most of their time in-doors and many will be looking for a reason to leave their computer screen and get out of the house. It is up to retail businesses to ensure they present a safe, secure environment that alleviates customer worries and allows them to enter establishments, knowing that precautions have been taken.
In the case of track and trace, for example, the premise is simple. By temporarily collecting and storing customers’ data, establishments can notify them whether they have potentially been exposed to the virus in the event where one or more clients test positive for Covid-19. This allows those who have been in store at a specific date and time to subsequently be contacted and then take necessary precautions in line with Covid-19 guidance.
This is why existing solutions such as modern network management tools are well placed to support innovative track and trace programmes, especially as many of these are already widely used in the retail sector anyway. Network management solutions such as D-Link’s Nuclias Cloud enable businesses to not only automate and monitor their network, but also allows them to make the most out of features such as the customisable captive portal and 3rd party integration that can provide Wi-Fi analytics, wayfinding, and marketing automation.
The customisable captive portal allows businesses to create a built-in track and trace option via the Wi-Fi check-in, making the collecting of necessary customer information easy and stress-free. The system can also be configured to hold customer data for a limited amount of time, allowing businesses to comply with GDPR regulations more easily.
In addition, 3rd party integration products such as Fydelia, Stampede, and Purple have begun making use of their software features to facilitate track and trace. Through automatically checking customers in via guest Wi-Fi, this type of software allows stores to gather personal information as well as to measure and analyse footfall. In this way, businesses can ensure compliance with social distancing regulations, while effortlessly gathering client information and making contact with them if necessary. Where Wi-Fi is unavailable customers can make use of a QR code, which is also integrated with the 3rd party software.
There is a multitude of network management products that are well equipped to support track and trace capabilities, but here are some top tips to keep in mind when considering which solution to invest in:
- Choose a solution that is designed to include a customisable captive portal, enabling automatic check-in so that customers can input their details
- Consider the size of your business and which network management solution would suit you best
- Select an option that upholds GDPR regulations, to ensure data is stored safely and securely
- Go for a solution that supports centralised management as this will alert you to any issues before they become disruptive
- Consider an option that includes analytics and reporting functions to provide a transparent view of your network
Although retail is facing an uncertain time ahead, there is no shortage of innovative solutions to support the everyday running of businesses as well as compliance with Covid-19 measures. Especially those that not only play a role in maintaining the health and safety of staff but also in mitigating the spread of the virus is a top priority and can ensure the safety and security of customer data.