As Australian retailers look to embrace a positive Christmas spending season ahead, technology is being implemented at speed in a bid to combat the threat of COVID-19.
From heat mapping to digital queues and click and collect, retailers are finding innovative ways to reopen safely, while still catering to the customer experience.
Here’s a quick snapshot of just some of the strategies that are being put in place…
Heat mapping allows retailers and shopping malls to see where crowds are congregating and better manage the flow of traffic through a centre or store.
After its devastating recent COVID outbreak, Chadstone in Melbourne is among the shopping malls championing this technology.
Offering real-time data, the heat-mapping technology allows centre management to see where people are and send teams to keep customers moving should an area become congested.
Visitor flow management
Visitor flow management is also playing a role in ensuring stores do not become overly-congested. In this case, customers are counted as they enter and leave via a store’s existing EAS system.
When maximum store capacity is reached, digital signage indicates no further patrons can enter. It then automatically flashes green when one customer leaves and another can be admitted.
Another tool being implemented by major centres like Chadstone is digital queues. This new technology has been developed in Australia and helps retailers safely manage shoppers’ movements and reduce capacity and congestion in stores.
As The Age explains, the software manages online bookings and virtual queues for walk-up customers via QR codes, with a goal of reducing crowds of shoppers lining up outside stores.
If a store is too busy, shoppers can choose to virtually reserve a spot in line and come back later.
Analytics and real-time data
Harnessing data like traffic counting, weather forecasts, consumer trends and more, retail analytics are allowing retailers to take a predictive approach to what will happen in their store or mall on any given day.
It allows them to predict traffic volumes, and then better manage them, and again, this type of technology is being deployed across major malls.
The Age notes Chadstone owner Vicinity is among the centre landlords rolling out this approach, and critically they are also relaying the information to customers to allow them to plan their shopping trips.
The interactive, real-time data shows visitor numbers and forecasts for any given day and the week ahead, and the feature is updated every 15 minutes.
“This feature makes it easy to avoid the usual busy periods, such as the middle of the day, and on weekends, and will save time for the most convenient shopping experience,” Vicinity chief executive Grant Kelley told The Age.
Mobile Point of Sale is hardly new, but its adoption has ramped up in recent months in a bid to expedite the checkout process.
mPOS allows retailers to quickly establish additional checkouts instore and also enables them to take the register to the customer when required.
Paired with a contactless payment processor, mobile Point of Sale is also assisting by facilitating contactless payments, which do not require the customer to touch a pin pad or insert their payment card.
Click and Collect
Click and Collect has played a vital role throughout COVID-19 and that’s set to continue during the Christmas retail period ahead.
The strategy offers an omnichannel approach that allows the customer to purchase things online, then pick up instore.
Throughout COVID, this pick-up has often been curbside and contactless, meaning the consumer simply drives to a designated pick-up point at the store or shopping centre, opens their car boot and the product is placed inside the vehicle without physical contact.
Vitag has a range of tech tools available to help retailers navigate reopening for the Christmas period ahead. These include visitor flow management, mPOS, and retail analytics, and you can contact our expert team for assistance or advice here.