How technology will enable retail to get back on its feet after COVID-19

What will the new normal look like? It’s a question on every industry’s lips, as businesses large and small, across myriad different sectors, consider how their operations can be made to fit new guidelines around social distancing, hygiene, crowd density and more.

This is particularly pronounced in the retail industry. A dramatic uplift in online sales has been part of the picture, but as lockdown is eased and the public is encouraged to return to physical stores, so retailers need to adapt their premises and their practices to a brave new world.

Technology will play a crucial role in helping retailers to adapt to this new normal. Cisco is operating at the forefront of many areas which will enable the retail industry – right up to the level of huge department stores and shopping centres – to keep staff and shoppers alike safe and protected.

Here are some of the key processes Cisco technology can help underpin:

Social distancing

We have all come to recognise social distancing as a core pillar of preventing coronavirus spread. For now, many stores have managed it with a combination of one-way systems, barriers, and staff on the door counting shoppers in and out.

A longer-term solution could be density monitoring. If a retailer can monitor the real-time clustering of mobile devices within its physical environment, then it can enforce and maintain social distancing within that environment from a centralised point. This can be achieved with a Cisco AireOS or Catalyst wireless infrastructure, and the Cisco Maps application. Meanwhile, V-APP and EveryAngle, both integrated with Meraki MV cameras can manage people counting. All this provides centralised oversight of crowd density within environments such as airports, leisure venues, and large retailers.

Customer care

Running a smooth and seamless customer contact centre has become even more important for many retailers over the past few months. They may be coping with staff shortages along with a massive uplift in demand. Vulnerable customers may need specific information.

Cisco Webex Contact Centre is a full-featured, omnichannel, native cloud contact centre solution that is designed to ensure that the right agent is connected with the right customer at all times, particularly when there are surges in call volumes. It can be used to deliver SMS notifications, and manage proactive callbacks through partner-enabled software, further enhancing the contact centre function.

This functionality could be particularly useful if retailers need to manage new modes of shopping, such as customer arriving at stores to pick up orders through a social-distanced mechanism. The Webex Contact Centre can be integrated with dynamic digital signage to tell customers where to park and license place registration using Meraki video so that items can be taken directly to the customer’s car.

retail technology and Covid-19

retail technology and Covid-19

Physical and cybersecurity

COVID-19 might not seem like an obvious cybersecurity threat, but anything which forces drastic and rapid changes to normal operations can be capitalised upon by bad actors. Cisco offers a range of tools and technologies to protect fast-evolving network landscapes from cyberattacks, particularly when workforces have been forced to adapt to more remote and home working. VPN connections, endpoint detection, location analytics and more all work together to maintain robust security wherever staff are working.

The retail industry, like so many others, is going to be dramatically transformed by COVID-19. But with the right technology, retailers of all shapes and sizes can ensure efficient and productive approaches over the months ahead.