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Retail technology strategies for the post-COVID-19 ‘new normal’

Caper Counter at Fenway Park
Fenway Park is now offering contactless checkout.

The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but consumers are adjusting their lives as serious cases fall and retailers must respond with technology.

While nobody knows what the future may bring, it currently appears that a combination of factors has led an easing of the COVID-19 pandemic. And shoppers are reacting by resuming normal out-of-home activities and increasing spending, both online and in-store.

However, this “new normal” of consumer activity does not mean everything is going back to exactly the way it was in 2019. Shoppers are still looking to minimize close personal contact, and have come to appreciate the convenience and speed of digital and mobile self-service.

Retailers need to adapt their operating models to meet the changed needs of post-pandemic (or post-peak) consumers, which will require the intelligent application of technology solutions. Here are three real world examples of retail technology being strategically applied in response to the emerging new normal.

Now batting at Fenway Park – contactless checkout
Fenway Park, home stadium of the Boston Red Sox Major League Baseball team, is leveraging the Instacart Caper Counter artificial intelligence (AI)-based POS system. The stadium is rolling out the new Caper Counter checkout systems in partnership with Aramark Sports + Entertainment, its food and beverage partner.

Caper Counter leverages AI functionality, including computer vision and sensor fusion technology, to visually detect and identify items based on their shape, color, key features, and sizes. Customers can place packaged food and beverage items, such as peanuts, soda, beer and candy, for purchase on Caper Counter, where they will be automatically detected and added to the cart for checkout.

Customers then select “pay” and choose from either a credit card, loaded ticket or team rewards as their method of payment, and can then take their food and beverages, completing a seamless, autonomous transaction.

Joann targets in-store customers with mobile offers
Seeking to drive more revenue in its stores and increase the usability of its mobile app, specialty arts and crafts retailer Joann decided to make it easier for customers to locate products through the app and make additional purchases while in a store.

To accomplish this, Joann implemented Radar’s geofencing platform. When a customer engages with the app, the Radar solution checks their location to see if they are in a Joann store geofence. If the user is, a free shipping coupon is displayed, encouraging the customer to place an online order if the item they’re searching for isn’t available in the store.

This incentivizes customers to place their order through the Joann app instead of leaving the store to look for the item at a competitor. Not only does it help Joann increase larger basket sizes, it also gives customers a better shopping experience.

As a direct result of the new in-store coupon offers powered by Radar’s geofences, Joann generated more than 25,000 incremental orders with ROI of 718%.

Guess upgrades from spreadsheets during pandemic
Global vertical fashion retailer Guess Inc. took advantage of the COVID-19 store shutdown to upgrade from spreadsheet-based planning to the Centric planning solution. Guess needed a single, unified planning tool to respond more quickly to marketplace disruptions, move premium product lines onshore, reduce overstock and discounting based on fluidly managing inventory, and increase margins.

Other benefits Guess obtains from its new planning solution include more easily updating range or assortment planning all the way up the merchandise plan, and having local country managers work directly within the solution to select their preferred collections. This enables the company to deal with rapid shifts in customer tastes and trends, which may include varying levels of COVID-19 impact on consumer behavior, by country.

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