We’re currently in the middle of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, even with vaccines being rolled out as fast as possible, there are new strains that have been proven to be more infectious than the first strain.
Retail workers and other customer-facing employees in retail outlets stores are at an even higher risk of infection, not just from the micro-droplets, but also from contact with common surfaces. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for as long as 3 days.
This means that the handheld devices used in retail stores are increasing the risk of retail workers being exposed to infection in the workplace. These surfaces are dangerous to both employees and customers.
There are several high-risk touchpoints in a retail environment, the most dangerous of which being the register where employees must touch these devices every time customers pay. They’ll touch the contaminated device, then touch the card, and hand it back to the customer, increasing the risk of passing the contagion.
Handheld devices are another risky surface for employees. Associates carry these barcode scanners throughout the store to check products and fulfill buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS) orders. If not carefully disinfected between orders and pickers, COVID could easily spread.
These sorts of surfaces put everyone at risk. All it takes for someone to get infected is one customer or employee touching the card or a barcode scanner and rubbing their nose or eyes without disinfecting their hands. Unfortunately, these hand-held devices are a staple in the retail sector and used by pretty much all retailers.
How to Reduce Contamination Risk in Your Retail Store
In response to COVID-19, retail brands in the country and across the world are looking for ways to reduce risk so customers can shop safely.
That's why retail brands are actively seeking ways to minimize and even completely eliminate contact between buyers and workers in the store. Some are beginning the implementation of hands-free scanners, touchless checkout and automatic doors, touchless kiosks, voice and facial recognition, and the integration of Apple Pay and Android Pay.
Let’s examine the dangers of handheld devices in this era and go over some basic COVID-19 guidelines for retail stores.
Reduce & Sanitize the Surfaces that Transfer Microorganisms
Reports show that customer-facing retail workers are at risk of contracting coronavirus 5x more than their colleagues who don’t deal with customers directly. The covid-19 virus can be easily transferred from one person to another if people do not take any precautions after handling the same hardware.
The average grocery or retail store uses at least one of the following carrier devices:
- Barcode scanner or order picking scanner
- Debit or credit card terminals
- Pens or styluses (low tech but sometimes needed)
- Cash register
- POS machines
- Worker-facing touchscreen devices
- Infra-red temperature readers or scanners
While the last one is not used by buyers, it is often used by different cashiers depending on how many cashiers and pay points the retail store has and can be equally dangerous and capable of transmitting the covid-19 virus. All it takes is just one infected cashier to spread the disease within the store. This is why some retail workers are scared and worried about going to work in their store.
Make your Checkout Faster
In addition to being breeding grounds for bacteria, handhelds are inefficient and waste time.
With the increasing number of coronavirus cases, every second spent in a retail store matters. Why? Because the amount of time you spend inside a retail store is directly proportional to your chances of getting infected by the disease.
Unfortunately, due to new safety protocols, in-store purchases often means spending a lot of time waiting in line - even after picking the items you want. Once you finally get to the register, you have to deal with surfaces that likely have the germs of everyone that came before you.
This delay arising from the interactions between customers and retailers’ POS devices is partly responsible for the long wait times in stores. Transactions that should take no more than 30 seconds now take 2-5 minutes.
This is where hands-free technologies like contactless payments can help.
Handsfree technology that allows employees to avoid handling dirty barcode readers, or worse - pens and clipboards - may help reduce the spread of COVID19 to your employees. Because these cutting edge technologies are hands-free, they also allow your employees to do their jobs faster, more efficiently, and more accurately.
A barcode or QR code scanner can allow shoppers to scan to pay their items without needing to exchange payment - or germs. This is a pretty straightforward process that takes less than 10 seconds for most people. Traditional methods require most to rummage in their bags for cards or cash, select what they need, and leave employees and customers susceptible to prolonged exposure.
Forward-thinking retailers are adopting the hands-free and contactless options which help minimize contact between the shopper and the cashier. More importantly, it’s time-saving for both the buyers and workers which means retailers’ bottom line could actually benefit from these changes.
Offer BOPIS & Curbside Pickup
Even though curbside pickup has been around for a while, it completely exploded in 2020. In fact, second to face masks, curbside delivery and pickup help buyers feel most safe when visiting a physical retail or grocery shop. Curbside is a broad term for pickup options that allow people to buy their items online or in-store and pick them up at designated pickup points.
All curbside pickup and delivery features are largely powered by the buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) technology. But that’s only the beginning, hands-free tech touchless payment points, BOPIS integration, and self-checkout points (this will help minimize contact with the cashier) help everyone stay safe and secure while improving customer confidence and safety.
Retail brands that are currently enjoying massive success are utilizing these technologies to drive sales, boost revenue, improve customer retention, and encourage consumer loyalty. Buyers will become repeat customers if they know that they’re safe when shopping at a retail store or picking up their items.
What’s this Mean for the Future?
Here’s the reality: the pandemic has changed how we shop. And even when things hopefully get back to normal, the new shopping behaviors that buyers have acquired will remain. Not just because of the safety measures that new and emerging technologies like BOPIS bring, but also because of the ease and convenience of shopping.
Retail brands that intend to weather this tumultuous period and remain relevant in the future would do well to start integrating as many touchless and handsfree tech into their entire retail operations. This means the implementation of BOPIS and BORIS (buy online return in-store), enabling contactless payment options, and investing in tech like Ox.
Ox is an augmented reality technology platform that uses machine learning to transform your retail operation’s efficiency, by providing real-time inventory management, improving customer interactions with your store, and seamless order fulfillment protocols.
Some retail brands are already using similar augmented reality technology to help consumers see what their items would look like without necessarily touching the items. Innovative retail brands can set up the OX platform for everything from virtual clothing try-ons like Adidas is offering, to virtual makeup sampling.
IKEA for instance uses AR for furniture placement simulations. There’s a wide range of functions that our AR-based platform can help your retail store with including BOPIS, BORIS, curbside pickup, and in-trunk delivery.
If you’d like to see how we can help your retail brand become more profitable, schedule a demo today.