Three ways social-distancing could change the future store experience

Date : 01 April 2020

Stewart Samuel

Program Director - Canada

Over the last few weeks we have seen retailers implement a range of social-distancing initiatives, including floor stickers, plexiglass guards and limiting the number of shoppers in store at any one time.

We consider how retailers may start to think differently about the future store experience so that they can respond at pace to any future social-distancing requirements.

1. Changes to store design

The most significant way in how stores could change is how they are designed, especially the checkout area. Currently, checkouts are placed near each other, with relatively tight queuing lanes and impulse products merchandised on either side. If retailers were to make their stores more crisis-proof, we could see a radically re-thought checkout area. Checkout areas may be more spacious and rather than have one long bank of checkouts, multiple checkout zones could be positioned in different areas of the store.

2. Mandating use of scan and go apps

Over the last three years retailers across almost all geographies have been rolling-out scan and go apps, which either enable customers to bypass checkouts altogether or speed up the process. In response to the current crisis, retailers may increase their efforts to encourage customers to use these tools, so that during a time of crisis, shoppers are mandated to use them.

3. Virtual queuing systems

Virtual queuing systems have been used for online platforms for several years, but Portland, USA based New Seasons Market is one of the first to introduce it for the physical store. It partnered with digital queue technology company Waitwhile to enable customers to wait in their cars or away from the store entrance while waiting to enter the store. Similar tools could be incorporated into retailer apps, enabling retailers to accurately phase-in shoppers during busy periods. This is a technology that many consumers are already familiar with from the restaurant sector.

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