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How COVID-19 Has Accelerated Digital Transformation of Retail Stores

As the entire world is scrambling to come back to normalcy after the COVID-19 social distancing guidelines are relaxed, brick-and-mortar retailers are shifting gears to rapidly embrace digital technologies to recover from the crisis. With increased competition from e-commerce, reduced foot traffic and low consumer confidence, the need to build digital capabilities is now or never for physical retail stores.

As stores began to reopen doors, retailers are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual reality (VR) to offer hygiene-focused shopping experiences to customers with ‘contactless retail’ and increase their confidence to shop during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tech-enabled applications like virtual queuing, footfall analytics, contactless payments, self-checkout and chatbots have suddenly seen an uptick at point-of-sale for retailers.

This article highlights how various retailers around the world are using digital technologies to increase customer footfall while meeting safety standards.

Footfall Analytics

Kroger has deployed footfall analytics technology to monitor customer footfall and activity inside its stores to curb the spread of COVID-19. The system can count the total number of shoppers entering and exiting the store using in-store cameras. It alerts operators when the store reaches 50% of its capacity, suggesting them to open additional checkout windows to speed up the process.

Virtual Queuing

British supermarket chain Asda has launched a virtual queuing initiative, the first of its kind in the UK, which allows customers to register and check-in into a virtual queue on their smartphone and then wait elsewhere until their turn. Shoppers can check the waiting time and choose a store according to their convenience. The new system has been trialed at Asda’s store in Middleton, Leeds and the retailer plans to implement it across its stores in the UK.


Decathlon has partnered with MishiPay to introduce a mobile self-checkout solution across its 81 retail stores in Germany. Customers can scan the barcode of the products using their smartphone to get full product details along with offers or promotions and checkout with their mobile app. Once the payment is done, the RFID security tag on the product is disabled, enabling the customer to exit the store.


Lidl Ireland has launched a WhatsApp-based chatbot to help shoppers find out the least busy time for shopping at its stores. The retailer has developed the platform using in-house customized software to segregate waiting queues based on time and day. Using WhatsApp, consumers can text about the time and day they expect to visit a store, wherein the chatbot uses real-time shoppers’ data gathered from various local stores of the retailer to provide an ideal time to shop.

While the long-term social and economic impact of the pandemic on retail stores is still not clear, it has brought the industry a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for change and created an imminent need to build digital capabilities.

The shopping behaviors of consumers, shaped up by the influence of the pandemic, can only be met with the digital savviness of retail stores.


Cyclops is a retail analytics system that can help retailers generate insights into how their customers shop inside their stores. To understand more about how Cyclops can help retailers digitally transform their stores amid the COVID-19 pandemic, visit our website:


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