Covid19, News, Technology

5 Ways Grocers Are Leveraging Technology During COVID-19

Siim Pettai

Siim Pettai, Writer

Consumer behaviour has changed drastically amid the COVID-19 outbreak. The number of visits to stores has decreased significantly. Whilst online shopping has seen a spike in sales, physical stores have been left to deal with loss of business.

Perhaps the most affected retailer group includes the grocery stores. According to a study by C+R research, more than half (60%) of consumers feel anxious to shop at physical grocery stores during the pandemic. Furthermore, 73% of consumers admit to making fewer trips to grocery stores.

The outbreak has thus accelerated the need for retail innovation. Fortunately, several grocers have come up with ways to make everyday shopping safer for customers.

Below are the 5 ways major grocery chains are using technology to respond to the pandemic.

Walmart Tests Cashierless Store And Shelf Robots

US-based retailer Walmart is testing a cashierless store in Arkansas. As part of the initiative, the retailer is switching all its cashier-staffed checkouts with self-checkout machines. The move comes as Walmart is trying to reduce contact and speed up checkout lines amid the pandemic. However, there will still be staff on-site to help with shoppers who run into problems with the self-checkout tills.

According to Walmart, if the pilot program proves to be successful, it will consider expanding the concept to other locations.

Another innovation by Walmart is its use of the Brain Corp’s autonomous robots. The retailer is using the robots to scan shelf inventory and boxes as they come off the delivery trucks. The robots help reduce the time employees spend on repetitive and manual tasks. This allows workers to rather focus on more important customer service roles.

Aldi Introduces Traffic Light System

Another grocery chain, Aldi, has introduced a traffic light system across its stores in the UK. The system helps limit the amount of customers inside the store at once. The way it works is simple. Customers have to wait behind a red light outside of the store. It is only possible to enter when there are a limited amount of shoppers inside. In that case, the light will turn green, and the doors will open. The only people that are given the priority to shop are the NHS and blue light workers.

According to Aldi, the traffic light system has been well received by customers across the UK. The system will run across the retailer’s many safety measures, including protective screens and floor markers.

Lidl Launches Artificial Intelligence Chatbot

Budget grocery store chain Lidl has launched an artificial intelligence-powered WhatsApp chatbot. The bot enables customers in Ireland to avoid queues and find the quietest times to shop.

Customers can inform the chatbot by telling it the time they are planning to shop. The chatbot will then inform the user if the proposed time is a quiet, average or busy time to visit.

The chatbot uses real-time data and customer transaction numbers to make shopping recommendations. The retailer has also developed an URL which customers can use to access the chatbot.

Asda Trials Smartphone Queuing System

Britain’s third-largest supermarket chain Asda is trialling a virtual queuing system. This allows customers at its Middleton store to queue remotely and wait inside the car before entering the store. Whenever there’s enough space to enter the store, consumers will receive a notification on their smartphone.

Roger Burnley, chief executive at Asda, said that it is becoming clear that COVID-19 will still be a part of our lives for the rest of the year. The majority of people are still concerned about their safety in grocery stores. Thus, Asda is looking for ways to invest in longer-term health measures in its stores, he added.

Tesco Explains Its Safety Measures In a Digital Campaign

Tesco has used the power of social media to spread the word about its strict social distancing rules. The retailer launched a campaign featuring a digital advert called “Keeping you safe.” As part of the advert, Tesco’s in-store employees explain the safety measures they have undertaken during different points of the customer journey. For instance, there are markers installed outside the stores to help consumers stand two metres apart. Additionally, to promote social distancing, employees will count the number of customers entering the store.

Once inside the store, customers will be guided by floor markings. Another safety measure mentioned in the advert includes protective screens at checkout tills.

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