Retail – or at least some businesses within the sector – was one of the few industries able to remain operational through all five stages of government’s risk-adjusted response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But, like other essential services allowed to continue operating, shops that remain open face a major challenge: curbing the spread of the virus at their premises.
e-Commerce and delivery services have wasted no time stepping in to fill the gap, with customers scrambling to book delivery slots at major supermarkets, and services like OneCart racing to expand their operations – OneCart, for example, said at the beginning of may that it had hired 450 new staff during lockdown.
But other innovations are also expected to gain traction. Amazon’s Go model – which uses overhead cameras and computer vision to track shoppers through the store. The partially automated, cashierless model can trace when a shopper selects an item and puts it back, meaning a checkout station is not required. Using scanning technology, customers can pay for their groceries and leave a store without standing in a queue.
Innovations of this kind – which use artificial intelligence, algorithms, bar codes and weighting technology to identify items that customers have taken off the shelves to buy – have been around for years. But they are expected to gain traction as social distancing continues.
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