As the Covid-19 pandemic recedes, retailers will be faced with further uncertainty as lockdown measures are only gradually lifted. A big question is, how will shoppers behave once restrictions to everyday activities are removed or modified? Hypermarkets and supermarkets that have had to impose ‘social distancing’ guidelines in their stores will (or gradually) be able to open up to regular levels of shopper traffic.
Will they see a traffic surge, or a trickle, as shoppers resume their normal lifestyles? It’s been recorded that grocery spend has been up around 20%, during the pandemic, as consumers eat solely at home in the absence of restaurants and cafes. So will this drop back down, meaning fewer trips to supermarkets and hypermarkets are needed, post-pandemic? Or will shoppers remain cautious about eating out for months to come, and therefore still need to buy extra groceries for home consumption?
Retail analytics remove uncertainty
Hypermarkets and supermarkets with people counting and traffic analytics technology will be well placed to navigate this period of readjustment. With access to hourly, daily, weekly and monthly footfall data, they will be able to track and respond to every change in behaviour, and adapt their operations and marketing activities accordingly.
Crucially, if certain geographical areas see special guidelines lifted before others, for instance if lockdown is removed city by city or region by region, retailers with analytics and insights will be able to benchmark the impact of changes. Traffic data gathered from the first locations will reveal shopper behaviour and provide a template for operational realignment in other areas, as new operational practices are adopted.
Making sense of turbulent times
Trading through the coronavirus period has been a steep learning curve for the food retail sector. Traffic analytics will have been crucial in complying with the unprecedented shopper and staff safety measures implemented. Managing the ‘(6 foot )2-metre social distancing rule’ between shoppers has been a major challenge, eased by those with people counting technology. Occupancy solutions capture total visitor numbers, dwell time and their movement around the store, team managers and head offices can understand the maximum numbers to safely allow into stores, and know when that limit has been reached. They can also check that social distancing policies are working and plan the staffing requirements as business conditions adjust.
Knowing when the aisles will be quieter has helped with scheduling staff to re-stock shelves, safely take breaks and carry out essential deep-cleaning activities. A surge in demand for grocery Buy Online Pick Up In Store (BOPIS) click-and-collect services will also have put pressure on staff scheduling and space planning, and again this is where traffic analytics supports retail managers as they rapidly re-invent store operations.
Grocery must always react quickly to changes in demand
Food retailers with sizeable premises and large store teams are well versed in complex short-term planning and employee scheduling. Even during ‘business as normal’ trading, this sector must react quickly to extreme weather, seasonal peaks, or unexpected surges in demand due to external political or economic factors. Jeremy Maley, Head of Marketing & Communications at Hyper U Les Arcs / Sud Dracenie shopping mall in the south of France says weekly and monthly traffic data reports enlighten the team there about what is happening, and helps them react quickly and appropriately.
“Our reports reveal visitor numbers, conversion rates and dwell time so we know when peak hours and peak days will occur,” he says. “Sensors give visibility of real-time visitor flow, and traffic numbers can show us the impact of customer incentive schemes, weather conditions and seasonal trends.”
New measures worth keeping
Supermarkets and hypermarkets like Hyper U, that habitually use traffic data for business intelligence will have a head start when it comes to embracing ‘the new normal’ after the coronavirus crisis. Many of the innovations introduced in the sector will likely stay in place if they have improved efficiency, or helped staff and customers. New measures can be evaluated using the classic KPIs that people counting allows – namely visitor numbers, dwell time, conversion rates, and average transaction values.
Life on the supermarket floor has been turned upside down in 2020. However, astute retailers have turned to technology and data to guide them through the storm. ShopperTrak’s analytics suite can help retailers evaluate the impact their actions have had during the crisis, and to be better prepared for what comes next. As ever in grocery, cutting back on guesswork will pay dividends.