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Research shows retail industry will embrace smart buildings post COVID

Research shows retail industry will embrace smart buildings post COVID
COVID-19 has become the single major disruptor to business in several years. Given the nature of the pandemic, some companies have benefited from it, while others have suffered terribly. But one common thing that has emerged as a new reality for all businesses is that workplaces should be safer. For companies that can offer a work-from-home option, this means employees should have homes that are safe. But for those who cannot offer remote working, the office buildings need to become safer and smarter.

This thought has been driving interest in smart buildings lately. According to Omdia, smart building sales are expected to grow 4.2 percent in 2020 to $685.7 million, despite the global slowdown that the pandemic has brought about. More importantly, the smart buildings market may not suffer as much as many others because they can play a crucial role when economies reopen amid persisting virus concerns.

Smart buildings in the retail sector

The brick and mortar retail sector have been a major casualty ever since COVID-19 began strangling the world. In many countries that opted for complete lockdowns, retail stores outside essential items were forced to remain shut for the highest number of days. While independent stores were given some relaxation after a while, stores in malls and markets were a constant worry for authorities as such places tend to have crowds.

"Omdia believes that smart building technology offers the potential to assist with the challenges (Covid-19 related or not) that some retail businesses are currently facing, especially in the non-food retailing segment," explains Thomas Barquin,  a Senior Analyst covering Smart Buildings at Omdia explained in a note. "In a new report, Omdia predicts significant investment for smart building projects in the retail sector despite a slowdown in 2020 due to the Covid-19 outbreak."

Interestingly, this could be a trend across sectors within retail. Food retailers, for instance, have seen a spike in demand after COVID-19 and being an essential service, they have been operating as usual in most countries. However, they need to take extra care to make sure that their enterprises don't end up being a virus hotspot. For this, they need to make sure that customers maintain social distancing and that only a limited number of people are within their buildings at any given time. Smart buildings make taking such precautions easier.

Smart retail technologies to fight COVID

As the stress of economic slowdown begins to impact retailers, they must embrace smart retail solutions even more. With the right use of analytics and domain integration, they can reduce costs and retain customers.

"Although many retailers, especially small and medium-sized business, lack the commercial resources to finance more advanced BMS platforms or comprehensive integration, there is a growing consensus in the industry that stores must begin or continue to digitize with IoT-enabled devices and focus on offering customers superior shopping experiences to remain competitive and attract customers back in stores," Barquin pointed out.

Providing excellent customer experience has been the biggest USP for brick and mortar retailers in the competition with online stores, so far. As we go forward, safety will become yet another critical factor that decides business growth. With smart retail solutions and intelligent buildings, businesses can regain the trust of customers so that they feel they are in a safe place.

Solutions like store mapping and smart shelves can have a significant role to play in this regard. Mapping can help businesses track customers within the store. Companies can also combine this with apps that will guide customers to specific locations in the store where they can easily find the products they want.

Smart shelves can directly interact with apps on a customer's smartphone, and if the consumer has used the store's app to create a shopping list, the smart shelves can interact with the list and show you where to find the products you want, Barquin added. These solutions should help clients to feel more comfortable inside stores while limiting their shopping time.


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