Federico Dell’Acqua, CEO of Digitelematica, and Maurizio Pecori, Head of Industry and Services Market of Engineering, respond to the questions of those in the industry who are trying to envision the start of PHASE 2 and how digital technology can support the new shopping habits generated by the pandemic.
How can digital technology support the new shopping habits generated by the COVID-19 pandemic?
“To respond to disasters, we need to be able to create a new way of doing things, linked to new behaviors. This also forms the basis of society’s resilience. Once the pandemic is over, things will no longer be as they were before, not even for the world of large-scale food retail, which has seen an e-commerce boom in recent weeks as a result of social distancing measures.”
Federico Dell’Acqua, CEO of Digitelematica imagined the reopening of society after the COVID-19 emergency ends, describing how some behaviors will change and, with them, the digital technologies we use.
How will the way we shop change?
“I am convinced,” Dell’Acqua continued, “that we will have to imagine new ways of shopping that can support new lifestyles and habits. We'll have to get used to the idea that people will change the way they organize their supermarket shopping and will probably continue to avoid close contact with others as much as possible. For this reason, self-scanning mechanisms and smart carts will certainly increase, since they allow the user to choose products and pay without having to go through the manned check-out.”
This service, according to Digitelematica's special observatory, will be among those which will have to be implemented soon, both in large and small retail channels.
“Self-scanning,” added Dell’Acqua, “will become even more interesting for the user, as it will enrich the products available in the supermarket with the same information that already has been added to enrich the products sold online. By simply framing an item, it will be possible to find out its ingredients and supply chain, to display a potential recipe or to be guided among the supermarket aisles in order to buy another product that goes well with what we are buying.
Product georeferencing, suggestions offered by profiling the user who is shopping and faster product purchasing will make self-scanning indispensable as soon as the coming months. It’s a prediction we think we can make, since, in some stores, 50% of all transactions were carried out through self-scanning in the past few weeks.”
Will the introduction of self-scanning free up human resources in supermarkets?
“When it comes to self-scanning,” explained Dell’Acqua, “most people think that this will cause some people to be laid off in the store. This is absolutely not true, as the very introduction of self-scanning requires other activities, such as entering additional product information or more marketing-oriented activities. As always, the introduction of digital technologies does not replace people, but allows them to do different types of work, often with value-added roles.”
How has shopping changed in recent weeks?
“In practical terms,” stated Maurizio Pecori, Head of Engineering's Industry Division, “the emergency has done what marketers have been trying to do for years: encourage a switch to e-commerce.
Since the last week of February, not to mention all of March, there has been a real increase in online shopping demand, roughly 500-600%, with peaks in daily registrations of platform users which, in the pre-pandemic period might have reached a few hundred, have jumped as high as 14,000.
Requests for home deliveries have also doubled from one day to the next and this has put the logistics system under stress, as it was certainly not prepared for all this. As a result, delivery times have necessarily lengthened and, in a few cases, have been suspended due to the impossibility of meeting this new demand. In the meantime, of course, retailers have reorganized by adding new logistics centers or expanding those they already have, often redeploying the staff previously employed in the store to useful activities in support of online sales.”
How can digital tech come to the rescue of large-scale retailers who are currently facing this increased demand?
“We are working on many applications and services requested by retailers,” Pecori pointed out, “such as those that make it possible to deal with a fixed number of users in a store, or others which allow the user to avoid queues outside the shop.
In addition, e-commerce platforms will increasingly manage not only the part concerning the sales of the products, but also everything which concerns the logistics and warehousing aspects, given that e-commerce becomes convenient only when you have the possibility to fulfill orders in a certain way, i.e. by being able to choose, thanks to digital technology, the fastest, most convenient logistics service for a specific delivery. A great deal of work will be carried out on tools capable of arranging and picking up products from warehouses in an increasingly automated and intelligent way.
Because nothing will be the same as before and the digital world will have to support this change.”