Retailers Adopt In-Store Communications to Help Enforce New Safety Protocol

Retailers Adopt In-Store Communications to Help Enforce New Safety Protocol

As retail stores reopen, retailers are experiencing anxious shoppers and associates who want to experience some level of normalization and be safe. A common question among retailers and consumers alike is “How will retail shopping evolve to adjust to ensure a healthy environment?”

A recent study in April 2020, conducted by Morning Consult, surveyed consumers and found 24% of consumers said they wouldn't feel comfortable shopping in a mall in the next six months, 16% said they would feel comfortable in the next three months and only 4% said they would in the next month1.  The common thread among all discussion is safety.  For retailers, in-store communications or unified communications is going to be an important tool in helping them provide safety to their teams and shoppers.

Balancing Stocked Shelves with Safety

How do you balance the need for having stocked shelves while seeking to ensure the safety of associates and customers? As stores reopen, they are putting in place strict protocols to promote the safety and wellbeing of associates and customers. The following are examples of protocol and standards which include2:

  • Sanitizing stores, distribution centers, and trucks.
  • Social distancing and spaces for consumers to pass each other.
  • Handwashing and personal protection.
  • Wearing of masks in stores for the immediate future.
  • Temperature checks before entering stores.
  • Closing fitting rooms.
  • Surveillance to identify potential illness in employees.
  • New ways of working (e.g. switching from huddles to different modes of in-store communication, creating smaller work groups in distribution centers).
  • Instituting controlled shifts so that associates aren't mixing different workers on different shifts. This way, if an associate is exposed in one shift, it helps protect the safety of others.

Here are what a few retailers have announced regarding how they will be using these protocols3:

  • Best Buy.In store shop by appointment consultations are being initiated. Customers will get one-on-one service from associates who are required to wear facial coverings and gloves and will escort their designated shopper to and from their appointments.High traffic areas will be frequently sanitized. Cash payments will not be accepted. Employees are required to do daily health check-ins through the company’s app.
  • Chico’s. Similar to Best Buy, Chico’s four brands—White House Black Market, Soma, TellTale and its namesake store Chico’s have introduced a shop-by-appointment service. During the closure, the store created a new proprietary methods of virtual styling, Style Connect, that was adopted across all its stores.
  • Gap. Gap and its related stores Athleta, Banana Republic, Intermix, Janie and Jack, and Old Navy, are opening to new hygiene protocols as well as reduced store hours and foot traffic. Items that have been tried on or returned will be help before they are returned to the sales floor. Fitting rooms and restrooms will remain closed for the time being.
  • David’s Bridal. Stores have opened with limited store occupancy and scattered appointment times. Only two people are allowed at in-store appointments. Stores will operate on modified schedules. Stores will be closed on Tuesday and Saturday for cleaning. Tape markings will be in the store to remind shoppers of social distancing. Extra precautions will be made for measuring and alterations. Cash payments will not be accepted.
  • Dick’s Sporting Goods. New social distancing protocols have been adopted. Designated shopping hours are provided for at-risk shoppers/consumers. Curbside contactless pickup will continue for shoppers who do not want to enter the stores.
  • Kohl’s. Store hours have been reduced 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.At risk shoppers can come every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 11:00 to noon.

Examples of How to Use A Unified Communication Platform to Help Shape the New Normal

At the root of many of the adjustments retailers are making, stms the need to address how associates, managers, and customers will now interact/communicate to promote safety and still effectively perform their responsibilities and serve customers.  The key is understanding how to use, adapt, and incorporate available technology to address the changes that will be on-going for the foreseeable future.

Today, retail in-store communications are a hodgepodge of partial solutions such as:

  • Legacy telecom systems that offer little in the way of bells and whistles.
  • Antiquated walkie talkies that do not support mobile apps.
  • Retailers who allowed employees to bring their own device, which has its own limitations regarding data retention, privacy concerns and security issues.
  • And then there are those retailers who still rely on email to disperse communications between their corporate location and in-store environments.

Now, in today’s environment, those communication tools are very inadequate to address communication needs between associates and customers as they begin to reopen. 4 5

Honeywell has brought together a robust ecosystem of voice-enabled communications solutions to empower retail associates to deliver a more connected, frictionless shopper experience. We are helping retailers evaluate their current communications systems and practices and sharing how we can help them quickly transition to a communication platform that will address their current and long-term needs.  One of the solutions is Honeywell Smart Talk, a unified communications platform.

Honeywell Smart Talk is a true voice-enabled unified workforce communications application that tackles the problem of fragmented communications. Retailers that deploy unified communication platform see up to a 10% increase in employee productivity and up to 25% decrease in training time6. Store associates can comply with social distancing guidelines by altering how they perform daily tasks. Consider the following scenarios of how retailers can use unified communications to address the new normal:

  1. Daily Store Huddle
    • Before. The store manager gathers all employees into a group huddle to review daily objectives.
    • Current situation. Due to the current health situation, this daily huddle would force associates to be closer than the 6 feet (2 meters) social distancing recommendations. Staggered shifts can also leave some associates out of the most up-to-date communication.
    • Resolution. With Honeywell Smart Talk, a pre-recorded message can be saved by the manager and listened to at the start of each shift when a device-enabled associate logs on. This avoids forming large groups of people and allows all device-enabled associates, regardless of their shift, to receive the message. Backend analytics can ensure associate compliance.
  2. Delivering Essential Associate Training
    • Before. An associate who is unsure of how to perform a task searches out another associate who can assist them.
    • Current situation. With the current changes in safety procedures, a store associate must abandon their designated zone and risk violating the social distancing recommendations.
    • Resolution. With Honeywell Smart Talk, an associate sends a group IM to all device-enabled associates and asks, “Who knows how to do task X?”. Another employee responds via IM confirming they can help, and then launches a 1:1 voice call to relay instructions. This allows the associate to remain in their zone, saves them time and preserves the distancing recommendations.
  3. Associate Status and Health
    • Before. If an associate called in sick, the manger would spend time calling the team find someone that can fill the shift.
    • Current situation. Current protocols call for retailers to be vigilant and protect the health of associates.Workers are encouraged to stay home when feeling ill to project the other members.
    • Resolution. With Honeywell Smart Talk, the store manager can simply go to an application on their mobile device or computer and have it auto-call 20 people and ask if they would like to work the available shift. If someone presses ‘yes’, the store manager will be alerted right on their mobile device. These kinds of tools allow employees to be more efficient with their time.

Honeywell Smart Talk: Suited for Any Retail Environment

Honeywell Smart Talk is a true voice-enabled unified workforce communications application that tackles the problem of fragmented communications. You receive enterprise-grade security for voice calling, text and media messaging, and user presence.  It can be added to Honeywell CT40 Mobile Computer or to most types of mobile devices associates already carry. Device-enabled associates are always connected and able to access critical information from company headquarters, on the sales floor, or in the backroom. It minimizes contact as they continue to maintain a safe distance between others, while keeping their focus on meeting shopper needs.

You have a single device to streamline the business and access crucial data on demand. One device to manage and maintain. One device replacing the need to support and buy consumer mobile phones. Overall, one device can improve response times, workflows, productivity and customer service quality.

Honeywell Smart Talk is suited for any retail environment. It provides a Unified Communications solution that is connecting your devices to your existing phone system. Utilize the device’s existing and network contact list to make and receive high-quality voice over IP (VoIP) calls over a Wi-Fi or cellular data network connection. Smart Talk clients are trusted and secure applications that can also act as an extension to your PBX.

Honeywell CT40 on Mobility Edge. The Honeywell CT40 Mobile Computer uses 4G LTE wireless, Wi-Fi, and IP-based business communications. CT40 is built on the Mobility Edge™ Platform, ensuring customer data is protected and secure regardless of whether the retailer utilizes cellular or Wi-Fi.

Honeywell Mobility Edge™ is a unified mobile computing platform designed for faster deployments, optimized business performance, longer lifecycle and stronger security. It’s the industry’s only platform built for upgrades all the way through Android R.

Make Innovation Work within Budget. Honeywell-as-a-Service is an offering that helps you navigate technology challenges. It provides you with an innovative approach to acquire software, hardware, and services and pay for them through a monthly payment with no upfront capital outlay.

Honeywell Retail Solutions

Honeywell’s lineup of retail solutions including mobile computers and software allows for retail associates to stay connected regardless of where they are located. Associates that are empowered with constant and instant connection, can deliver exceptional shopper experiences while minimizing contact. Whether the retailer has enterprise-grade mobility devices or utilizes a bring your own device policy, Honeywell Smart Talk can integrate easily into their existing IT investments.

Contact a Honeywell Solutions Expert today! Call 1-800-934-3163.

1 When Consumers Say They’ll Feel OK About Dining Out and Other Activities
How Can’t-Close Retailers Are Keeping Workers Safe
Retailers Are Reopening Their Doors. Here’s How They’ll Keep Consumers Safe
Why Clear In-Store Communication Is Crucial for Holiday Success
How retailers can navigate the new world of employee devices
6 Honeywell Time Study
7 COVID-19 Guidance for Retail Workers

Barry J. Ewell

Barry J. Ewell is a Senior Content Marketing Communications Specialist for Honeywell Industrial Automation. He has been researching and writing on supply chain topics since 1991.