Why digital contact tracing could be the key to reopening retail


Retailers across the United States have prioritized safety throughout the pandemic to keep their employees and customers safe, and their open businesses. However, employers are reluctant to require their employees to get the vaccine given the potential negative implications and reluctance on the part of employees who do not or cannot get the vaccine.

And looking further, the idea that we will soon be living in a world where COVID-19 does not exist, which some have coined “COVID Zero”, is an impossible goal according to experts. As we seek to revive and reopen our economy, retailers hope to encourage employees to get vaccinated by offering incentives like bonuses and extra strength. However, while many continue to question whether or not to mandate vaccinations, they can – and should – do more to keep their employees safe in the long run.

Retailers’ investments in contact tracing, despite limitations

To boost buyer and employee confidence during a reopening, more and more retailers are turning to solutions like contact tracing technologies to help protect their employees and buyers.

There are certainly challenges in implementing digital contact tracing successfully in a retail environment. While tracing employees and in-store buyers can be an ideal solution, it is an impossible task due to technological limitations. On the one hand, contact tracing in general has yet to take off since the onset of the pandemic, and public research attempts have fallen flat as many public health programs relied on at least 60% of people. citizens displayed there.

There are also many consumer privacy concerns for generalized contact tracing. In a retail environment, in order to successfully track consumers, store owners would at least need shoppers’ health and contact information – something that many consumers likely wouldn’t be willing to share.

Employee-centric solutions remain one of the few realistic contact tracing applications

At this point in the pandemic, it is important that retailers are realistic about what contact tracing solutions they can implement in an effective and thoughtful manner. One option that has come to the forefront of the discussion is an employee-focused digital contact tracing program.

Consider this: On average, 41 employees work in a single grocery store and many more in larger chains. There are also a lot of part-time workers with four to six hour matrix shifts, moving around the store to different departments. The result is widespread overlap and points of contact between different groups of employees, putting all staff at risk of an outbreak. As a result, some retailers have been forced to completely shut down stores when one of their employees tests positive for COVID, a blow to many retailers who are already struggling to achieve results amid a pandemic.

Like face masks, social distancing, good hygiene practices, and temperature controls, digital contact tracing for employees can be an essential tool in helping retailers mitigate risks from COVID-19. The solution makes it easy to determine which employees have been exposed without having to remove large numbers of people from the schedule or shut down operations altogether. Managers can identify who needs to be quarantined and for how long.

And when it comes to employee privacy concerns, digital contact tracing tools allow employers to quickly track while maintaining anonymity, and are designed with privacy in mind.

Contract tracing is not just an investment in security, but company culture

According to the latest PwC Pulse survey, 43% of HR managers prepare to work in a post COVID-19 environment by prioritizing company values ​​to help maintain or improve the culture.

While many retailers may view contract tracing as just an investment in employee safety, it can also serve as a tangible example of a company living its values ​​by committing to its frontline workers. An investment in contract research, along with other health and safety measures, sends a clear signal that a company supports its worker, which, as a result, can ultimately strengthen its corporate culture.

Looking forward

Going forward, retailers can either hope for COVID to miraculously disappear or invest in employee safety by turning to tools like digital contact tracing to protect their employees and consumers and keep their doors open.

Tyson Cornell is the U.S. Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, a global network of companies providing insurance, tax and advisory services for your business.


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