Consumer brands are relying on sensors to maintain social distancing, but a lack of effective sanitation processes could keep customers away.

WHAT HAPPENED: Whole Foods, H&M and other brands are using technology like virus-killing UV light robots to expedite sanitation and ensure that their stores are compliant with local safety regulations.

WHY IT MATTERS

While many retailers are using sensor technology to take the guesswork out of social distancing, they are still struggling to find efficient and affordable sanitation solutions. Brands like H&M, Primark and Footlocker are relying on counters, cameras and heat maps to ensure the appropriate number of customers are in stores without requiring employees to police the entrances. Similar to a traffic light for humans, the new technology communicates to customers waiting outside of stores when it’s safe to enter—enforcing social distancing while putting shoppers at ease and freeing the store staff to focus on customer interactions instead of on counting visitors. But retailers also need to worry about sanitizing every touchpoint, which takes significant manpower and adds expenses to already struggling stores. Even though Amazon is working to build a UV light-emitting robot for Whole Foods that has the potential to disinfect high-touch surfaces, the cost of implementation is likely to prohibit widespread adoption among other retailers.