Contact-less shopping will only grow at exponential rates, with trend spotters now insisting that social distancing will not fade away with a COVID-19 vaccine. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

The pandemic has reshaped the way retailers engage with customers. Social distancing - which Gartner names among the trends that will lead innovation for the next decade - measures and a need for contactless transactions have accelerated adoption of self-scanning technology in stores.

As more customers use apps and personal shopping solutions (PSS) that access personal information, questions about privacy have come to the forefront. Protecting any collected personal data against breaches by cyber criminals is vital.

The connected ecosystem is set to expand to 50 billion devices by 2022. And as retailers continue to invest in connected devices to increase competitive advantage, how can tech solutions answer these security issues?

Privacy by design

A privacy by design approach ensures customer data is as secure as possible, to allow both retailers and customers to fully explore the benefits of self-scanning technology. This approach integrates customer safety into the entire development process of products and solutions, starting with the concept phase.

Privacy protocols that are essential to handling personal data, like encryption and data housing, aren’t an afterthought but instead included from the beginning. When a retailer implements any scan-and-go solution, there are critical processes that should be in place to reinforce the security of the platform and protect shoppers’ data.

Retailer and customer data must be kept, separate so retailers can track and monitor the physical device but not the data housed on it. Once data is uploaded, retailers need to ensure mechanisms are in place that allow the customer to delete the data.

Customer data should never be saved in plain text. If there is a data breach, encrypted data is much more difficult to decipher, protecting shoppers’ privacy.


Scan-and-go solutions offer customers a personalized shopping experience and frictionless checkout, while maintaining social distancing and having minimal contact of surfaces. Customers can upload personal shopping lists and other information to make their shopping experience more customized. The scanners can identify items and recommend recipes based on what’s already in the cart, then direct customers to the other ingredients they’ll need. The devices can instantly price-check and plot a course to where in the store the customer wants to go next.

They can monitor how much they’re spending in real-time, which can help them budget better and statistically leads to more spending. Lines at checkout are heavily reduced, and there’s no need to unpack, re-scan and re-bag—the customer simply swipes a card and returns the scanner, which can then be sanitized for the next customer.

Self-shopping solutions are proven to increase revenue, reduce costs and provide a platform to enable next-generation digital services. Perhaps best of all in the era of COVID-19, the only hands touching the customer’s groceries are his or her own. Additionally, store associates can use the scanners for online orders and carry-outs.

Whenever shared devices access personal information, that technology must protect customers’ security and privacy. We believe security starts at the top and must be ensured throughout the lifecycle of products.

The development of secure solutions have to help retailers be compliant with the strict guidelines of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and other security requirements. And partnerships with leading security vendors and investments in security training equip personnel to meet today’s security challenges.

- Michael Zachman is Chief Security Officer, Zebra Technologies.