Free COVID-19 Mapping Tool is Helping Retailers | Zebra Blog

Red Light, Green Light: New COVID-19 Mapping Tool Helps Retailers Make Real-Time Safety and Supply Chain Decisions Based on Localized Outbreak Statistics

This free, color-coded and action-driven dashboard is powered by Zebra Prescriptive Analytics and populated by data from Harvard University's Global Health Institute. Find out how to access it now.

The free ZPA COVID-19 mapping tool shows a retailer`s current store risk levels across the U.S.
by Guy Yehiav
August 27, 2020

Retailers have faced many tough challenges during the pandemic. Perhaps most noticeable among them all were the widespread out-of-stocks of cleaning products and pantry staples, like bleach wipes, toilet paper, flour, eggs, frozen meat and vegetables. It took manufacturers and supply chains several weeks to catch up with the erratic demand shifts – and by then it was almost too late to avoid the consequences. Many once-loyal customers had started shopping at other retailers with more-reliable inventory – retailers who got a head start on allocating manufacturers’ existing inventories because they sensed the demand shift and acted on it immediately.

As flu season approaches, no one is quite sure if a second wave of COVID-19 – and heightened demand for certain goods – will resurge. A cure or vaccine remains ambiguous. Retailers can’t afford another situation like the beginning of the lockdown, when panic buying wiped out stocks and left them scrambling to keep up. Retailers must prepare now for the possibility of another wave of COVID-19 (and by extension, a resurgence of panic buying).

How? By arming themselves with advanced technology that provides full visibility into the current situation within their stores’ specific geographical areas and allows them to prepare their (now more resilient) supply chains.

Retailers Have to Be Able to Act Fast. But First They Have to Know When and How to Act. That’s Where Zebra Prescriptive Analytics Comes In.

Retailers spend a lot of time every day collecting data across the web, bringing it to their data centers and reporting on it to management. But there is a lot of information (and misinformation) circulating right now about the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, and retailers don’t have time to sift through it all in order to separate fact from fiction. Plus, statistics, ordinances and public health guidance seem to change by the day in almost every city, county and country around the world! This can make it very difficult to plan. Yet, the best way to mitigate repeat out-of-stocks and sudden store closures is to proactively communicate anticipated changes to suppliers, staff and customers.

That is why Zebra Analytics just launched a brand-new (free!) mapping prescription tool as part of the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics solution.

We want to ensure retailers have access to a single source of truth that automatically collects all the information they need about the latest COVID-19 statistics. The new way will allow them to identify if and when an outbreak is likely to occur in proximity to their stores and fulfillment networks and plan accordingly.

How does it work?

This solution is using the Harvard University’s Global Health Institute (GHI) paper, combined with the John Hopkins map, which keeps one of the most accurate and timely databases of COVID-19 cases. All that data (which is updated frequently) gets fed into the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics solution, which continuously analyzes it to look for very specific trends that could indicate a significant outbreak is coming to one or more of a retailer’s stores.

The solution (which is free to all our customers and other retailers) is configured with a map showing a given retailer’s store locations across the country. It assigns each store a color based on the current risk of a potential outbreak:

  • Red = High risk
  • Orange = Medium-high risk
  • Yellow = Medium risk
  • Green =Low/no risk

Here are some samples of what the dashboard might look like:

The sample of what the ZPA COVID-19 mapping tool dashboard may look like to a retailer.
The ZPA COVID-19 mapping tool shows trends related to a retailer`s changing store risk levels

If our solution determines an uptick in cases is imminent, any stores within a specific geographic range of that growing outbreak are immediately alerted that their status has been elevated to a higher risk. Executives in the corporate office will also be alerted so that it can give affected stores guidance about the specific preparations they must take and any adjustments that should be made to workflows or individual tasks. The solution will continue to monitor the real-time status of the area after the initial alert and provide specific follow-up patterns as warranted.

This advance notice gives retailers time to assess COVID-19’s potential (and ever-changing) impact on store and supply chain operations and prepare for surge demand, a shift to curbside-only operations or potential fulfillment delays. For example, with the insights provided by this free mapping tool, a retailer now has more time to rush additional stocks of essential items (e.g. paper towels, cleaning products, hand sanitizer, non-perishable food, etc.) to each high-risk location before panic buying wipes out stores and warehouses.

This new outbreak mapping solution also provides more specific insights and prescriptive actions for responding to fluctuations in public health risks and operational directives based on the COVID-19 data. Here are a few examples:

  • Red (high risk) stores with low in-store sales and high ship-from-store: Switch to curbside pickups only
  • Red (high risk) stores with local case counts decreasing: Lessen restrictions (i.e. building capacity)
  • Stores with increasing risk trend: Take action (to be provided) if upward trend continues for X days

By eliminating the manual work normally required to collect and report on this data and subsequently removing the uncertainty and guesswork out of risk management, we hope to facilitate more operational stability for retailers as they work to keep everyone – customers and employees – as safe and secure as possible.

Did I Mention That Any Retailer Can Access This New COVID-19 Mapping Tool for Free?

You do not need to be an active Zebra customer to benefit from this tool, and you do not need any specific type of data or back-end system architecture to derive the actionable insights needed to increase your proactivity. (Our prescriptive analytics solution can work with just about anything). All you need to do is reach out to us, sign the free agreement to establish our partnership, send us your store-attributes file (including the addresses) and we (Zebra) will do the rest!

Please contact the Zebra Prescriptive Analytics team through Francis Clark (francis.clark@zebra.com) or reach out to your Zebra account representative for more information.

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Guy Yehiav
Guy Yehiav is a 25-year veteran of the supply chain industry and the General Manager of Zebra Analytics.
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