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Retail’s new look is contactless: Get to know these five technologies



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April 12, 2021 | 9 min read

Although as kids we might have been taught to “look, don’t touch” in stores, these cautionary words seem prescient today in light of Covid-19, which has rapidly accelerated the growth of contactless shopping experiences

Consider these statistics:

Contactless payments have increased 150% since 2019, 87% of shoppers prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-checkout experiences and 74% of global consumers will continue to use contactless payment post-pandemic. As a result, the overall market size is expected to surpass US$ 4.60 Trillion by 2027.

If retail’s new look is contactless, what technologies should brands explore? Here are five retail technologies changing the way we live and shop in a contactless world.

Simple, safe, and seamless app-free contactless payments

LiveArea Scan & GoTM offers a VIP, checkout-free experience, seamlessly integrating into a retailer’s existing website, customer profiles, and loyalty programs, providing opportunities to create more meaningful connections with consumers in the physical and digital world.

Research shows that the majority of U.S. consumers are downloading zero apps per month, with 21% of consumers abandoning newly downloaded apps after one use and 77% never use an app again after 72 hours of installing it. In addition to app fatigue, analysts estimate the cost of developing, deploying, and maintaining can run as high as $1,000,000 and it can take from six months to a year or more to complete.

LiveArea Scan & Go is a fast, convenient, and contactless way for people to use their mobile devices to simply scan the items they want, pay, and go. No customer queuing, no apps required and no hi-tech heavy hardware or biometric data needed. And it's fast, a test can be launched in weeks.

The proprietary technology is compatible with major eCommerce platforms, including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, Magento, and BigCommerce with Shopify, and others currently in development.

LiveArea Scan & GoTM debuted at CES 2021 and was named top product pick by PCR Magazine and “top tools shaping the future of retail” by Adweek. LiveArea Scan & Go is currently available to innovative retailers looking for a faster, safer, and more accessible contactless shopping experience.

“Cobots” collaborative robotic humanoid helpers

SoftBank Robotics is creating helpers, or “cobots'' meaning, while the robots function autonomously, they do require humans to set up the robots and maintain them. SoftBank Robotics has more than 30,000 cobots in over 70 countries worldwide including cobot helper “Pepper” who creates friendly shopping-like interactions along with hospitality-hygienic safety cobot “Whiz.”

According to SoftBank Robotics, “Pepper is a robot designed for people. Built to connect with them, assist them, and share knowledge with them.” Pepper makes personalized recommendations, helps people find exactly what they’re looking for, addresses customer questions while providing support and insights to a retailer’s human team.

Whiz is an autonomous vacuum that cleans up to 15,000 square feet per charge avoiding people and other in-store obstacles making spaces 50% cleaner and faster than manual vacuuming. As Whiz cleans it also captures valuable data generating reports and actionable insights about the health and safety of indoor spaces through its analytics platform Whiz Connect.

“At SoftBank Robotics, we aim to help retail customers return to brick-and-mortar locations,” said Kass Dawson, vice president of brand strategy and communications. “Our autonomous Whiz solution provides data-driven and visual proof that spaces are being consistently cleaned to help retailers show they are committed to the safety and health of their customers.”

Cosmetic concierge “virtually assisting” beauty experiences

Perfect Corp. aims to transform the beauty industry by marrying the highest level of augmented reality (“AR”) and artificial intelligence (“AI'') technology to create the ultimate shopping experience. Perfect Corp.’s touchless virtual try-on technology features gesture control, voice activation, face mask detection, and virtual arm swatch (for lipsticks). Other touchless experiences include AI skin diagnostics, one-on-one beauty consultations, and AR live stream video services for brands.

"Perfect Corp. is rethinking the consumer beauty shopping experience through a ‘phygital’ lens, utilizing advanced beauty tech solutions to deliver a safe, interactive, consumer-centric shopping journey that boosts consumer confidence and drives sales. From unique contactless digital try-on solutions to highly personalized one-on-one beauty discovery experiences, Perfect Corp. helps brands leverage the power of AR and AI technologies to deliver highly engaging shopping experiences with consumers across all touchpoints—online and in-store.” states Wayne Liu, senior vice president, and general manager of Perfect Corp.

Giving brands a “voice-powered” shopping experience

Jetson is an easy-to-use app that enables retailers to quickly and easily set up voice commerce reaching over 115 million people using voice assistants each month.

Jetson’s AI-based voice commerce platform enables businesses of all sizes to offer their customers a convenient buying experience enabling them to sell more and faster across the most popular platforms and devices, including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and even Slack. Voice prompts guide consumers through the process from navigating specials, helping to complete an order, confirming delivery details, and more.

Voice shopping has been a bit of a roller coaster, according to eMarketer, “9% of US adults have ever shopped via voice, and only 2% have done so regularly. However 17% of smart speaker owners ages 18 to 34 had made a smart speaker purchase, and 15% had used their device to reorder products they’d bought previously. For marketers that means creating easy on-the-go discovery, purchasing and re-ordering experiences, and watching the fanaticism over audio platforms such as Clubhouse and Spotify’s recently acquired platform Locker Room for voice and audio integration opportunities.

Shoppertainment from the comfort of your couch

INTERACTIVE by Wirewax is the world’s first fully interactive TV viewing experience that allows consumers to watch, pause, discover, buy, and more from the comfort of their couch.

Exclusively available on Android TV, consumers can pause the action at any point to instantly unlock a wealth of information. For example, see a pair of earrings on the show’s Frances Valentine and Wirewax’s automatic vision engine connects directly to retailers and universal carts. Watch and shop to your heart’s delight.

Viewers can also pause on people and places to find out more about the actors and shows they may have appeared in or specific locations with suggested travel itineraries and weather conditions. With recipes, viewers can find out more about the ingredients or even cook along with Jamie Oliver. It would not be a true shoppertainment experience without a bit of play, so there is a meme generator included to add sunglasses, flash mustaches, or funky hats to share with friends.

InsideRetail noted a recent study showing 41% of its viewers add products to their cart as a result of interactive video. Additionally, 91% of buyers are also looking for more interactive content.

Perspective and predictions on what’s ahead for contactless experiences

According to Robin Raskin, founder of Solving for Tech, “In 2021 the biggest hangover trend from 2020 will be ‘contactless’ shopping. The less you have to touch, the safer you'll be. That will manifest itself in many ways. Retail stores will continue to roll out contactless payment systems. Consumers have become very comfortable with the idea of not handing cash over to a teller.”

Raskin states, “You'll also see more experiences build contactless shopping. In the beauty industry, for example, you see things like kiosks that allow you to try on your makeup using facial recognition and augmented reality. You see how it looks on you without having to try on samples that may be contaminated. In the home furnishing area, programs let you visualize what a piece of furniture or a particular floor or paint color looks like before you buy will increase in popularity.”

She continues, “You'll also be able to shop anywhere and everywhere. Snapchat, Pinterest, YouTube, TikTok will all continue to have shoppable features so that if you see something you like you can buy it. And humans, especially influencers will be doing makeup, interior decorating, and other consulting over a video conference with you so that you can personalize your shopping experience.”

In addition to app-free experiences, cobots, AI and AR virtual assistance, interactive shoppertainment, and the rollercoaster of voice, there will likely be more gesture-like touch-free experiences, the evolution of AR glasses, and more holographic experiences in the world around us.

The impact of 5G will only accelerate these experiences. While our contactless world looks a bit closer to sci-fi films we may have watched just a couple of decades ago it’s a time to seek out today’s innovative technologies designed for the way people shop and interact with our contactless world.

About the author

Val Vacante is director of strategy, experience, and innovation for LiveArea.


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