The internet has revolutionised shopping, offering an extensive array of items beyond clothing. Nonetheless, purchasing online entails certain risks, especially when it comes to groceries, fragrances, furniture, and electronics, since it is challenging to simulate the experience of inspecting a product in-person.
Currently, the primary challenge for e-commerce is delivering a seamless and standardised customer experience while minimising human contact. Cashless transactions embody this ideology, which was once challenging to comprehend before COVID-19 but has been validated since. Hence, the emphasis is now on enabling customers to buy products and services with limited human interaction.
Contactless commerce has the capacity to transform the way we buy products, whether through online channels or in-person. To fully harness the benefits of this technology, enterprises need to devise creative tactics that harness cutting-edge technology to boost sales.
Several leading retailers seem to have adopted contactless commerce, suggesting a potential increase in customer expenditure in the future. The following example illustrates this trend.
The Pioneering Role of Experiential Technology
To make contactless commerce feasible, innovation in technology is critical. Advanced technologies like machine learning, computer vision, big data analytics, augmented reality, sensors, beacons, and robotics are being leveraged to seamlessly connect buyers and sellers sans any physical contact.
Amazon Go is an outstanding instance of cashless shopping. This store uses sensors and computer vision to provide a seamless, Just Walk Out experience that has become one of the most esteemed contactless in-store environments. Perhaps you have watched the video demonstrating the process: buyers enter the store, peruse shelves, collect their desired products, and depart with their carts. The purchase is automatically recorded, and the customer’s credit card is charged accordingly.
JD.com, a Chinese retail behemoth that draws inspiration from Amazon’s Go concept, has been introducing “unmanned shops” for a while now. These shops incorporate RFID tags, face and image recognition, and other biometric identification methods to track customer activity. Furthermore, RFID tags can be utilised to furnish buyers with details such as pricing, availability and product location. Simultaneously, sensors are utilised to monitor foot traffic, identify returning customers, and determine product placement.
Apart from this, there are numerous other applications for a digitally sophisticated retail outlet. AI-powered mirrors, like those employed by Uniqlo, permit buyers to sample garments without having to exit the store. With the aid of a 3D avatar or a magnifying mirror, virtual fitting rooms can also be employed, rendering them an excellent alternative for online shopping.
Visual presentation is one of the primary features that characterises the online shopping experience. Online buyers can only perceive a product’s quality by examining images, videos, and reading product explanations. Customers who prefer shopping in physical stores have more freedom to browse, handle, and even smell merchandise before finalizing a purchase. Is it possible to imitate this experience while shopping via contactless payment methods?
Scientists are working towards making the vision of experiencing flavours and fragrances online a reality. Different pioneering solutions, such as lickable screens, are being explored to enable the transmission of tastes and aromas. Initial research has demonstrated that there are trailblazers dedicated to advancing the limits of technological capabilities, primarily in the retail sector. It is exciting to imagine a future where you can try out a drink or fragrance using just your phone before making a purchase.
Stores are implementing advanced electronics to create exclusive, in-store experiences for customers. For instance, kiosks are adopted to offer information about products and services without requiring customers to navigate menus or manually jot down queries. AI systems are employed to comprehend spoken language comprehensively, incorporating features like tone, pitch, and timbre.
Voice-activated technologies are progressively being integrated into the retail milieu to enhance customer experience. One example is Carrefour’s implementation of Google Assistant, a recommendation system that factors in user input and additional elements like pricing and stock availability to offer personalised suggestions. This technology is similar to the smartphone assistants that many of us depend on in our everyday routines.
Ongoing research is delving into the possibilities of using facial recognition technology powered by AI algorithms to streamline transactions. If successful, this could present a more convenient option for buyers than the requirement of using their phones or cards every time they make a purchase. As there still exists some unease regarding the implications of this technology, this solution seems particularly groundbreaking.
The Future of Retail Industry
As the retail industry progresses towards more intricate systems and contactless solutions to reduce friction, some of these alternatives might be ideal for introverted buyers. These are already being examined or integrated, making them a crucial aspect of the future of the retail industry. This is not merely an opinion; the current trend in the sector evidently indicates this direction.
It is evident that complete contactless commerce is still a long way off. For the foreseeable future, the in-store experience will remain significantly distinct from that of the online shopping experience. However, there is a possibility that some of the current obstacles may not remain in the distant future. Right now, augmented and virtual reality can be utilised to acquire a better understanding of how a piece of furniture will look in your living room or how a garment will fit before making a purchase.
Although it is improbable to see any of the expected enhancements within the forthcoming months, we can be certain that these will eventually be assimilated by the mainstream. That is because retailers predict that a contactless future seems to be looming on the horizon.