Contactless Retail: The Changing Customer 

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Contactless Retail: The Changing Customer 
by Marketing

Last February, Amazon redefined “shoplifting” when it launched its futuristic retail store – Amazon Go. A blend of the contemporary and conventional shopping experience, Amazon combined the experience of shopping in a brick and mortar store and the awesomeness of contactless shopping through its flagship store. With Amazon Go, customers walked in, picked up their preferred products, and left. The integrated systems automatically deducted money from their Amazon wallets. 

 

Soon after, this contactless retail experience would become the norm. As the global pandemic expanded, contactless retail became crucial for shop survival. Customers no longer wanted to speak to associates, pay physical currency or be around other customers for fear of contracting the contagious virus. 

 

This change in consumer preferences and global regulations pushed retail businesses to implement contactless experiences. Failure to adapt resulted in shuttered storefronts or limited hours of operation.  

 

However, through digitization and incorporation of physical and virtual systems, retail stores are now delivering contactless solutions to their customers to come, shop, and leave without any contact whatsoever, forever changing the retail landscape. 

 

What Is Contactless Retail?

 

Contactless retail essentially is a solution where customers have no contact with store associates or other customers. Technological solutions provide the basis for these different types of contactless retail experiences:

 

  • Mobile or wallet-based payments for products and services purchased without handing over physical cash
  • Checkout-free shopping like Amazon Go, where you can pick your preferred product and leave the shop
  • Shopping online through eCommerce solutions like apps and websites 
  • Store or curbside pickup
  • Ordering through virtual assistants and more

 

Delivering a seamless shopping experience requires increasingly advanced technology for retailers. Here are seven ways retailers are implementing contactless commerce in 2021.

 

 

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality

 

Online purchases of groceries and perishables are fine, but how do you sell clothing and clothing accessories online? What about home essentials like furniture and home decor? How can people order them online and expect them to meet their tastes and requirements? 

 

That’s where technologies like AR (Augmented Reality) and VR (Virtual Reality) come in. With these concepts, retails can ensure their customers try their products like apparel virtually through AR-powered apps and find out if their preferences would suit them. They can also see in real-time how a piece of furniture would look in their living room and see if it would match their carpet or curtain. 

 

Through VR, customers are transported to stores virtually to select their preferred products as they would do in a physical store. It’s a virtual experience that simulates reality is one way to deliver contactless experiences to customers. 

 

AI And ML for Contactless Retail

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are at the heart of recommendation engines. While shopping for apparel is more of an impulsive or a season-driven outcome, groceries are an essential weekly purchase. These are recurring and require customers to visit stores every week to replenish their essentials. 

 

Retailers increasingly resort to AI and ML algorithms to detect frequently purchased products and seek permissions to order them autonomously every week.

 

Systems make product recommendations consumers are likely to buy from their shopping history, likes, and dislikes. Recommendation engines and automation modules power most on-demand apps and websites. 

 

Virtual Assistance

 

Another way retail stores optimize sales is through voice search optimization to increase conversions. Customers use dictation and commands to place orders. For instance, Amazon’s Alexa can order diapers, pizza, or anything if connected to Wifi. 

 

Contactless Payments

 

While contactless payments are far from futuristic concepts, statistics show that close to 38% of consumers believe contactless payment is essential. A reported 50% of the global population will switch to contactless payments by 2024.

 

Retailers can collect cash virtually through dedicated store wallets, digital wallets, NFC-based cards or devices, SMS links, QR codes, and more. Automatic deductions of money are being experimented with appropriate IoT apps development, such as Amazon Go. 

 

Contactless Deliveries

 

During the pandemic, eCommerce and on-demand companies gained sales. Deliveries were at the doorstep with notifications sent to customers via text or email. From groceries to television sets, deliveries required zero personal contact. 

 

BOPIS

 

BOPIS (Buy Online Pickup In-Store) is a convenient way to avoid crowds by pre-ordering products and selecting a convenient time for in-store pickup. When the order is fulfilled and placed at distribution counters, customers can conveniently pick up and leave. 

 

Payments happen online or through contactless systems.

 

Catalog Shopping

 

While more conventional, catalog shopping allows customers to preview a company-distributed catalog, check prices and products, and even place an order. While eCommerce solutions replaced many print catalogs, small-scale retail chains (and some larger-scale commerce solutions) were still successfully implementing catalogs. 

 

Advantages of Contactless Retail 

 

Contactless retailing offers several advantages to consumers and retail stores:

 

  • It helps retail stores build consumer loyalty. Every successfully fulfilled order only ensures customer retention. If customer service extends to benchmarking standards, retail stores can make a massive base of loyal customers. 
  • Customers are looking for new and more convenient ways to shop online without any human interaction. 
  • Digitization brings drastic differences to in-store operations. Custom retail software development enables businesses to automate supply chain management, payroll, inventory management, order fulfillment, and optimize their operations. 

Wrapping Up

 

Contactless retail is not the future — it is now. Retail stores must ramp up digital presence, adopt new technology, and have a more robust customer relationship management system to keep up with the changing ways we like to shop.