The retail industry took notice when Merkle debuted its newest contactless shopping solution at CES 2022 last month, but the company’s Scan & Know product isn’t the only touchless retail solution on the market. Thanks to the continued adoption of augmented reality and virtual reality among consumers, more technology providers are developing in-store retail experiences that keep physical contact to a minimum.
The return to in-store shopping continues apace in 2022, despite Omicron concerns. Fifty-eight percent of Americans said they feel safe going to a shopping mall, as of December 30, 2021. Although that’s down 5 percentage points from the week prior, research from Morning Consult shows that pent-up demand and excitement for the return of in-store shopping will continue to influence consumer spending habits in the coming year.
As brick-and-mortar retailers look at how they can persuade anxious shoppers to visit in-person, they’re considering the adoption of more contactless shopping solutions. Many touchless shopping experiences lean heavily on AR and VR, as well as mobile and voice technology, to help shoppers navigate physical retail spaces without coming into close proximity with other consumers or store associates.
Here are six examples of contactless shopping solutions that retailers are experimenting with in 2022.
1. App-less Product Scanning
Scan & Know is the newest contactless shopping service to make headlines in the space, having made its debut at CES just this month. Scan & Know leverages the mobile devices most consumers already have in-hand to elevate the in-store shopping experience. Shoppers who are using Scan & Know can scan any item from their mobile device to instantly get product details and pricing information. Shoppers then have the option to add those items to their wishlists or have the products shipped directly to their front doors. Scan & Know integrates with existing websites and loyalty programs, as well as e-commerce platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Adobe Commerce.
2. Interactive Store Displays
Outernets bridges the gap between offline and online shopping by adding interactive content to retail store displays. Strategically placed cameras on digital displays enable retailers to track user interactions and classify passers-bys into customer types to serve real-time content. Outernets uses AI technology, live video interaction, and gamified elements, to give retailers a way to immediately gauge which products—or display designs—are resonating with customers. The displays also make it easier for shoppers to navigate physical stores and find products on their own, decreasing the need for additional associates and cutting down on lengthy periods of in-store browsing.
3. Smarter Lock Cases
While Indyme is best known for its service that alerts shoppers when they’re standing too close together—a solution that became especially popular when social distancing entered the public consciousness in 2020—the company has also developed a number of other contactless shopping experiences for retailers. Indyme reimagined locked cases for the Covid era when it launched the Freedom Case, which shoppers can unlock on their own using a smartphone and a retailer’s app or loyalty card. Indyme has also developed solutions for automating curbside pickup and assisting customers in fitting rooms in a way that requires minimal contact with store associates.
4. AR Mirrors
Global retailers like Timberland and Topshop have signed on to use motion sensing technologies from Microsoft’s Azure Kinect spatial computing developer kit to develop contactless shopping experiences. Microsoft Kinect’s technology registers when customers are located in front of an AR mirror, and then creates virtual fitting room experiences. So-called “smart mirrors” allow shoppers to visualize the clothes on themselves while minimizing contact with sales associates and other shoppers in-store.
5. Custom Payment Solutions
Retailers that are interested in developing their own apps for contactless shopping can work with a provider like Bleesk, which builds custom apps designed to help stores operate more safely in the Covid era. Through a custom mobile app, retailers can allow shoppers to pay for products, track orders, and participate in loyalty programs. Retailers can also connect with shoppers through push notifications, sending special offers and discounts based on a customer’s transaction history or shopping preferences. Bleesk says it can get a retailer’s app in Apple’s app store and Google Play in just two weeks. A white label beacon proximity platform is available for agencies and companies that want to set up geofences and beacon ads with text, videos, or pictures.
6. Hybrid Approaches
Mobiquity has designed its contactless retail experiences to focus on order, payment, and pick-up processes. Retailers that want to adopt contactless payments, e-commerce ordering, or a hybrid approach that encompasses multiple aspects of mobile design to remove human interaction from the in-store shopping experience can work together with Mobiquity to design their own custom contactless solutions. In addition to working with retailers, Mobiquity also works with convenience stores and quick-service restaurants.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight. A version of this article previously appeared in Street Fight, reproduced here under an editorial partnership.