"I love waiting in the check-out line," said no one, ever. With the advent of the AmazonGo convenience store experience, millennials and Gen Z are setting a very high bar of expectations when it comes to one of the biggest challenges of physical retail: the check-out.
Aside from categories like books or toys, more people still prefer to shop in-store versus on-line. However this trend is shifting and retailers are now faced with the fact that one-third of consumers would rather "wash dishes" than endure a traditional check-out experience.
Consumers want their in-store shopping experiences to replicate the ease of use and convenience they have when using a mobile phone with e-commerce options. In fact, when it comes down to it, even the best engineered customer experiences can come to a screeching halt if the check-out experience stinks.
But fear not retailers and brands, Fintech is here to save the day — the tech trends driving the future of payments have the potential to fix the check-out experience and further disrupt traditional banking. Here are the top tech trends to keep an eye on when it comes to "making check-out great again."
This one’s a no-brainer, eMarketer’s latest study shows that proximity mobile payments (that’s a fancy way to say, using your phone to pay at the physical POS) are on the rise. In 2018, more than one-third of smartphone users are paying with their phone (ApplePay, Android or a retailer's app) at least once every six months.
Zero UI Experiences
No, this is not a made up thing, it’s real. Zero UI is an umbrella term to describe things that don’t require any type of screen interaction, device tapping on a sensor or QR code scanning, etc. Here are a couple examples:
- AmazonGo. You pick something up off the shelf and walk out the door. Artificial intelligence enables Zero UI check out, specifically with "machine vision." While Amazon was one of the first to do it, other companies like Standard Cognition are using AI to build check-out platforms for the future.
- Voice/Chat Commerce. Talking or chatting is the easiest way to interact with technology. Natural Language Processing Voice AI is forming new shopping habits and user adoption is growing. To date, 16% of Americans 18 years and older own a smart speaker such as Alexa or Google Home. That’s approximately 39 million people and the adoption rate is showing no signs of slowing down.
This is the underlying technology behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum and Ripple, among others. Over the past 18 months, blockchain technology has risen to the highest ranks of tech-hype cycles. It’s very early days for this technology, but if it does take off, its impact at retail will have a major impact on making it much easier and faster for consumer transactions both on and off-line. The decentralized aspect of blockchain technology will also usher in new types of customer loyalty programs than can be utilized across a global marketplace.
Today’s mobile technology make life easier by allowing us to use our fingerprints or our face to unlock our devices or make purchases on our phones. Acceptance of using facial analytics and biometric data is becoming mainstream. The next step in making it easy to pay with your face at retail is building out a scalable platform. Companies like Mastercard and Visa are in an arms race to create the new standard for biometric payment systems.
I know you are probably saying, Manolo, seriously? Are wearables still a thing? Well, 2016 was a great year for wearable tech, so much hype then... nothing. Intel shut down its wearables unit, Fibit stock tanked and Jawbone sold out. The only wearables left worth mentioning is in the smartwatches category (Apple and Android). I believe wearables are positioned for a comeback in the form of "smart clothing." NFC chips with embedded sensors in everything from our shoes and jackets to our underwear are just the beginning of enabling a payment experience where all we have to do is sit in a chair, or stand on a spot on the floor, to make a transaction.