Touchless Tech for Retail Interactives – Making Shoppers Feel Safe

by | Apr 20, 2020

The U.S. has a rep for falling behind behind other countries on some things. One of these is the adoption of touchless technologies – most notably touchless payment technologies like Apple Pay. And even when you use Apple Pay or another touchless payment method, you’re still may be asked to punch in a pin or grab a pen and sign a receipt. This is in part because of the country’s slower adoption of chip cards, outdated equipment that still requires signatures (even though card companies don’t), and in the case of restaurants – because that’s the source of the all-important tips U.S. wait staffs depend on.

Signing a receipt or touching other things like a door handle wasn’t a big deal a few months ago. But now communal surfaces (as well as other people) are scary, potential sources of contagion. This has led people to rethink a host of behaviors ranging from the way they pay for things and open doors to how they flush toilets. And companies that offer touchless technologies – like Kohler’s touchless faucets and “intelligent toilets” with bidets and self-opening and shutting seats – are being inundated with interest.

What About Retail?
So, when retail is allowed to open and people emerge from quarantine – some cautiously and others enthusiastically – the general consensus is that if you haven’t done something to make people feel safe in your store, you’re going to be behind. Of course, stores are already experimenting with gated entry, social distancing requirements and routine sanitization of communal surfaces. But that’s not really in our wheelhouse.

But you know what is? The interactive tools that prior to the Coronavirus were becoming increasingly important at retail – to tell stories, share product info and create richer experiences. So, we’re currently experimenting with different types of triggering and control systems that allow these same interactives to go touchless. These cover a wide range of technologies:

  • Simple proximity sensors that can turn something on or off

    Basic Proximity Sensor

  • Multi-sensor devices that can allow shoppers to swipe right or left, turn volume up or down, choose and activate content and perform other complex actions
  • All the way up to a computer vision technology – essentially a camera with a brain integrating multiple technologies such as shape recognition, motion tracking, and even facial recognition – to allow for more complex and intuitive interactions

Finding hardware for these is not the problem. There are thousands of existing sensors and other components. The real value-add is in these four things:

  • Selecting and integrating the right hardware for a given application
  • Making it intuitive for the shopper – for instance through simple graphic instructions – and then through instant shopper feedback so shoppers know when it’s working
  • Programming
  • Making sure the experience is both fun and valuable in the shopping process so shoppers don’t walk away

We anticipate growing interest in new touchless interactives as well as retrofitting existing interactives. We’re ready and excited to help. See the video below for a good example of a sensor-driven, touchless speaker interactive from Acconeer – a pioneer in radar sensor technology. But also keep in mind that it’s probably impossible to make everything at retail touchless. So how do you make people feel safe touching things? UV light may be one answer. Read more here.