OnQ Blog

Novel customer experiences for the new normal in retail

Ahead of NRF 2022, Ketal Gandhi, director of business development at Qualcomm Technologies, answers our questions about the future of retail.

Jan 14, 2022

Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Ketal Gandhi plays a critical role in the Retail segment of the Qualcomm Technologies IoT business unit, where she leads the payments vertical. As Director of Business Development, Ketal manages relationships with direct and indirect customers, as well as other ecosystem members, to deliver unique end-to-end retail customer solutions.

At the beginning of 2020, Ketal attended the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City and was struck by the mix of enthusiasm and innovation she saw on display. She noted, “Everyone was prepared to have a great year, with new technology evaluations and deployments happening at a normal pace.” Then the onset of the pandemic hit, and the retail sector was upended. It became clear very quickly that the usual pace of innovation wasn’t going to be enough — the rate of new tech deployment in retail needed an unprecedented acceleration.

We recently sat down with Ketal for a conversation about novel customer experiences in the ever-changing landscape of retail environments.

The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What do you think customers will expect from retail experiences in physical spaces going forward?

When it comes to interacting and servicing customers in physical environments, the game plan needs to be revamped significantly. Based on our interactions with customers and partners, we identified four pillars to drive novel customer experiences in the physical world. Be it retail stores, restaurants, hotels, airports, train stations, stadiums, hospitals, or offices, customers will expect a new level of experience. They’ve gotten used to getting services at the click of a button from the comfort of their couches, so we will have to rethink the solutions offered in brick-and-mortar stores.

We believe those four pillars are contactless experiences, instant gratification, frictionless flow, and omnichannel support.

How can physical retail spaces introduce more contactless experiences, and how will those experiences benefit customers?

Self-service kiosks can be very useful in this instance. Adding features such as biometric check-in stations and verification points will enable a touchless experience. Today, face recognition algorithms can achieve close to perfect accuracy. Adding 3D cameras and other security features can reduce the anti-spoof rate to one in a million.

One of our ODMs, Arima, recently launched the Arima 6125 10” Enterprise Display Platform powered by the Qualcomm QCS6125 multimedia processor. The Arima 6125 features a biometrics enterprise display terminal with integrated 3D time of flight (TOF) sensors and technology from Infineon, and pmdtechnologies a face recognition solution from CyberLink, and PalmID, a palm recognition solution from Redrock Biometrics. Ordyx, a restaurant POS provider, is utilizing the Arima 6125 platform to offer a biometrics checkout solution. With all the hardware and software pre-integration and validation done by Arima, along with support from Qualcomm Technologies, Ordyx was able to integrate this novel experience in just a few weeks, which is quite remarkable.

Brick-and-mortar retail spaces should also consider adding voice and gesture based touchless experiences. Advances in deep learning algorithms have enabled smooth natural language processing and hand gesture processing, allowing for more fluid customer interactions. At NRF 2022, we’ll be showcasing a gesture UI self-ordering kiosk experience powered by the Qualcomm QCS8250 processor integrated with gesture UI technology from Ultraleap.

Most kiosks are equipped with wireless technology, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. There are opportunities for kiosks and other enterprise devices to connect to a user's own device over a wireless connection, which would allow the user to enter data via their own smartphone. This way, customers don't have to touch public devices in order to interact with a retail space’s systems.

For obvious reasons, brick-and-mortar retail spaces can’t offer customers the same level of instant gratification that shopping online can. Is there anything they can do to offer something that’s close to the same experience?

Online channels offer that gratification with a click of the mouse — but customers now expect the same from physical interactions. So, it’s important that information provided to customers is accurate and consistent across multiple channels and devices. For example: If a customer checks the price of a product on their smartphone and then asks a staff member in a physical retail space for the price of the same product, the answer should be the same. The challenge is to achieve this sort of consistency in real time.

The devices in customer’s hands are connected and intelligent, with extreme processing power. So, it’s important to equip staff with devices that have the same mobile features, but that are rugged enough for enterprise use. And any unattended kiosks and interaction devices throughout physical retail spaces should have those same mobile features to ensure experiences are consistent.

Another technology that enterprises can leverage in physical spaces are recommendation engines. They allow for curated experiences that don't overwhelm customers with excessive prompts, shortening the amount of time a customer spends on an enterprise’s devices. For example, in a quick service restaurant drive-through, a customer could be identified with biometric data, helping the restaurant present menu options based on the customer’s dietary preferences. Not only is it a contactless experience – it’s a personalized experience as well.

Can you explain what you mean by “frictionless flow,” and why it’s so important for customer experiences going forward?

It will be important to reduce the number of stops, as well as the amount of time per stop, in a customer’s journey in a physical retail environment. While there are more sophisticated ways of enabling that with multiple expensive cameras and sensors, you don't necessarily have to rely on those technologies alone. There are other ways to do it.

For example, utilizing a customer’s own device will be a crucial component, and will enable more “scan and go” experiences. Virtual try-ons and recommendations with augmented reality will enable endless aisle and magic mirror experiences. Adding a digital display like those from Videri – powered by the Qualcomm QCS8250 – on fridge and freezer doors will allow customers to interact with inventory in the same way they do online. Having consistent, real-time information across multiple channels will be an extremely important component to making sure these experiences are possible.

Will the future of retail involve one size fits all approaches, or will customer experiences be more dynamic?

Like I said, one of the four pillars is the ability to offer omnichannel support. We’ve seen a massive increase in customers using “buy online, pick up in-store” options. It’s very expensive to offer that shopping modality but using technology to improve efficiency can reduce the cost per transaction.

Installing dedicated pick-up stations with interactive kiosks can help automate those experiences. To streamline the picking process for members of staff who will be shopping on behalf of customers in these scenarios, operators can introduce connected smart devices optimized for route and navigation to increase efficiency. We have also seen significant improvement in picking and stocking efficiencies when these devices are used in conjunction with smart shelf edge labels with dynamic pricing, geolocation, and LED capabilities. We will be showcasing a collaboration demo with a Clover Mini and electronic shelf labels from SES-imagotag, in our booth at the NRF 2022 show.

Payment is another crucial part of a customer’s retail journey. Many of our partners offer industrial Android tablet and mobile devices with advanced features and rugged form factors. These are great solutions, and can be used in multiple configurations, including an in-store kiosk and a staff productivity device. Enabling truly contactless and touchless payments is important, especially in the context of the pandemic, and this device and others like it can help operators achieve this important goal. In our booth at NRF 2022, we’ll demo a contactless payment acceptance without the use of any external payment hardware. The demo will showcase the PHOS Software POS application on the Elo M50 mobile computer, a rugged handheld device powered by the Qualcomm SDA660 processor.

 

Qualcomm QCS6125, Qualcomm QCS8250, and Qualcomm SDA660are products of Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries.

Opinions expressed in the content posted here are the personal opinions of the original authors, and do not necessarily reflect those of Qualcomm Incorporated or its subsidiaries ("Qualcomm"). Qualcomm products mentioned within this post are offered by Qualcomm Technologies, Inc. and/or its subsidiaries. The content is provided for informational purposes only and is not meant to be an endorsement or representation by Qualcomm or any other party. This site may also provide links or references to non-Qualcomm sites and resources. Qualcomm makes no representations, warranties, or other commitments whatsoever about any non-Qualcomm sites or third-party resources that may be referenced, accessible from, or linked to this site.

The OnQ Team