Verizon’s touchless retail experience points to future of edge infrastructure in smart retail

Verizon’s touchless retail experience points to future of edge infrastructure in smart retail

Verizon has introduced additional touchless options in retail stores amid COVID-19 to address the growing demand for contactless experiences and digital transactions, the company announced. Its latest Touchless Retail experience is a touchless payment system that reduces the number of physical touchpoints and optimizes the business process. While the initiative is aimed at consumer and worker safety, it also points to the need for edge computing solutions to further the transformation of retail experiences.

“We understand how essential it is for our customers to have peace of mind knowing their safety is our first priority as they are transacting business during this unprecedented time,” said Krista Bourne, Senior Vice President of Sales and Operations at Verizon, in a prepared statement. “The Touchless Retail changes we’ve implemented in Verizon retail stores not only contribute to a safer environment today but also will make shopping in our stores more efficient and streamlined in the future,” she added.

Reconfiguring retail sales during a pandemic

Combining digital and physical elements, customers can use Touchless Retail to make a store appointment, sign up for in-store pickup or get information about safety measures taken in the store, as well as their responsibilities as shoppers are to prevent the spread of coronavirus. The Verizon touchless experience is based on three categories: accessing the store, physical elements, and digital elements. The digital elements include mobile check-in through the Verizon app, preferred digital buy and checkout, seamless account verification, and touchless cash payments.

The My Verizon app is being used through the entire shopping experience, from mobile check-in to product scanning and self-scan verification of IDs in the future. Customers can add the payment to the monthly bill, tap their phone, personally log in the credit card information or use cash at a kiosk. If customers prefer cash, a QR code is generated and then scanned at the bill payment kiosk to keep employee and customer interaction at a minimum.

The reconfiguration of the retail experience has been borne out of necessity. As a result of COVID-19, Verizon has temporarily closed nearly 70 percent of its stores which has affected some 10,000 employees. Technical support is available 24/7 and customers are now required to wear face masks when in the store. Post-COVID, many of these measures will remain in place, as further enhancements are planned to include customers scanning their own ID for verification to optimize transactions.

Frictionless retail will require edge computing solutions

Verizon’s moves come as many retailers with ‘bricks-and-mortar’ presence have been working on plans for increased use of data and artificial intelligence to improve operations. Companies such as Toshiba, for example, are offering a vision of a “frictionless store” where retail shelves are transformed into real-time extensions of edge and cloud data and decision software. Sensors and machine vision software are combined with data analytics running on edge computing systems for rapid response. These systems can help predict events that can reduce store efficiency or result directly in lost revenue.

This kind of transformation is expected to result in significant growth for infrastructure edge services and hardware. The State of the Edge 2020 report forecasts that “by 2028, 20.3% of the retail establishments run by the top 100 retailers globally will have implemented digital services that require infrastructure edge capabilities.” The report also forecasts that global infrastructure edge CAPEX for retail is forecast to reach $6.5 billion by 2028.

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