Leveraging Tech to Improve Financial Inclusion
Financial inclusion is a favorite cause in the financial services industry.
Innovations in augmented reality (AR) technology are blurring the lines between physical and digital realities. Through smartphones and other digital devices, consumers can wear products virtually, receive financial advice or even see how meals will look before ever stepping foot inside a restaurant—and the potential for what AR can deliver virtually is just beginning.
AR technology allows users to experience “an enhanced version of the real physical world.” The technology really hit the mainstream in 2016, when “Pokemon Go” saw millions of users around the world journeying out to capture digital creatures overlaid on the physical world through their smartphone cameras. The technology works by adding visual, sound or other sensory elements that don’t exist physically to what people see and hear through enabled devices.
Now, AR has moved far beyond the days of Pokemon Go—fundamentally changing the way we can shop, bank and dine. Here’s a look at what it’s doing for each industry.
For retailers like Home Depot, Nike and many more, their customers can virtually see how a product looks, whether it’s on their body or in their home—without ever visiting a store. During the pandemic, that has been a lifeline for retailers and shoppers who couldn’t visit a store in-person. And after COVID is under firm control, AR “try before you buy” is likely to continue with added benefits like minimizing the risk of time-consuming return and refund processes. It also increases conversions by giving customers less reason to second-guess their purchases.
The best way to decide whether or not to buy something is to experience the product firsthand. But visiting a store, as consumers have seen most recently, isn’t always possible. And it’s often not the most convenient way to shop for people strapped for time. So, retailers are using AR technology to make the shopping experience more efficient—and exciting. Who doesn’t love being able to see what a new couch would look like in their living room—without having to buy it first, perhaps put it together and finally physically place it in the room?
And retailers are enjoying the benefits of AR, too. Walmart started testing augmented reality technology in some stores in 2020—with the aim of accelerating the process of getting products to the floor without employees having to scan each box individually. As Sarah Perez writes in TechCrunch, “instead of scanning the barcode on boxes that are ready to go, the app will use [augmented reality] technology to highlight those boxes. The hope is that this will help to move the product to shelves, and in front of customers, faster than before.”
Sportswear retailer Lacoste uses augmented reality technology in a way that’s more in-line with how Pokemon Go used it, by overlaying an image through smartphone cameras. Their app—focused only on footwear for now—allows the customer to place their foot in a designated spot before pointing their smartphone camera at it. A virtual representation of what the shoes would look like on the customer’s foot is then displayed.
Lacoste lets customers virtually try on shoes using augmented reality technology.
Almost 60 percent of retail shoppers use their smartphones while in-store to supplement their need for more information on products. While that’s convenient, AR technology makes finding product details information easier, especially when it comes to product details and shareability. And brands are cutting down the time it takes to search for that information on a website by letting shoppers simply hold their smartphone up to a sign, displaying all the necessary information and letting users seamlessly share it with their networks.
In some ways, the financial industry is behind retail when it comes to digitization, but consumers want the same digital-first experience in their banking, too. So adopting new technologies is important to keep up with digital demands as the customer experience evolves. That’s why many financial institutions are using AR technology to blur the lines between brick-and-mortar and digital banking—giving customers greater support and payment experiences through technological innovation.
Consumers love the convenience and ease of banking online, but they still want to count on in-branch assistance for more complex financial advice and for smaller transactions, too. Major financial institutions are using AR technology to offer that balance.
Starting in 2018, Wells Fargo designed its own augmented reality experience through which customers can get real-time banking assistance from a human teller within a virtual space. And not only can their customers perform transactions, they can also play video games and do puzzles because according to Jennifer Copeland, vice president and experiential marketing manager at Wells Fargo they wanted to show their customers ““There’s more to us than financial products. We are able to show you a good time.” It’s a great example of how AR not only brings your customers more ease and convenience, you can increase customer engagement, too.
Comarch, a Polish fin tech, is using smart wearables (like smart watches), smart phones and headsets to deliver an “AR ecosystem.” The interaction starts by a bank staff member reaching out to a customer via their smart watch who then turns to their smart phone for more information and eventually an AR enabled headset where the customer can have a virtual meeting with the banking staff member and the customer’s entire portfolio is laid out in stunning graphics.
So with experiences like that will bank branches become obsolete? Not likely. Customers want access to whatever banking form matches their specific needs. And when money is on the line, nothing beats human interaction. As John Aves writes in CustomerThink: “Customers still want personalized face-to-face interactions and help with more complex financial decision making...Best-in-class banks recognize that branch innovation sits at the crossroads where the physical is fused with digital to create a seamless, differentiated experience in the new normal.”
Alongside the ability to receive human assistance virtually, augmented reality phone applications can help users locate ATMs and bank branches—including directions and distance—all by using the smartphone camera to scan the street. These apps can also convey information about services and offers that are curated for each specific user.
Payment card security and digital banking access are also improved through AR technology. Improvements to biometric security and the advent of virtual credit cards will help deliver peace of mind and frictionless payment experiences to customers, too.
Augmented reality technology allows customers to undergo a full sensory experience, from a restaurant’s ambiance to playing AR tabletop games with friends and family, and even viewing their meal being virtually prepared. This all makes dining out more exciting and enjoyable through the use of technological innovation.
Going out to eat is something most people enjoy, but they always want it to be convenient and if it’s not, they may have a bad experience. To help with this, Visa has integrated locating and paying at a restaurant using AR technology. Their application allows users to choose a food outlet from a layered map, then browse the menu and—if they want to—complete payment before ever stepping foot in the restaurant.
Once they’ve arrived at their desired dining destination, restaurants can use augmented reality technology to deliver a truly immersive end-to-end dining experience.
First, restaurant patrons can scope out a restaurant’s layout in augmented reality and reserve their ideal seating arrangement ahead of time. Users can then enjoy AR tabletop games to pass the time while they get settled in—a great way to beat restlessness, especially for families with young kids.
Next, orders can be completely customized, with AR allowing users to select ingredients and garnishes and even visualize how the meal will look when it arrives. This leaves no chance for misunderstanding between the front of house and kitchen, so meals come out perfect every time.
To round off the experience, augmented reality technology can even provide cultural and historic insight into different dishes. This is huge for people who enjoy the thrill of trying cuisines from around the world, and they can share the experience with their friends easily through social media.
“Before AR technology can reach its full potential, it must become more than an afterthought on mobile devices,” according to a Maryville University blog. And largely so far that is true and it means that wider adoption and a better understanding of its power will need to happen before augmented reality’s potential is truly realized.
Global tech giants predict that augmented reality could even replace the smartphone, solidifying it as the next greatest technological leap in our everyday lives. What form this will take exactly remains to be seen, but the endless potential of augmented reality technology is certain to have a profound impact on all industries in the future. Stay tuned!
Imagine this: It’s holiday shopping season, 2027. You hop in your car and say “start” and cheer as the car, recognizing your voice, springs to life. You arrive at the mall, and the store’s camera software is already familiar with your face as you enter, the interactive signage displaying appealing promotions based on your shopping history. When you’re ready to check out, there’s no fumbling with receipts or remembering PIN numbers—your fingerprint is all you need to complete the purchase.
No, it’s not science fiction. This is all made possible through the use of biometric technology.
Biometric technology, put simply, is the use of a person’s unique physical traits—voice, face, fingerprints, etc.—to identify them. It’s gaining traction due to the convenience and frictionless potential it delivers in our day-to-day lives.
There’s potential and real growth in biometric adoption within retail and hospitality, too. From contactless payments to greater security, much of this technology is already established, while some will need time before it makes sense for retailers, practically and commercially.
But biometrics aren’t exactly new and we will start seeing them used more and more. Why? This technology has been making waves as the pandemic causes businesses to fundamentally rethink the customer experience.
Many people really don’t know just how common biometric technology is in our lives. In part, the term “biometric” itself seems too technical, and that makes it hard for people to understand what it is.
Instead, you often find biometrics advertised contextually as a feature of the products we use, like Samsung’s Ultrasonic Fingerprint scanner. These high-tech features are secure and practical, so it makes sense for brands to tout them as selling points.
Here are a few ways that you encounter biometrics today:
Since people are already familiar with biometrics in their home, work and banking settings, the obstacle of adoption in retail and hospitality isn’t the main challenge. Instead, it’s understanding the true benefits and uses of biometric technology to effectively revamp the in-store experience.
As biometric uses grow, so do its benefits for retail and hospitality
The ways in which biometric technology serves to improve the experience between customers and the people who work in retail and hospitality will continue to expand, but right now, the core benefits lean toward safety, security and personalization. Some examples include:
In the majority of cases, customers do want something that is non-contact, accurate and frictionless.
Consumers are overjoyed with the prospect of being able to experience the thrill of shopping, dining out and traveling again. And for retail and hospitality, that means a healthier bottom line. As Mohammed Murad, vice president of global sales and business development at Iris ID, said, “We feel very strongly that under the circumstances now and previously, in the majority of cases, customers do want something that is non-contact, accurate and frictionless.”
Credit cards and other conventional payment methods are wide open to fraud and theft, but biometrics provide deeper protections. This is done by utilizing unique characteristics that are literally part of a customer’s physical identity.
Advances in facial recognition have enabled businesses to thwart shoplifters as well. For example, Walmart has been using this technology to scan, identify and notify security of known or suspected shoplifters for years. This is a testament to how sophisticated biometrics have become in preventing losses in retail.
Aside from identity theft and shoplifting, biometrics internally stop time and attendance fraud and reduce human error at the point of sale. It holds staff accountable and totally eliminates “buddy punching” by requiring an individual to be physically present as opposed to a code or password being entered.
Even the most well-trained employee can’t compete with a high-powered algorithm—like Amazon’s recommendation engine—designed to examine behavior and recommend curated products or services to customers. This is why traditional retail has seen sales moving towards e-commerce and other digital channels. But biometric technology is making strides to match this intuitive experience in person.
Microsoft is a shining example with its’ Dynamics 365 Connected Store program. This initiative is a comprehensive in-store solution that focuses on studying traffic patterns and buying behavior to optimize and offer personalized shopping experiences inside Microsoft’s branded retail spaces.
41 percent of hotel guests reported they were more likely to stay again if they were recognized without having to prove their identity, and 62 percent said that this would improve their overall experience. Biometrics takes care of this by recognizing returning guests and enabling staff to deliver a personal touch.
Statista predicts that the global biometric technology market value will reach $30 billion by 2027. This explosive growth—up from approximately 8 billion in 2020—can be attributed to the pandemic, increased adoption through popular products and continued investment and innovation.
Widespread use and funding of biometrics drives down upfront implementation costs as well, making it more feasible for retail and hospitality businesses large and small.
Biometric technology is a dynamic solution that isn’t confined to singular purposes. Their use for increasing revenue is a focal point, too. Arturo Falck, CEO of Whoo.ai, says, “Once companies are using this type of technology for crime prevention purposes, there’s no reason why they should not be using it for upselling their customers.”
Finally, a recent report from Goode Intelligence forecasts 2.6 billion people globally will be using biometrics for payments by the year 2023, so about one-third of the world’s population will have embraced biometric technology. Numbers like these signal a bright future for biometrics’ place in retail and hospitality.
While biometric technology has many real-world benefits, it has also been met with hesitation stemming from consumer privacy concerns. As retail and hospitality continue to adopt these technologies, it’s important to keep this concern top-of-mind. Thankfully, innovation in the biometrics field prioritizes advances in data safety measures.
As continued attention is paid to how biometric information is collected and handled and the technology becomes more fool-proof, consumers can feel confident that keeping their privacy is paramount.
Dr. Jau Huang, chairman and CEO of CyberLink, agrees: “There is a huge difference in applications that are abused for surveillance versus opt-in technology that is built and applied with privacy in mind.”
The full potential of biometric technology in retail and hospitality remains to be seen, but rest assured it is a future-proof solution that will continue to improve the overall customer experience. Stay tuned!
We all experience friction in our everyday interactions, from a traffic-filled commute to long lines at the grocery store. But technology has a category of friction—or frictionless—of its own.
Friction as a concept is “the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact.” But in technology, friction represents the resisting forces between our digital and physical lives. Frictionless technology removes those resisting forces by making traditionally high-touchpoint experiences much less high-touchpoint—especially with innovations like mobile payments and self-service ATMs.
Frictionless technology is ubiquitous because consumers have come to expect a seamless online-offline experience. In this article, we’ll explore where frictionless technology came from and the touchpoints businesses should focus on as they look to increase the frictionless nature of their customer experiences.
Frictionless tech hasn’t been formally defined, but it’s generally understood to be the removal of barriers between the digital and physical experience to make it easier.
For years, Silicon Valley’s top tech companies had declared war on friction. Facebook, Google and Apple took it upon themselves to remove as much friction as possible from the consumer experience. For Facebook, it started with a platform that allowed students to connect with each other. For Google, it started by making finding answers easier than ever before. For Apple, it started with inventing the first full-blown handheld computer—the iPhone.
We don’t always call it “frictionless,” but we experience frictionless technological experiences every day. The experience is exemplified in apps like HotelTonight, where consumers can contact a hotel, book a room, and pay for it all within one interface. The old friction—calling the hotel, speaking with a concierge, handing over a credit card—was removed. Silicon Valley determined those old-school steps to be friction, so they developed products that removed them entirely.
Frictionless technology, as we know it today, was born in the ’00s when the advent of the iPhone placed an entire computer at every consumer’s fingertips.
A 2013 New Yorker article stated that frictionless technology is so “beautifully designed that using it is intuitive, and it evokes a fantasy in which all inefficiencies, annoyances, and grievances have been smoothed out of existence.” And in the article, Dave Morin—former Facebook and Apple employee and founder of then-social network Path—said that “one of his company’s goals is to make technology increasingly seamless with real life.” That seamless tech-to-life ideology is what’s carried our society through the fastest-growing technological advances in history.
In English, that all means that today’s frictionless technology is so frictionless that we barely even notice it’s happening. When we book a ride through Uber or Lyft, pay for our coffee through contactless means or order groceries right from our phones, we think of that as a simple convenience.
Friction in life is annoying—and now, considering how integrated our digital lives are with our physical lives, digital friction is (arguably) even worse. Silicon Valley leaders have identified ways to remove friction from their products’ user experience, and users show they prefer it.
According to data from BigCommerce, 96 percent of Americans shop online, with 20 percent of those consumers shopping from their car and 43 percent of them from their bed.
In a 2011 keynote presentation at F8, Facebook’s annual conference, founder Mark Zuckerberg talked about the elimination of pop-up “sure you want to post this?” messages across the platform. The pop-ups were nixed because they created friction between what a user wanted to do and them actually getting it done. “From here on out, it’s a frictionless experience,” Zuckerberg said. As more consumers had these small-but-mighty frictionless experiences at their fingertips, they started to expect it everywhere else they went, too.
That subtle shift to a frictionless experience wasn’t overtly obvious to the average consumer, but over time, experiences like it became expected. Outside of social media, smartphone-enabled innovations like contactless payment and order ahead quickly took frictionless from a digital concept to something we see and use in our everyday interactions.
Frictionless customer experiences go hand-in-hand with a business’s omnichannel efforts. Zendesk defines omnichannel as “a customer experience strategy that creates connected and consistent customer interactions across channels.” And according to BigCommerce, an omnichannel experience transcends “any one medium and simply providing shoppers what they want, when they want.”
Frictionless and omnichannel have the same goal: to remove any blockers that get in the way of a seamless, integrated and delightful consumer experience.
The payment sector is a key player in the frictionless consumer experience, with things like touchless ATMs, self-checkouts, QR code payments, and mobile wallets all fueled by frictionless. And when COVID-19 entered the picture, frictionless consumer experiences became even more important as contactless technology went from nice-to-have to must-have for most businesses.
According to a COVID-19 contactless payment update from Visa, “Contactless payments, or tapping to pay with a contactless card or mobile device, are fast becoming the preferred way to pay globally with nearly 60 percent of Visa transactions outside of the U.S. occurring with a tap.”
A 2020 study by Shekel Brainweigh Ltd., released on Business Wire, showed that during the pandemic, “more than 70% of shoppers are using touchless, robust self-checkout options or shopping at frictionless micro-markets, compared to nearly 29% that are shopping online.”
Contactless payments in the U.S. alone have skyrocketed year-over-year. The Visa data showed that “31 million Americans tapped a Visa contactless card or digital wallet in March 2020, up from 25 million in November, with overall contactless usage in the U.S. growing 150% since March 2019.” Further, “The U.S. now has the most contactless cards of any market globally at 175 million, with nine of the top ten U.S. issuers actively rolling out new contactless cards to customers.”
Frictionless technology may have planted its roots in Silicon Valley, but the experiences it has powered is a worldwide phenomenon—and thanks to COVID-19, no business is excluded from the rise of frictionless.
Brick-and-mortar businesses that fall under the “essentials” category, like pharmacies and grocery stores, aren’t exempt from the frictionless trend. According to McKinsey, “intent to spend in essential categories is increasing” due to COVID-19, and the behavior is expected to stick post-pandemic. In the report, McKinsey points out that “categories where expected growth in online shoppers exceeds 35 percent include essentials such as over-the-counter (OTC) medicine, groceries, household supplies, and personal-care products.”
The contactless trend extends to essential businesses as well. According to the Visa report, “tap to pay transactions in everyday segments in the U.S. including grocery and pharmacy has grown more than 100% year over year.”
Now that frictionless experiences are a part of every consumer’s life, businesses must adapt or get left behind. Brick-and-mortar businesses can start their frictionless transformation by building a seamless bridge between their physical and digital operations. Any retailer can implement contactless payment technology, build out a transactional capability to start and end purchases anywhere and install a POS system with a built-in loyalty program to encourage repeat visits.
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Innovations in augmented reality (AR) technology are blurring the lines between physical and digital realities.
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