Shop But Don’t Touch: Top tech empowering retailers for our contactless world

Val Vacante, Director of Strategy, Product Innovation, Merkle explores the latest solutions in contactless shopping.

Growing up, as kids we might have been taught to “look, don’t touch” in stores. These cautionary words seem uncannily prescient, with the continued increase of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be a long time, if ever, until people feel comfortable “touching” things again, which has rapidly accelerated the growth of contactless shopping experiences.

Over the past year and a half, many consumers have turned to online shopping, however, consumers still desire the in-person element of shopping and are exploring it in new ways.

We continue to see an increase in click-and-collect services, which increased 106% in less than a year, and contactless payments, which increased 150% in less than a year, as well as contactless delivery, virtual assistants, and augmented experiences in retailers operations.

Contactless stores and contactless experiences are helping consumers feel safe about heading back to retail. If we are living in a “shop but don’t touch,” world, what technologies should brands explore?

Here are retail technologies that are changing the way we live and shop in a contactless world.

App-Free Amplified Assistance
According to Motista, emotionally connected customers will spend 150% more annually compared to regular, satisfied customers.

Research shows that the majority of U.S. consumers are downloading zero apps per month, and 78% of US smartphone users will not download an app to continue a transaction (Source: Digital Information World). In addition to app fatigue, analysts estimate the cost of developing, deploying, and maintaining can run as high as $1,000,000 and it can take from six months to a year or more to complete.

Overall, $98B a year is left on the table by companies who fail to provide “simple” experiences to their consumers (Siegel+Gale).

Merkle, dentsu’s customer experience management agency, is creating retail innovations that bring customer joy, with its ShopNXT suite of patent-pending contactless retail innovations – including Scan & Know and UnboxIt, which debuted at CES 2022 during the “Shop But Don’t Touch” panel hosted by Robin Raskin, Founder at Virtual Events Group.

ShopNXT products are lightweight; future-focused; compatible with major ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Adobe Commerce and BigCommerce; and designed to easily test without a heavy investment.

Retailers continuously strive for superior customer support, and it doesn’t always mean having more sales staff on the floor. Sixty-nine percent of U.S. consumers would rather review a product on their phone than speak with an in-store associate (eMarketer).​ In fact, shoppers who research in-store spend 61% more on average (RetailDive)

Scan & Know

One of the latest additions to the ShopNXT suite of products includes Scan & Know, app-free amplified assistance, empowering shoppers to know more in store. Using their own mobile device, shoppers can scan any item in-store to learn more about the product details and price, add items to wish lists and registry, or have them shipped to their door. Scan & Know’s patent-pending product recognition technology seamlessly integrates into a retailer’s existing websites, customer profiles, and loyalty programs, and a test can launch in weeks.


How can retailers continue keeping shoppers connected upon delivery? Merkle’s ShopNXT suite of retail innovations also includes UnboxIt, a smart packaging, no-code content platform that instantly converts customers into advocates of their products right out of the box. Using their mobile device, shoppers scan a QR code from the package that they receive at their doorstep to connect to valuable online content to “get started” with product onboarding, “join the club,” for exclusive loyalty perks, or “share the love,” with community and customer support.

The drag-and-drop, codeless technology enables retailers to update content in seconds, no matter when the product is sold or shipped. Research shows that there is a 40% rise in registrations from brands that make registration easy by using QR codes ( and 62% of retailers that offer benefits within the first week see ROI within the first six months (Clarus 2021 Loyalty Industry Data Study).

 8th Wall

8th Wall is on a mission to make augmented reality for everyone by equipping developers, agencies, and brands with tools to create web-based augmented reality. With the world’s largest augmented reality platform, 8th Wall’s WebAR works across iOS and Android devices with an estimated reach of 3.5 billion smartphones worldwide – all with no app required to download.

As part of its PLAY NEW initiative, Nike is inviting customers to experience sports in new ways with the launch of an in-store augmented reality retail experience. Nike worked in collaboration with BRDG Studios to make the experience as seamless as possible for customers. To access the experience, in-store shoppers must find and scan the specially marked AR stickers. Once scanned, customers unlock one of five augmented reality mini-games, including a flower, football, putt putt, soccer, and basketball game. After completing each game, the user receives a medallion that is added to their collection. Once the user collects all five medallions, they receive a “gift with experience” which includes a Nike sticker pack.


Empowering Augmented Experiences

Our world continues to be augmented, Neilsen reported 51% of consumers are willing to use AR to assess products, particularly in “try before you buy,” experiences. Ecommerce platform Shopify reported that “Merchants who add 3D content to their stores see a 94% conversion lift, on average.”

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