• Ecommerce sales for June were up more than 76% from last year
  • 63% of consumers say they would shift their patronage to stores taht embrace contactless payment options
  • Retail automation company Prexevia has secured $1.18 million in venture capital to expand its AI-driven smart store concept throughout Europe

With the fear of contracting the coronavirus pervading most aspects of daily life, consumers are embracing contactless systems for transactions and spurring the growth of artificial intelligence-driven smart stores.

Ecommerce had been growing steadily before the pandemic hit, and the contagion only accelerated the trend away from brick-and-mortar operations. Total online sales reached $73.2 billion in June, up 76.2% from one year ago, Adobe Analytics reported.

Coresight Research said the pandemic has forced retailers to innovate, leveraging technology to create a more efficient supply chain and generate growth. At the same time, it has become necessary to reduce contact between employees and consumers, forcing retailers to embrace curbside pickup, cashier-less stores, contactless payment and vending machines.

“The coronavirus pandemic has significantly impacted the ways in which consumers engage in retail, and we expect demand for contact-light shopping to become the new norm,” Coresight said.

Visa reported last week 78% of consumers have changed the way they pay, and 63% say they would switch to businesses that offer contactless payment options.

“Consumers are putting COVID-19 safety measures at the top of their shopping lists and rewarding businesses that do the same,” Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales and acquiring for Visa, said in a press release.

“Historically, we see behavior change at the point of sale as a gradual shift over time. But, COVID-19 has created an immediate need for safer, more efficient shopping experiences both on and offline and consumers are responding by rapidly migrating to digital commerce. We want small businesses to know that Visa is here to help them navigate these new consumer needs and expectations, which will make their businesses stronger now and in the long run.”

Retail automation company Prexevia has taken the concept even further with AI-driven smart stores that can sanitize themselves when they detect no people present. Prexevia secured $1.18 million in venture capital from Wolf Capital, Open Circle Capital, Practica Capital and several angels to expand its concept throughout Europe. Prexevia opened its first smart store last summer in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“Contactless technologies have become essential in the world of the pandemic, as they minimize unnecessary physical interaction, thus reducing the potential exposure to contagious diseases,” the company said in a press release, also pointing out that long lines at checkout cost retailers money.

Walmart began testing a cashier-less store in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this summer, coupling self-checkout with its Walmart Pay touch-free payment system. Amazon took the plunge in February.