Mastercard Partnering with Multiple Brands to Pilot Cashierless Retail Concepts

In recent months, as the COVID-19 pandemic has changed everyday life for citizens around the globe, some technologies have begun playing a more prominent role in our society. Beyond video chat services becoming the new schools/workplaces and menus via QR code replacing their paper counterparts in some places, contactless payments and cashierless transactions have gone from being somewhat of a novelty to being a near necessity. Given this reality, several companies are teaming up to explore new retail innovations and deploy them as soon as possible.

This morning, Mastercard announced partnerships with Circle K, Dunkin’, White Castle, and more to introduce various retail technologies such as cashierless kiosks. Two of the platforms behind these concepts are Mastercard’s Shop Anywhere and what they call AI Powered Drive Through. For the former, the card company is working with Accel Robotics while SoundHound Inc. and Rekor Systems are partnering with Mastercard for the latter.

Each of these efforts will result in unique new offerings that meet the needs of the brands and their customers. For example, Delaware North — which operates restaurants and retail locations inside several stadiums, airports, and other venues — will be installing “standalone, frictionless food and drink stores.” Similarly, Dunkin’ is currently testing the ability for customers to select their items and checkout without any interaction.

Meanwhile, White Castle intends to pilot AI Powered Drive Throughs starting in October of this year. This concept, which will offer personalized dynamic menus and utilize an AI voice assistant, reportedly builds upon a prototyped program tested by Sonic Drive-In last year. If all goes well, these features will not only expand to more White Castle locations later this year but to other quick service restaurants as well.

Discussing the need for these technologies and applications, Mastercard’s SVP of Retail Innovation Stephane Wyper said in a statement, “As retailers and consumers navigate through one of the most disruptive periods in modern history, it’s clear that traditional business operations will need to evolve quickly. We’re committed to supporting our retail partners as they look to meet the unforeseen challenges posed by this new normal and provide their customers with a more digitally enabled, touchless, and secure retail experience.”

Additionally, Delaware North’s chief information officer Jeff Wilkinson said of the planned pilot programs, “With the health and safety of our guests and employees being our top priority in the pandemic and as part of our ongoing commitment to innovation, Delaware North has turned to a well-recognized industry leader in Mastercard to help us deliver a frictionless, safe and secure experience for our guests. Wilkinson added, “With a great partner like Mastercard, we’re excited to activate this new contactless capability this fall at select Delaware North Sportservice locations.”

While these partnerships between Mastercard and various companies will certainly bring these types of retail concepts to a larger base of consumers, they certainly aren’t the first to experiment with the idea of a cashierless experience. Most notably, Amazon has been slowing expanding its Amazon Go stores, which utilizes technology to allow shoppers to grab their items and leave without going through a traditional check-out process. Elsewhere, brands like Sam’s Club have leveraged smartphones to enable customers to scan their purchases while shopping, pay via their app, and merely scan a QR code at the exit. Nevertheless, this announcement could end up having major implications for the way Americans shop — with the effects lasting much longer than the pandemic itself (hopefully). Therefore, it will be worth watching what becomes of these upcoming pilot tests and where these technologies go from here.


Jonathan Dyer

I'm a small town guy living in Los Angeles looking to make solid financial decisions. I write for a number of finance websites, including HuffingtonPost and Business2Community. I founded in 2015 to focus on personal finance and the emerging FinTech markets.

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