Event Recap

Event Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the Holidays

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the Holidays

Aug 19
Alley Team
Event Recap

Event Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the Holidays

Aug 19
Alley Team
Community Over Everything

Event Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the Holidays

Event Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the HolidaysEvent Recap: Safe & Seamless Shopping for the Holidays

The holidays have always been the driving force of retail, but this year, things look a little different. The race for frictionless experiences was already underway, but now with COVID-19 as a catalyst, retailers are rethinking the customer journey, both on and offline.

In this conversation, our panelists uncovered what tools and technology can help retailers keep up with evolving consumer expectations. We looked closely at this year’s shifts in consumer behavior, and how retailers use those insights to design a safe and seamless experience across verticals, from browsing all the way to buying.

Learn more about what retail trends are surfacing in response to the pandemic, which patterns are here to stay, and how 5G connectivity will support long term, sustainable solutions in retail.


Verizon's 5G Labs works with startups, academia and enterprise teams to build a 5G-powered world. We work on 5G trials, hackathons, industry partnerships, prototyping challenges and more.

Mentioned Resources

  • Mastercard Signals - From 5G to cryptocurrency, the global landscape for payments and commerce is undergoing a profound shift that will reshape the digital economy of tomorrow. Mastercard Signals, examines the transformative innovations, global trends and new behaviors changing the way we shop, sell, interact, and exchange. In this edition of Mastercard Signals, we explore opportunities in commerce that both push against and reach beyond accepted boundaries.
Samar Younes
Michael Friedman
Stewart Katz


Sarah Agopian  0:00  
Hey Everyone. Thank you so much for joining us today on your Thursday afternoon for our conversation safe and seamless shopping for the holidays. My name is Sarah Agopian, and I am a Program Ptrategist here at Alley. We're a community agency that unites rich and diverse communities around the country with corporate partners to provide the resources and catalysts to drive positive change in technology and the broader world. We are so excited to host this event as part of Verizon 5G Labs' series. For those of you who aren't familiar with Verizon 5G Labs, they work with startups, academia, and enterprise teams to build a 5G powered world using the practical application of emerging technologies. Part of that mission includes having conversations like these that address barriers to digital inclusion and create opportunities for communities to thrive and grow. If you're interested in learning more about their work, please visit verizon5glabs.com.

And without further ado, the reason that you're here today, I would love to turn it over to our incredible panelists who are with us. And so I'm just going to kick it over to them so they can share their names and a little bit more about themselves. Stew, do you want to kick things off for us?

Stewart Katz  1:23  
Sure. So Hello, everyone. My name is Stew Katz. I'm a Director of Innovation at Verizon, which generally means we find customer or business pain points, customer experience pain points. And then we find interesting technologies, and we put those together to create pilots or or pfcs. Just to prove them out. Mike, you want to go?

Stewart Katz  1:45  
You're on mute.

Michael Friedman  1:47  
Hey, thanks Stew, thanks Stew. So Mike Friedman from MasterCard's Digital Future Group. We look at the technology and trends that are shaping commerce and payments and think about how they are affecting both our business and business and our customers and our partners.

Samar Younes  2:06  
Hi, I'm Samar Younes. I am the VP Creative Director at Showfields. Shielfields is the most interesting store in the world and an innovative retailer. We, our mission is to connect mission driven brands and artists and give them a platform to create like word forward thinking culture within our space. So we think of ourselves as a hub where innovation technology, as well as artisanship, all of together within one roof.

Sarah Agopian  2:36  
Hmm, thank you guys so much. I know that I'm really looking forward to all the insights that you're going to bring to this conversation. Before we dive right in, I just want to remind the audience members that we do have our Q&A open. And so if you do have any questions throughout the conversation, please make sure to just add them to the Q&A feature. And Stew is actually going to be the one really driving our conversation today. So he is going to come back to those questions at you know, certain points throughout the conversation or at the end. Stew, I'd love to hand it over to you since you're going to be the one driving this convo. I'll see you guys later.

Stewart Katz  3:15  
Thank you. I'm so Samar, we'll start with you. Right? So can you give us a little insight into your background? Your career in retail, and in particular has had things changed significantly with COVID?

Samar Younes  3:32  
Yes, sure. So, my background, I stumbled upon retail by accident. Because my interest has always been an art in general, I'm bringing art to the masses finding ways to bring art to the masses. So how my career started in retail is with anthropology and Miami. I was straight out of school I went to school in London moved to Miami and I was trying to figure out a way in which I can create my mission to bring art to the masses. And when I stumbled stumbled upon anthropology I saw that they are really interested in how they carried their spaces, how they create really powerful installation and such. So it was almost like serendipity is that it made sense for me to be in this kind of environment. And that's where I started my career. I was with them for 10 years, helped them grow the brand from 20 stores to 120 something stores at the time. Then I moved into luxury. I've worked with Elie Tahari briefly. Then when I joined Coach with Reed Krakoff when he was still at the realm, then Coach for six years. And then within obviously working with Coach, a variety of different sort of partners and brand because I was the Global Director of Digital Experience there so it was working wholesale retail as well as outlets. Globally, which made us a partner was a ton of different retailers, and incredible innovative retailers from around the world department stores, different sort of luxury brands as well. And then I joined Showfields, recently, after I founded my consultancy, it's been nine months now, so a month before COVID. And it's amazing because I never thought, you know, like, you know, as much as I love to retail I was, you know, I'm also passionate about, you know, a hospitality, I'm passionate about experiences in general, whether they're in museum setting, whether they're in retail, they're in different places. So that's why, you know, I went to consulting and when I stumbled upon Showfields, it was amazing, because it's not a typical retail, it's actually essentially a platform and culture is very important art is very important. But what makes them even more unique is the innovation and the technology they bring into the mix. And also how they really are not afraid to take risk being startups on like, you know, more rigid retailer when they're more established, which means we can really define what the retail of the future is. And they're really sort of like, amazing and had a great platform to sort of build upon how to establish and reidentify the future of retail and be able to be more innovative on all fronts. So the technology front, the sort of how we serve the community front, how we sort of create spaces, how we're able to generate interest around local community, as well as global communities. And most importantly, how we sort of were able to tackle COVID, in a successful way, right after COVID, in which we sort of really pushed a lot of effort by things that were already in place, which we have a seamless integration between digital and physical, but we push that in a much more elaborate way. Within the time of COVID, was touchless shopping was a different way to look into the experience, which I'll elaborate more about down the line. But it's definitely something that was highly impactful and accelerated every single retailer plan that already was in place in which to reinvigorate the brick and mortar that was already a challenge. So it's a place in which I feel just went full throttle during this period. And it's something that we were able to sort of really capitalize on in such a wonderful way, because we had a very strong foundation to start was that already was forward thinking, in that sense. So it was a very seamless transition.

Stewart Katz  7:48  
Oh, Michael, I'll give you sort of the same question. Something you know, your background and how your work has changed a little?

Michael Friedman  7:57  
Yeah, sure. So my background, I joined MasterCard, about 10 years ago, after working in consulting for a number of years. And I, I've always been passionate about technology, and its impact on culture and society. And I've also always been passionate about payments, for whatever reason. It's a area of the business world, but that drives the way that businesses work together, it drives the way consumers and businesses interact. There's something almost poetic about payments that are probably one of the few people in the world.

Stewart Katz  8:38  
I'll laugh on the inside, it's cool.

Michael Friedman  8:39  
But yeah, I think it's a great space. And I've been lucky for the last 10 years to work with MasterCard with great people, great organization. And that's proven out over the course of the last, what, six months or so that we've that we've been working through COVID in terms of how COVID has impacted the business, I mean, I think for us, it's just been kind of double down and keep on doing what we're doing. The the economic forces that have been driving technology and just business in general, the way that we pay the way that consumers interact, has been moving to digital. This has been an accelerating trend to that certainly, you know, not the accelerating trend we were hoping for but but but it is certainly proving to be one and it's opening up lots of opportunity for us to help our customers help our partners and the card holders but but that use MasterCard.

Stewart Katz  9:42  
A little bit on on my background. I you know, I worked at a digital agency for several years where we really focused on the idea, would it be cool "if". Right? And that really started that idea of innovation and so they're new ideas after that I spent some time in the music company in, you know, building new things, new experiences, and then I came over to Verizon, really to do the best job ever, which is find a problem and then find some cool technology to go to go apply it. And, you know, COVID, for us really accelerated a lot of things that we were either looking at, or tinkering with sort of along the way. And, and, and sort of there was the collective idea that we needed to get there eventually. But COVID ended up just accelerating and moving things up to the top of the queue to sort of really drive them.

I'm going to change, I'm going to change topics, I'm going to move on to sort of consumer trends. Right? So what what are we seeing is top of mind as consumers move into the into the holiday shopping season? I'll start with you, Mike, on this one, how are things changing? In the in, what are you seeing in sort of the shifting of consumer spending?

Michael Friedman  11:03  
Yeah, so I, I think the interesting thing from from where we sit in the organization has been, again, the drive to digital. In the first couple of months of pandemic, the shift to online, the shift to contact lists, and all kinds of digital forms of spending accelerated both on the consumer side and the B2B side. So we had a lot of small merchants, using digital billing, digital invoicing, and other kinds of solutions there. The the driving force behind that, obviously, was safety, it was making sure that the employees are safe in place with small businesses and large organizations that consumers were safe and keeping socially distant. As I think is, as we've started to move beyond the early months of the pandemic, online, shopping is, sorry, in store shopping is coming back a little bit. People are definitely moving into the store, although I wouldn't necessarily speak to the numbers on that. I think it's just a trend that we're that that from where we sit in the organization, we've been, we've been observing. And some of that experience is different. We have two cashiers behind plexiglass screens now we're seeing, you know, more effort to again, reduce the friction, reduce the interaction, the points of physical contact, and proximity. So we're really moving into this kind of digital and contactless environment.

Samar Younes  12:37  
Cool. Samar, you Showfields has a store in New York, and you're going to open one in Miami. But can you talk a little bit about how your processes have changed and how you're tapping into sort of consumer sentiments. And you know, what, what sentiments folks should be sort of aware of, as you sort of, maybe reinvent the experience?

Absolutely. COVID, not only did it make a big impact impact on consumer sentiment, but also paired with the civil movement that was going on during that period, shifted tremendously how people feel the choices in which people make, to consume, and they're much more aware of what they consume, because obviously sitting at home and saving money and realizing, oh, oops, I spend that much money on this or that. So it's just like a very different form of self awareness. And addition and created opportunity for a different way to curate assortment brands and art that we have in the store based on these sentiments and based on you know, being very in touch with culture. And our goal is to always bring magic and multi sort of diverse cultural experience to people within the brick and mortar space, and made us relook into how we do these brand curation and looking at trends like colloquialism and the home as a sanctuary. And, you know, and when I say home as a sanctuary, meaning it's a place where you work, you play your workout, you know, your do your beauty routine, it becomes like a very sort of self sufficient units. So how can we serve the self sufficient unit with a variety of product brands and also initiative because we do a lot of different initiatives like live shows and things that are not only informative, or, you know, they're allowed to discover a brand inside out, but they're also allowed to learn things and discovery, exciting things and really make a more informed decision on everything that you kind of choose to do when you are buying or discovering a specific brand. Oftentimes, the brands that are within our space and how we can read them, it's important for them to tell their brand story. So in terms of telling their brand's story in a different way. Of course, they want to make sure it's safe. That's number one. So In order to reinvent how we can safely tell the brand story is making sure that we emphasize the technology that we already have in place, and which allows us to tell the story and also making sure that there is a sentiment of optimism and reassurance when they walk into our spaces. I think it's always been very wary for people to come back. And people often time different businesses saw themselves as a very automated mode, wanting to sort of all the COVID sort of things in place all the COVID safety signs, the sanitizing station of the touchless shopping, but they made it and like oftentime, they looked at it in a very sort of like, automated operational way versus a poetic sort of like interesting opportunity to use this type of things that you need to put in place. But how can you make these things also feel as part of the journey as part of a reassurance type of center thing that will give you the sentiment to the consumer that wants them feel like enchanted and delighted by actually having to sanitize their hand or having to actually discovered this in a touchless way. So with those touch points, were they were looked at in a sort of very kind of meaningful way, including how we did our sanitizing station, there were like sculpture, they look like art form, they're super playful, they make you smile, when you sort of go up to them, and encourage you to sort of sanitize yourself accordingly. So it doesn't feel redundant and a task that I don't want to like do.

Similar to when we approach each, each brand, obviously, most people can shop most of those brand online. So what kind of brick and mortar space achieved that they couldn't get online, which is obviously convenience and getting the product they want. It's at obviously getting the ability to do demos. So we kind of increased different ways to be able to do virtual demo and to be in touch with a lot of our consumer by showcasing them newest term and using the store as you know, it's a it for multiple variety of things, whether it's a showcase, whether it's like launches a product, demonstrate new assortment that come in whether it's virtually digitally, allow them to book virtual appointment, as well as physical appointments with their time, you know, timed, and they don't have to interact with other people. So they have a very curated one on one experience, to really dive into this brand story and fall in love with that brand. Because in the brick and mortar space, we're trying to tell this story, they can't fall in love with a brand, but they're just looking at it on a website and shopping it. That's where we come into play, and we want them to feel immersed, we want them to feel excited, we want to make sure that the brand also is very aware that this is going on everything that's happening. And they want to also make sure that they're pushing the brand is pushing the mission driven initiative in a really meaningful way in our spaces. So we have brands that for them, it's very important to tell their story and their mission. And we're always trying to put that mission at the forefront. So whether that mission is helping the Amazon forest, kind of ecological and sustainable solution, whether it's about the recycling, whether it is you know, protecting child marriage in East Asia, each brand is amazingly incredible because they have a certain mission that they go about. The third sort of thing that we sort of made sure to do is also reinvent how we kind of pair up entreprise brand with smaller brands, in order to create more platform, and more voices for the marginalized because of we obviously inequality is apparent. And it's been sort of, you know, made even more in the spotlight this year. But it's really problematic across the board. So we wanted to make sure we can address it in the most kind of meaningful way possible. So trying to create opportunities for different brands, we were able to do a collaboration to amplify black on businesses that was sponsored by Amex, for instance, were able to do another creation just recently that's going along with we gave what that's what Danielle Bernstein that supports all small businesses that are very sort of like unique, and they can never have their own store. And it's so much more meaningful, what they're curated. And they're presented in a way in which they can have a story experience which they can never do and afford on their own within a brick and mortar space. And then lastly, we launched. We didn't launch, it's something that we already have, which is the magic wand which is a technology in which people can like just tap or like whether they're using a tool like a wallet that we're trying to launch or that's something that we're looking into launching soon and then or their phone in order to see any information whether whether it It's voice driven and a very inclusive way. So if you have any handicap or anything like then which you can't shop in an easy way, that's also part of the tool that technology is so helpful with, because it's helped create more inclusivity, and more alignment across all the different audiences that typically experienced that product. So they're able to hear more info about the product, shop it, put it in their cart without touching anything, they can get all the demo and everything done, done by the associate, and then they can go check out their bag will be ready, and they just pick it up. So it's super seamless, very sort of like frictionless, very playful, very fun. And in the meantime, they've discovered so much art in this tour, they're able to support and by different art, they're able to have experiences and have different station and area in the store where they can recharge, they can rethink they can support. It's just like a 360 way to go about it.

Stewart Katz  20:54
But that's, that's really interesting. I'm a little curious about that having the package ready to go when they're, when they're, once they finish the experience. Can you talk a little bit about what was the, the technology that you sort of put in, have enabled that because we've looked at similar things, and it's non trivial. So yeah,

Samar Younes  21:17  
It's something we call it the magic wand. And it's something that we've launched way before, it's been in place way before COVID. But when COVID happened, it just became way more used before people would do would see it, and they would kind of play with it. But they wouldn't use it in as much of an active way. Because it wasn't so necessary from a safety perspective. But after COVID, knowing that people want to be more touchless, they're able to like scan, you know, we have different sort of NFC codes in which you're scanning in a different area, and you're scaring the actual brand sort of plaque. And it gives you every information possible about the brand, it tells you about the founder, whether you want to read about it, or whether there was an audio sort of component where you can hear it out, it sort of plays it out for you. It also enables you to see every product that you see in front of you as a list, and enables you to get detailing about each of that product. And then you can put it in your cart. And then as you're doing that and put it in your cart, there's different things and different activation that we're weaving into place in which allows you to sort of take a quiz if you want or sort of get more information about you to weave you into another story. So feels a bit more interactive and playful. And as you build everything in your cart, you what you do is just you go Checkout, and then everything that's in your cart, you go to a storyteller, which is our sales associate, they're storytellers. And you scan it, you they scan the bar, and they're able to send this order right to, you know, the back of house that perhaps the package for them to get them ready at the checkout area. And in the meantime, there, we're encouraging people to go do a few different experiences that we have in this store in order for them to wait for their package to be ready in a very sort of like easy, seamless way.

Stewart Katz  23:06  
That's, that's really interesting. I know, we are looking at different sort of mechanisms of fulfillment, maybe not quite so playful, maybe not yet. But we're looking at lockers and vending machines. And other other means of sort of in store pickup appointments was actually one of the things that we had the idea of early and then when COVID hit we really sort of accelerated to sort of pull that forward. But it is it is interesting. Mike, you want to talk about, you know, advancements in how that sort of frictionless experience? Yeah, I don't expect MasterCard to be super playful, but you know.

Michael Friedman  23:50  
Yeah, well, no, we can, we can definitely be playful. So far, I got to say, I really like how you and showfield think about commerce in the experience. And, in fact, we were just finishing up a piece for our MasterCard signals. Journal, which is focused on what we call invisible payments and autonomous commerce. And it's this idea that that we are moving beyond this frictionless concept, right, frictionless was one click frictionless was a tap. But now we're moving into this invisible space where we can play with the time of events because we have, you know, the knowledge of consumer intent, or the consumer has given us what they want. And so we don't have to have them go up to a counter and, you know, at the cashier, validate their goods and pay for them. We can do all that in the background. And so you get to play with time a little bit. And autonomous commerce similarly, is this idea that we can offload, you know, maybe the human brain. And so instead of having to, you know, this is not a great example, but every instead of replacing milk going out and buying milk every two weeks, the fridge could just order milk for you. Maybe a more relevant one would be something like a subscription box, where every month or every couple of weeks I get a box, it's got the clothes that, you know, the company thinks I'm going to buy, or would like to buy. And, you know, maybe I do. But it's this idea that I don't have to think about things anymore, I don't have to see the wires that are holding the puppet together, everything is is just really focused on the experience and bringing that value to the consumer. So to tie all that up, you know, we really see this opportunity with the way technology is developing with AI with 5G with the kind of components of AI, so NLP and computer vision. All this is enabling us to kind of transcend the traditional steps of commerce and play with either time or attention.

Stewart Katz  25:56  
Well, it's interesting about sort of capturing that intention, right? Because one of the things that we're doing at Verizon is, is trying to and this happens, both, you know, in retail when you make an appointment, but also in some of the other channels, where we know, based on what we happen to know about a given customer, when they reach out to us, we're getting pretty good at guessing why they're reaching out so that we can be better prepared to respond and give them sort of the information or the support that they need at the time. Right? So it is that application of sort of the full range of information about a customer applied to what they may what they may be looking for. Right?

Michael Friedman  26:46  
Yeah, we definitely seem to be getting more comfortable with that as consumers, right. I mean, if you'd asked me ten years ago, I might have said, you know, that's creepy. That's a little big brother ish. You asked me now I'm like, why aren't you doing this already? So it's definitely.

Stewart Katz  27:02  
Are you calling because your bill is unusually high this month? Yes, of course I am. Help me do something about it. Right.

Michael Friedman  27:08  
Yes. Yeah.

Stewart Katz  27:10  
It's an expectation. Okay, so let's talk a little bit aboutare there noticeable? You know, Black Friday is coming up, Cyber Monday is coming up. I've seen some folks advertising, get your Black Friday deals. Now. I saw that commercial the other day. So my question to you is, do you see that impacting what you do? Samar? Mike? Either one?

Samar Younes  27:43  
Um, I think, you know, again, I feel like it comes back to mission, whether we're talking about holiday, for us, at least, or whether we're talking about Black Friday, as I said, people are not as blind consumers as much as they used to, they're not just buying for the hell of buying, especially nowadays, you know, they're realizing that everything that they're buying, maybe add already needed, why did I like spend so much money on eating out like there was so much things that they're realizing that they're not thinking the same way. So I feel we're trying to make sure that you know, every experience that we're offering, or every transaction is meaningful for this specific audience. So, which means like, if we have an we and we have multiple audience and multiple targets, so if we have an audience that are art specific, and they're interested in collecting art and interest in collecting emerging art from emerging artists, that's what we will talk more about for this specific audience during Black Friday. If we have an audience that's really into like beauty, and for them, beauty is their sanctuary. Home is your sanctuary to kind of do their beauty routine and get things done, we try to make sure that we are creating this assortment for them during the holiday or Black Friday, to make sure that they have everything they need to recreate this experience and make them feel good. Like we're in the business of making people feel like magic they make to make themselves feel good to make them feel empowered and excited. If it's important for them to spend their money on supporting a Black owned business. That's what we're going to give them and make sure that they are supporting and making sure we have an amazing assortment of Black owned businesses they can pick from and they can gift and they can give to everyone else. So this is for us more the thread in which holiday is a driver and making sure that they can do this thing in a very seamless way. And they can make appointment if they need to. They can pre-order they can like make choices, whether they're doing it starting their journey online, ending it in the store or vice versa, trying to make that experience super kind of a frictionless.

Stewart Katz  29:46  
Cool. Mike, same question to you, do you see much in this space?

Michael Friedman  29:53  
So I'm going to not you know, not pretend to have a sense of what gonna happen on Black Monday or Black Friday and Cyber Monday. But I do think that there is kind of an interesting thing that we've been following, which is the push towards social shopping. And this is shopping through Facebook, Instagram, other social networking sites, as people are gathering on these sites more as they're probably spending a little more time on these sites than they were before. The opportunity to shop is becoming much more real. And maybe even in your face, I don't know, maybe it's just my feed I don't I born friends or something. But the there are a lot of ads, and they're very clickable, they're very engaging. And so I, I do think people are buying more maybe in in the pandemic, just as a as a, I don't know, as an activity. I have a friend who plays, we get together about four of us, we get together play board game on Thursday nights, incredibly nerdy. But, you know, the other day,

Stewart Katz  31:05  
I'm waiting for my invite.

Michael Friedman  31:06
The other day, someone showed up with a device that you were on the back of your neck to cool you off. And, you know, this is justification was I'm not going to bars now I might as well, you know, spend money.

Samar Younes  31:19  

Michael Friedman  31:19  
So I'm gonna get this.

Stewart Katz  31:22  
So, go ahead.

Samar Younes  31:25  
I was saying spending is not like gone. But it's just shifted how you're spending, you know, it's just like, got got a little bit kind of recalibrated and reinvented. So you may have spent, you may may as well be spending as much but it got shifted because of the multiple things and the multiple current that we're sort of facing.

Stewart Katz  31:44  
So it's interesting I, I'm, I'm a little curious, because some of the customer research folks that they you know, that they looked at sort of customer trends going into the holidays. And one of the things that they called out specifically was that folks were interested in, in products that were more about providing an experience, right, be that digital or physical, but they're really much more about the experience and and less about, oh, I'm going to buy something, you know, for my work or for my school or what have you. But it was more much more things that enabled experiences with with family and loved ones and folks like that so Samar, this might be a little bit of a question for you, which is beyond the curation of the brands, how much do you look at the products and the type of products that sort of we do well, and the holiday season?

Samar Younes  32:41  
Of course, I'm to create magic for this holiday, we're think we thought why since people can travel, which is a big sort of thing, usually around the holidays, why can't we bring the world and enable them to kind of go on a holiday curation is cover from all over the world. So instead of having to sort of like curate things in which are not realistic, or like they can't kind of achieve, we focus on two things. In New York specially we focus on bringing in different brands from all over the world. So you're going from like Brazil, to Korea, to Hong Kong and all over. But through brand experiences, specifically and through discovering, you know, whether it is a different category of product based on their point of origin. So it's very meaningful for certain people that this brand is from here, this brand is from here . From here, it gives us like a global sense of community, which is very important. Versus for Miami, for instance, we focus on a very sustainable curation. So every single thing that we did, within not only how we design the spaces and how we source the material, and how we made that experience, it's also making sure that the brands that we have within this curation are really about sustainability or are interested in or they want to push this sort of agenda. And we feel these things create, need or amplify the experience that you're talking about. Because people do shop more from an experience level and they do shop for more longevity. They're more like thoughtful as far as making sure this thing can recycle or making sure you know, I can like reuse it in different ways. So this is important to them. also interested in discovery like discovery has been so difficult after COVID because obviously you discover a lot online but you also discover by wandering around the street, traveling to different city like that's how you shop by discovering. And we wanted to make sure that discovery is still there. It's still exciting, and it's still gives them value by bringing these very kind of obscure unusual kind of brand, whether it's gadgets related, whether it's something for everyone in order for them to feel as though they're traveling, and they're getting all these knickknacks from all over.

Stewart Katz  35:05  
So I actually think someone might have just asked a question about that. I'll read it. And you you let me know if you if, if, if it is right, that you gave the right answer. So, during the start of COVID, Showfields, launched the streaming live curated commerce experience, right, essentially their version of Showfields QVC. Does she see this type of experience continuing and what does a hybrid version of this look like?

Samar Younes  35:29  
Absolutely. So we did launch that we did launch it as an experiment to learn a lot from and we're still continuing doing it, I'll elaborate a little bit more on it, we want it obviously, to reinvent, like, you know, what QVC, or any of those Shopping Network are in a way that's very quintessentially Showfields. Because we feel what's missing is like an interactive opportunity when you have these shows, it's usually like a very one way stream and there is not much consumer feedback. Thus, and also, you have a community in which if you think of these specific Shopping Network, the community is all these like very loyal consumer that always come to their favorite host that they love to watch, etc. In a similar way. For us, our community is made out of multiple layers of community. So we feel every taste maker every influencer have a different group of community they can bring to the mix, and is interested in them as a story and storyteller as much as they're interested in the product they're talking about. So when we launched this, we launched it with the intention to both entertain, to educate as well as to sell. So it serves different purposes. And that's why we have a variety of different formats, we still have those shows going, we kind of create different sort of brand stories, specifically with specific tastemakers that are the experts in beauty, and food and style, or we create specific art curation with creators from all over the world. We've worked with a ton of different institutions, and art magazine in order to make these very meaningful curation because we know the artists community got hit really hard during COVID. And the only way they could do these like, almost like digital viewing digital galleries, were through these programs that we've kind of launched, which are these live curation that we felt were very innovative because and they will help them to discover, again, it's the same idea of discovery in this sense of being able to have a curator talk to you about the arts, like how amazing is that usually when you go to a museum, you have to maybe make an appointment, if you're lucky enough, get a get a guide to talk to you about the art. But if you're able to have an expert curator talk to you about a curation that they hand picked of these artists that they found. And you have an amazing price range, and they're all this like perfectly collectible pieces. Like it's just like a win win. Similarly, some of those shows were purely educational, whether they are about cooking, whether about making your own cocktail at home, or things in which you really want to do at home, or learn how to do at home now that you are at home, and what can you sort of like maximize the most as into your home living and being able to have people discover our community, we have an amazing community of taste maker, and culture, sort of, you know, culture makers that make a big impact, and the industry and the world. So we definitely wanted to sort of be able to give back to our community and give them things to be excited about.

Stewart Katz  38:31  
That's that really cool. Um, so let's, let's talk a little bit like we've talked about and somewhat technologies that we have applied in the context of our response to COVID and making it more fun and playful and frictionless. What are these technologies, especially in terms of shopping do we think are going to persist that they are not just an immediate reactionary thing, but they might persist in in the long term? And Mike, Samars has been talking a lot. So I'll I'll point the question at you.

Michael Friedman  39:07  
Samar's she's been great, please.

Yeah, it's a lot easier to to give people time than to take it away. And so I think when we look at the technologies that that are being employed in retail environments, whether it's online or in store, it's the ones that save us time that that kind of reduce our cognitive load that will be around for a while. And so that points towards things like AI, all the all the kind of capabilities, whether it's voice enablement, or like special language processing, whether it's computer vision, so the camera, understands what objects I'm picking up and putting in my cart or putting back on the shelf. Those kinds of experiences we expect will will kind of flourish and, you know, continue to be around for a while. The the drive towards digital, we don't see that pulling back. I mean, that's it's been growing for the last 10 years, and there's no reason why it won't continue to grow. So yeah, I mean, I think at the end of the day, it's these, it's these technologies that give people more time more opportunity to focus on the things that are frankly more important to them. And those are what what are going around?

Stewart Katz  40:25  
Cool. I can I can say that from the Verizon point of view, some of the the our sort of immediate responses around curbside pickup around appointments, video chat, where the rep is in the store, but the customers at home right away, right, those kind of technologies, I think we see as having longevity sort of beyond as well as things that allow pickup especially pickup that is contactless so. So locker machine lockers, vending machines, those kind of things.

Michael Friedman  41:00  
And today, let's say today, it's like a necessity tomorrow, it's an exclusive opportunity.

Stewart Katz  41:06  
Exactly, exactly. All right. So we got a question, I'll offer it up to the to the panel, it seems that customers are preferring to spend less time in a physical retail location to minimize their potential exposure, how can we adapt to meet their needs in a shortened timeframe, while still exceeding their customer experience expectations? So I'll give a little bit of an answer. And then I'll tee up, right. So part of the value of having appointments, right, those kind of things is that it gives us the opportunity to sort of prepare whatever is needed for the session, so that we know oh, this is a trouble, trouble ticket. And you know, troubleshooting thing, oh, this is a I want to buy a new phone, which phone right? It whatever those things are, it gives both the customer a chance to prepare, if they need to back things up. Right, or it gives the the store rep time to prepare, if they have to have some products ready on hand or what have you. So one of the things that we are seeing, right, the part of the value of the appointments in particular is that it gives both sides to prepare, so that the amount of time that you are in contact is actually minimized, right. There's other other other other technologies like that, but for us, that's sort of one of the the clearest path to that. Samar, Mike, do you want to take a swing at it?

Michael Friedman  42:40  
Samar this is your domain.

Samar Younes  42:41  
I agree about the appointment, I think it's appointment is also being able to have virtual appointment that ends up being giving you a lot of answered have a lot of discovery. And if your preference is to have a shortened time, which I argued that there is two sides of the coin, some people do still like to linger and they like to escape and don't want to be cooped up, while others do want that shortened time. So having the capability to do virtual sort of tours, and virtual sort of showing and demos that will end up in a very shortened timeframe in the store that's paired up with no physical appointment is the best way to sort of exceed an expectation, give you excitement, give you everything you need to discover and see as much as you can in a virtual way. But other physical space, and then you finish your sort of like end of the consumer journey in the store and a very minimal timeframe, or you don't want to go to the store fine, you can get that stuff come to you. But you can end it in a very sort of strategic way by answering the demands and being very tailored and meaningful to your consumer in that way.

Stewart Katz  43:50  
Yeah, do you have do you have an opinion on around products that, you know, really want to be touched? Essentially, before they're bought? Like so, you know, to take around? Like, will this fit my pocket? Right? I that's, that's a little bit hard to answer.

Samar Younes  44:13  
Unless there is a live person. This is what I mean. Like, I think a live person is really enabling you to like almost like simulate. It's almost like another like AI or like not AI but like a hologram almost, right? Simulating being in person, they're able to like feel touch. And if I'm like feeling a texture of something, and I'm like pulling at it and yanking it at it, you're going to feel that because you're going to see the scale of my hand you're going to see what I'm doing. There's a lot more simulation with a real human experience that feels way less robotic and way less meaningful. That's why I like shopping shows are so successful. When they do the demo, they put the cream on their face or that they're doing their hair and you see these things happening live. So you're so convinced you're like boom, I'm gonna buy it. It's like immediate. It's just very, very persuasive.

Stewart Katz  45:01  
Yeah, I mean, I know we are we are exploring different kinds of, we've looked at holograms, we've looked at AR, we've looked at those other technologies that allow the ability to sort of mimic some of the retail experience digitally in advance of of coming into the store, and you may or may not satisfy the full need. All right. Other other other thoughts on this? Otherwise, I'll fire the next question.

All right, cool. So we are being this lovely panel is being hosted by the 5G Labs, folks. So the question to the panel is, how do you see 5G impacting the holiday shopping either this year or sort of in the future?

Samar Younes  45:55  
I mean, I think it's speed, I think, um, there was no technology that exists with us speed. Like, I think the beauty about technology is not only to be seamless, but being able to give you something in a very efficient, fast way. And I think being able to have technologies, like the 5G's are very kind of makes it so much easier, because you deal with no lagging and you don't deal with sort of technology hiccups, this is what I know about 5G. Now, I might be very ignorant about knowing about it in a very sort of, like, linear way. But from my sort of point of view, that's how I see the benefit of it.

Stewart Katz  46:33  
All right, Mike.

Michael Friedman  46:35  
Yeah, I mean, we've been doing quite a bit of thinking about 5G, and where a lot of our focus has been, it has been kind of the longer term view of it. So if we think back to something like 4G, or 3G, the the impacts of those generational changes didn't occur until, you know, five, seven, ten years after those technologies kind of had a chance to roll out and scale up. And with 5G, we, we see as much potential if not more, for, you know, new experiences, new opportunities, new innovations to come out. The as Samar mentioned, the IP, the low latency, all of the, you know, purported benefits of 5G are incredibly interesting in the context of collecting information, analyzing that information, and passing it to in between parties, and even machine. So we think about, you know, the, the challenge of autonomous driving, we think about, you know, complex industrial ecosystems with, with parts talking to each other, all this starts to become a lot more possible within the constraints of what 5G allows. And, you know, that, that, so we try to think about that, in the context of where is payment where payments going, where commerce going? Where's banking going? And how will this change kind of the way societies interact?

Stewart Katz  48:10  
No, yeah. And, and from, from my perspective, the the technologies and things that we look at really are come down to that, you know, the high speed, low latency, the the bandwidth, and, and also things that require compute, right. So with the MEC piece, having that that connection is also sort of very important.

Michael Friedman  48:33  
So yeah, we talked about, we talked about, you know, talking to a salesperson in the store, well, with something like 5G on your on your device, you may not be talking to a salesperson, you may be talking to a digital human or digital avatar, you may be able to do, you know, fairly complex AR and VR because all that data is is so quickly transferable.

Stewart Katz  48:56  
So, all right, so we've got we've got a few minutes left. So I'll go back and I'll drill in on the the safety aspect of COVID. Right. So are there certain technologies that you would say or approaches that are absolutely critical to sort of enable, you know, a safe shopping season?

I mean, I assume well, we'll take for granted the plexiglass wall and playful, sanitizing sanitizer that displays but are there other elements that are more critical or or more engaging? And we could probably say, from a holiday shopping perspective,

Michael Friedman  49:45  
I think one of the most one of the one of the most interesting phenomenons about the holiday season is people are nice to each other, often nice. I mean, you see people fighting in the aisles for that dollar, whatever, but you know, generally there is a spirit of well meaning between between people around the holidays, maybe it's the cold, maybe it's the holiday spirit. But, you know, there are certainly things that we can do from a safety standpoint, I'm not a doctor. But, you know, be nice to one another, be compassionate, and prepare yourself.

Stewart Katz  50:28  
Excellent, excellent advice. Samar?

Samar Younes  50:31  
Yeah, that's a very good one, I think, you know, being careful is, you know, I think caring. I think it sort of goes along with what Michael just said, because if you're nice and caring, it's a matter of being mindful to your surroundings. There is only so much you know, an institution can do whether it's a retailer or establishment, to help you protect yourself, they can get all tick all the boxes that are sort of according to what the CDC guideline, gives you all the tools necessary to be frictionless, frictionless. But if you're careless, and you don't want to wear a mask, and you're just like, coughing in front of people, and just want to be all of all of them people's faces, and you know, not being like sort of courteous and mindful to the associate and everybody that's around you, I think, it just makes things worse. So I feel like, it's important that we are acknowledging that we need to help people and all the effort or putting together but also for them to have a pleasant shopping experience. And being able to to know that this holiday season is keeping the distance, unfortunately, and bring in warms in different ways. Maybe they can use the opportunity to send a note card gift card to a healthcare worker, maybe they can kind of like cheer on the holiday spirit by thinking in that way, versus like having to sort of be so rushing to get deals and get things done. Being being much more mindful themselves and helping us help them be safe, I feel.

Stewart Katz  52:09  
Does I have a question for Michael? Does MasterCard see accepting Bitcoin as a payment in the near future?

Michael Friedman  52:17  
I'm definitely not the right person to comment on that. But I will say that we are doing a lot in the cryptocurrency space as it relates to cbdcs. And provenance solutions. So the blockchain is an incredibly interesting technology. The digital assets that can be created with blockchain are interesting. But I'm not going to comment on you know, any specific one.

Stewart Katz  52:48  
Fair enough. All right. I, you know, for folks in the audience, we got five minutes left. So if you have any, any questions, please fire away. Otherwise, parting thoughts from Mike or Samar? All right. All right, Sarah, I think I think that's it for us. Um, you know, if you want to close this out.

Sarah Agopian  53:17  
Yeah, of course. Thank you guys so much, Michael. I'm still just thinking about this fridge that can order my groceries for me and I really excited about that idea, because I eat a lot of eggs. So those staples are really important. But yeah, Samar, Michael, Stew, thank you so much for just sharing your time and your insights with us. I know that this was a really interesting conversation. And thank you to our audience for joining in. This conversation has been recorded and will be available tomorrow if anyone would like to share this content with their communities. Also, this is the first part of a retail series on that's going to go all the way through December. And so next week, we're actually going to dive more into omnichannel so make sure to hop on our website or Verizon 5G Labs 'website. Also, if you'd like to stay up to date with our upcoming program, again, visit those two websites alley.com and verizon5glabs.com. Thank you guys again, and have yeah, a safe holiday season, I guess and we'll talk to you soon!

Michael Friedman  54:30  
Thank you.

Stewart Katz  54:31  
Bye now. Thank you.

Samar Younes  54:32  
Thank you. Bye.

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