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Sohil Tiwari, Mastercard

Sohil Tiwari

Senior Vice President of Market Development at Mastercard in Canada

In the wake of the pandemic, the retail experience is becoming more convenient, customized, and all about choice.

Just about everything changed in 2020 — including consumer behaviour. As our worlds moved indoors and online, retailers were forced to reimagine their connection to consumers and to accelerate the adoption of new technologies. Electronic payments, which have always played a valuable part in the retail experience, became critical in helping businesses survive in a new touch-free, digital world.

If the last year was really five in terms of digital acceleration and retail technology adoption, then the future of retail is now. And the innovations we’re seeing today will influence the way we shop for years to come.

Meeting consumers where they are with digital, touch-free solutions

With the pandemic forcing more Canadians to work, meet, and shop online, it’s no surprise that e-commerce is more popular than ever.

According to Mastercard’s SpendingPulse report, which analyzes retail sales across all payment types including cash and cheque, e-commerce sales more than doubled (with 107.7 percent growth) in January compared to the year prior. This comes as Canadians increased their use of online shopping, and businesses embraced new service models such as online ordering, curbside pickup, and touch-free deliveries.

Man engaging in touch free payment with cell phone

Despite this strong shift to digital, consumers are continuing to make purchases in-store where possible, albeit with a conscious effort to reduce contact. In fact, Mastercard data shows that a significant majority of consumers turned to contactless payments for everyday purchases during the pandemic, with 76 percent of Canadians now saying that contactless is their preferred way to pay.

“What we’re seeing is a heightened transformation in the way that Canadians shop and pay and retailers are very quickly trying to keep pace,” says Sohil Tiwari, Senior Vice President of Market Development at Mastercard in Canada. “Technology is going to be at the core of the next era of retail — whether that’s in-store or online — to help retailers generate meaningful connections and create a consumer centric experience.”

From contactless to frictionless: what’s in store for brick-and-mortar

While the pandemic has driven more retail sales online, Tiwari notes that 70 percent are still happening in brick-and-mortar stores. “Physical stores are still an important part of our retail landscape, and they’re being re-evaluated and re-imagined to match these new consumer expectations,” he says.

Strategic use of technology to enhance the in-store experience will be instrumental in tackling some of the challenges introduced by the pandemic. Recently, Mastercard announced its Shop Anywhere platform, which provides retailers with the tools to design, develop, and launch new frictionless retail experiences that are simple and personalized.

The platform, which is currently being piloted at several retailers including select Circle K convenience stores, helps eliminate wait times and checkout lines, while offering secure payment options and without compromising privacy. For example, Circle K’s computer vision-based activations allow customers to grab snacks drinks simply by opening an app and scanning a QR code.

“For the retailer, this can help bridge the digital divide, improve in-person engagement, and drive better sales, all while creating a better experience for the customer,” says Tiwari.

Bringing speed and personalization to the drive-through experience

Throughout the pandemic, the quick service restaurants (QSRs) industry has faced a significant upheaval from its traditional business model and has been forced to swiftly integrate new technologies. As part of the company’s ongoing work to enhance the consumer experience, Mastercard developed an AI Powered Drive Through solution that leverages artificial intelligence, voice ordering, and opt-in license plate recognition to deliver a personalized ordering experience.

“This solution allows QSRs to reimagine their drive-through experience by offering consumers highly-personalized menus based on their preferences and purchasing trends,” says Tiwari. “And with a robust set of insights and analytics accessible to the merchant, the platform enables a cycle of opportunities to increase revenue by meeting specific consumer choices.”

Whether in-store or online, security will be key

Critical to the future of retail will be providing an integrated and streamlined payment experience for both consumers and businesses. Electronic payment technologies are addressing consumer demands, while helping to keep Canadians safe.

When it comes to e-commerce, offering convenient and quick payment options can also help with cart abandonment. Click to Pay with Mastercard, a simple and secure e-commerce solution, mirrors the checkout experience in physical stores that so many consumers have come to expect. The one-touch checkout button allows consumers to speed through the checkout process without needing to submit personal account numbers and passwords each time.

“Not only is it a frictionless experience, it’s also highly secure because the transaction gets tokenized,” says Tiwari. “That means that your 16-digit credit card number isn’t used — it’s encrypted and decrypted later on, and runs like an invisible shield in the background so that consumers can shop with peace of mind knowing that there are enhanced measures to keep them protected.”

The future of retail, like the future of payments, is all about choice. “Whether in-store, online, or a mix of both, consumers and businesses want solutions that are unified and frictionless,” says Tiwari. “In fact, that’s a shift that we’ll likely see continuing — a blending of the physical and digital into one, seamless and secure retail experience.”

To learn more about how Mastercard is helping shape the future of retail, visit

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