Contactless payments have been available since the mid-1990s, but the coronavirus has put the technology in the forefront.
Now, Coca-Cola Co. is debuting a touchless option at its Freestyle, which is a touchscreen-operated dispenser that delivers nearly 200 drink options with the use of a smartphone, the global beverage corporation headquartered in Atlanta announced.
“All Coca-Cola beverage dispensers are safe with recommended care and cleaning,” said Chris Hellmann, Coca-Cola Freestyle’s vice president, in a statement. “But given these uncertain times, people may prefer a touchless fountain experience.”
The contactless solution allows consumers to select and pour drinks from their phones in seconds.
The mobile web experience, which was piloted earlier this summer at select Wendy’s, Five Guys and Firehouse Subs restaurants in Atlanta, works on any smart device, Coca-Cola said.
Michael Connor, chief architect of the Coca-Cola Freestyle, said customers can simply scan the QR code on the display, which immediately connects to the cloud and brings the Coca-Cola Freestyle user interface to their phones. They can then select from the menu of brands and flavors and pour.
“We intentionally designed this so anyone with a smart device could pour a drink,” Connor said in a statement. “When you have a tray or a sandwich in one hand, you don’t want to deal with downloading an app. We took steps to make the solution super-easy, super-fast and super-reliable.”
The software will be available at more than 10,000 Coca-Cola Freestyle dispensers this summer. All Freestyle dispensers will be contactless-compatible by the end of the year.
Research shows that 60 percent of restaurant guests would choose to pour their own fountain drinks versus having an employee do it for them, according to a study from Civic Science.
Last week, PYMNTS reported that the much-maligned QR code has emerged as an enabler of touchless commerce. China-based Alipay and rival Tencent’s pursuit of QR code standardization has created a consortium of platforms processing such transactions.
Walgreens accepts payments via Alipay’s platform, and Apple is activating the functionality for Apple Pay. In addition, Walmart has modified its Walmart Pay app to seamlessly process QR codes and go totally touchless.
In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic struck, Coke reported that its global sales volume fell by 25 percent, and its CEO warned that a rebound might take a while.
“We may be at the end of the big global lockdown, but we are still a long way from the new normal,” James Quincey said at the time.