MasterCard teams with Pepper, the congenial customer engagement robot from SoftBank.
In the past several months the world has been introduced to the idea of bots—automated pieces of software often integrated into messaging apps—as a way to conduct business. Facebook wants people to build an army of bots through its new Messenger Platform and Google believes that the machine learning on the backend of its coming Allo chat app will help people buy goods and services.
But none of the coming army of bots can touch what Pizza Hut is cooking with Pepper.
You see, Pepper is a real robot.
Built by Japanese firm SoftBank Robotics Holdings Corporation, Pepper is a humanoid robot that can interact with people and perceive emotions. Pepper has been used in 140 of SoftBank’s stores in Japan and is coming to the United States with and Android software developer kit as a customer service representative.
At Pizza Hut stores in Asia Pacific later this year, the Pepper robot will serve as people’s friendly server.
In conjunction with Yum! Brands and MasterCard, Pepper will serve as Pizza Hut’s order taker and checkout. The idea is to free up human servers to provide better customer experience while speeding up take-out and delivery wait times, which are 80% of Pizza Hut’s sales.
MasterPass On The Backend Of Pepper
The Pepper app for Pizza Hut was built by the MasterCard Labs team out of Singapore. People that interact with the Pepper robot will be able to pay for items by attaching their MasterPass, the company’s digital platform and wallet for payment services, to the robot. People will approach Pepper and connect their MasterPass app through a click of an icon on a tablet that Pepper holds or by scanning a QR code. Once the food is ordered, Pepper will be able to initiate, complete and approve the transaction with the MasterPass app through a Wi-Fi connection.
See this video from MasterCard on how Pepper will interact with customers in a quick food service environment.
Why would MasterCard build a payments app for a robot? The Pepper integration is another rollout in MasterCard’s overarching theme of making every single device a payments device.
Earlier this year MasterCard partnered with Samsung to build payments functionality for Samsung Family Hub refrigerator announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. In autumn 2015 MasterCard announced the Internet of Payment Things (alternately known as “Commerce For Every Device”) that brings payment capabilities to everything from fitness bands, jewelry, clothing, car keys, purses and more.
If you can imagine it, MasterCard wants you to be able to pay with it.
“We are really trying to bring conversational commerce, MasterPass wallet assets, our relationship with Pizza Hut as they are trying to differentiate their consumer experience and really bring it to the next level of the consumer journey. ” said Betty DeVita, chief commercial officer for MasterCard Labs in an interview with ARC. “I think that any time you are bringing a new a new device onto our connected platform it is a proof point in the journey on the way to 50 billion devices connecting in through the cloud.”
DeVita forecasted MasterCard’s move in to food and beverage in an interview with ARC at CES 2016. Look out for more innovation coming out of MasterCard Labs in the Internet of Things sector in 2016 as well.
To a certain extent, the Pepper and Samsung Family Hub apps are reference apps for how MasterCard can build payments, service and commerce capabilities for various industry sectors with MasterPass and MasterCard Digital Enablement Services (MDES).
The Pepper app shows how MasterCard can add its full suite of tools to not just a perky robot, but as the payments layer to the entire customer engagement sector such as hotels, airports, banks etc. DeVita said that MasterCard will also take the lessons from the likes of the Samsung Family Hub fridge and the Pepper Pizza Hut app to industry sectors like travel, entertainment, smart cities and business-to-business Internet of Things initiatives.
“I think multiple multiple proof points continue to drive reduced friction in the consumer experience, the opportunity for increasing commerce and the ability to string a number of assets together that really talk about an enhanced and differentiated experience,” said DeVita. “It is a bit of a journey that we are on about what and how the right use cases are depending on what consumer adoption is and the readiness of the cloud to get to the next level of innovation.”
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