Contactless is the New Normal for Post-COVID Retail Customers

Countless consumers view touchscreens, pin pads, and signature pads as a potential health issue. Social distancing practices have sparked a decade’s worth of change in customer behavior in just a few months time, according to recent Ondot research. Retailers and other customer-facing brands need to begin offering more contactless customer experiences.

Contactless payment adoption was increasing steadily among US consumers and merchants prior to COVID-19. But, pandemic conditions heightened consumer expectations for no or low-contact payments in retail. “Consumers are more hesitant to touch shared POS equipment,” says Prasanna Narayan, Ondot’s vice president for product management. “As a result digital wallet adoption and contactless payments have increased.” 

PIN pads and touchscreen kiosks are unlikely to disappear overnight, especially considering that late adopters and older customers haven’t switched to NFC payments or mobile wallets quite yet. But, it’s time to consider upgrading existing mobile point-of-sale (mPoS) and kiosks to offer contactless payments and experiences. Android innovation is a necessity for brands in retail, restaurants, hospitality, and more. 

Contactless was Growing Steadily Pre-COVID

The number of contactless payment users spiked 30 percent in the US between March and June 2020. It’s remarkable growth, but it’s also not a new trend. US contactless was already growing at a “staggering rate” per a Visa spokesperson, with total transaction volume growing 150 percent between March 2019 and 2020. 

The US also lags behind other mostly-cashless markets in contactless adoption, both before and after COVID-19. For example, Visa reports that over 90 percent of transactions in the UK and Australia are contactless. US growth also pales in comparison to some APAC markets. India contactless payments grew 200% during COVID-19, following a 20-month period where digital and contactless payments expanded 1500-2000%.  

COVID-19 sparked a global shift toward digital, contactless transactions in the US, India, and other global markets where cashless wasn’t already the standard. Now, it’s up to retailers to match consumer demand for tap-to-pay and mobile wallet payments. 

What Customers Want from Retailers Post-COVID

Over half of retail customers prefer contactless payments via smartwatch, mobile phone, or contactless debit card to avoid exposure to COVID-19. According to ATM Marketplace, 50% of US consumers used contactless payments at least four times. 69% of US consumers feel contactless payments are more convenient than cash. 

While consumers are more concerned about germ transmission than ever before, they’re also not entirely ready to give up touchscreens. After all, consumers carry a personal smartphone touchscreen virtually 24/7. Many customers expect to be able to interact via touch with interactive digital signage, kiosks, and mPoS systems to minimize the dangers of face-to-face interaction with retail associates. 

Creating Safer, Satisfying Retail Experiences for Everyone

Contactless customer experiences don’t necessarily mean no-touch customer experiences. In fact, contactless customer experiences should encompass anything that makes the customer experience more satisfying and safer. Self-serve touchscreens can meet many customer’s preferences for social distancing within retail stores, restaurants, or hotels. 

Over 70% of customers prefer either contactless payments or self-serve retail kiosks to face-to-face interactions with retail staff, per Shekel. Your touchscreen mPoS are still valuable, especially if you’re able to improve the safety of on-site operations. Placing hand sanitizer and screen wipes next to touchscreens can encourage customers and staff to disinfect hardware in between uses. In addition, the physical placement and spacing of self-serve kiosks can support safe social distancing practices.

Redefining the customer experience post-COVID should include refactoring kiosks and mPoS to support contactless and low-contact customer experiences. Adding new peripheral sensors and hardware to existing kiosks can provide a broader range of payment and interactivity options to shoppers, including voice or gesture-responsive apps. Some touchscreens are calibrated to support “near-touch” use when users hover at a distance of 5mm between finger and screen. 

Android Payment Technology Should Accommodate Everyone

The shift to digital and contactless payments isn’t entirely positive. Cashless payments can shut out older and unbanked customers, according to a recent Guardian analysis. 22% of US households have no access or limited access to a checking, savings, or money market account, per the Federal Reserve.
Convenient, cashless payments shouldn’t exclude underbanked segments of the population, which includes a disproportionate number of low-income households, undocumented immigrants, and minorities. Android payment devices can be designed or refactored to support cash-accepting peripheral hardware for customers who pay using bills and coins. Self-serve experiences on Android kiosks and mPoS should be inclusive for everyone, including cash-paying customers. 

Retailers Must Deploy Safe, Self-Serve Kiosks & mPoS

COVID-19 sped the US market for contactless payments up a decade and increased overall consumer adoption of self-serve technologies. The quality of digital experience is now the primary decision factor for customers who are considering opening new accounts with brands, according to Ondot. 

Contactless payments have finally hit tipping point in the US market, but COVID-19 hasn’t made NFC and mobile wallets ubiquitous among customers of all ages. Older consumers and late adopters may not be contactless, but many are ready to start using kiosks and mPoS for the first time. A BCG study said 44% of participants enrolled in online banking for the first time ever due to COVID-19. 

Consumer preferences changed rapidly due to COVID-19, and retailers need to step up to retain customer loyalty in an uncertain marketplace. Improving the digital experience for stores, restaurants, and hotels should include upgrades and refactoring to support more contactless customer experiences and payments. Going forward, customers will continue to prefer brands who offer safe and flexible self-service technologies in store. 

Esper has partnered with some of the leading Android solution providers to speed up innovation timelines for contactless and mobile payment solutions (mPoS) and self-serve customer experiences. To learn more, contact sales

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