With social distancing in full swing, there's increased demand for digital solutions that reduce or eliminate human touch, forcing some retailers to accelerate their plans to provide options for contactless payments and self-service checkout. As retailers prepare for store re-openings, many have announced the availability of touchless payments, including department store retail chain Kohl's department store, whose customers will have the option to pay for purchases through its app.

In the meantime, shelter-in-place requirements associated with COVID-19 have shifted a significant volume of economic activity online. In its 2020 Digital Economy Index, Adobe reported that e-commerce sales in April were up nearly 50% month-over-month as what was traditionally offline economic activity transitioned to online purchases. The report also indicated that consumers are still spending; however, they focused on products that will help them the most to manage their lives during the crisis.

This shift in consumer behavior is creating urgency for retailers to bolster their point of sale (POS) systems in response to demand for contactless payment options and even self-service checkout options. Further, with the massive shift to making purchases online and picking them up at a store - Buy online, pick-up in-store (BOPIS), adopting an omnichannel approach to their digital marketing will be essential for competitive advantage. BOPIS orders sustained 208% YoY growth for the period of April 1 - 20 as a result of consumers focused on ways to limit their exposure through social distancing. Creating a seamless experience for consumers and demonstrating knowledge of their preferences along with managing loyalty programs instore and online will be expected. 

While there are many uncertainties about how the coronavirus will impact people's health, their jobs, and the economy, it's becoming evident that shifts in behavior may become permanent and extend beyond when the COVID-19 crisis has passed.

One such behavior is the move toward contactless transactions in the US, as shoppers try to restrict what they touch in stores -- if they go out at all -- to avoid catching the virus. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can live for 24 hours on cardboard and several days on hard surfaces.

"I do believe this is an opportunity," said Oz Alon, co-founder, and CEO of HoneyBook, a financial tech startup in San Francisco. "This is a huge event in the world, people are going to change their behaviors and a lot of things that have struggled for adoption will get a new push."

Contactless payment options

The pandemic is driving significant growth of contactless payments. According to ResearchAndMarkets.com, the global contactless payment market will grow from USD 10.3 billion in 2020 to USD 18 billion by 2025. 

At this point, no one wants to handle cash right now. While consumers were already adopting contactless forms of payment, including credit cards they can tap or wave and digital wallets, COVID-19 is advancing the use of credit cards consumers can tap or wave, and digital wallets. Some retailers have already activated contactless or can quickly turn it on. Others must take action now or face rejection by consumers.

Steve Villegas, vp of payment partnerships North America at e-payment provider PPRO, had this to say about retailers that don't install digital payment options: "Those who don't offer these will struggle for consumer adoption," Villegas concluded.

Available from banks and retailers, contactless credit cards use EMV (Europay, Mastercard, and Visa) chip technology with NFC (near-field communication) for payments between two devices. EMV is a global standard for cards equipped with computer chips and the technology used to authenticate chip-card transactions. It also helps protect consumers and reduce the costs of fraud. Up until recently, banks were being selective about issuing the contactless credit cards based on user data. Now, they are a must-have option.

Walmart has expanded its contactless payment options to eliminate the requirement for signatures. Customers scan a QR code that syncs with the Walmart Pay app.

Companies such as 7-Eleven, Amazon, FutureProof, and Postmates have introduced contactless, self-service, and mobile checkout options as a result of the novel coronavirus disrupting the way people shop. With Amazon Go's Just Walk Out system, customers use their phones to check-in at a turnstile at the front of a store. Then they select the items they wish to purchase and leave without stopping at a cashier.

Digital wallets replace physical credit cards

As consumers seek to limit the number of surfaces they touch, more are abandoning the use of cash or physical credit cards and adopting digital payment methods. Apple, Google Pay, and other digital wallet apps, which are often pre-installed on mobile devices, include smartphone-integrated digital wallet scanning that allows for POS payments without cash handling or credit card swipes.

Mastercard said it saw a 40% spike in contactless tap-and-pay transactions in the first quarter of 2020, which CEO Ajay Banga attributed by shoppers “looking for a quick way to get in and out of stores without exchanging cash, touching terminals, or anything else.”

Reducing human contact at checkout is also being supported by congress in the wake of the pandemic. Recently, the House Committee on Financial Services introduced the Touchless Transactions Act of 2020, which would prohibit “requiring an individual’s signature for a point-of-sale transfer.”

Omnichannel Delivers Integrated Experience

Omnichannel experience is when customers interact with a business through multiple touchpoints - platforms and devices. By taking this approach, companies align their messaging, goals, objectives, and design across each channel and device. 

Omnichannel retailing offers shoppers the ability to search for and make purchases - anywhere and anytime. Convenience is one of the driving factors. Whether they shop online from a desktop or mobile device, or by telephone, or in a brick and mortar store, they expect to enjoy a seamless, integrated experience.

With the sudden and significant increase of eCommerce transactions by more traditional brick-and-mortar retail establishments such as your local grocery store, omnichannel is vital. Customers expect companies to use data about their previous purchases and preferences to deliver relevant offers and their loyalty rewarded - online and offline. This approach requires a centralized data management system to track all customer touchpoints, purchase history, and preferences to personalize the customer experience further.

Address the New Norm in Retail Today

First Line Software possesses a combination of multi-industry experience, extensive modern technology expertise, and eCommerce implementation and customization capabilities. These make the company the partner of choice for retailers that must accelerate their transition to contactless payment and self-service, along with becoming experts at omnichannel marketing. 

Recently, they built a self-service shopping and contactless payment system that includes a seamless checkout process shoppers use to verify the items selected and agree to the amount due. No credit card scanning required.

Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation to tell us about your requirements and learn more about how First Line can deliver on your retail transformation.

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