Is retail’s contactless future here now?
Germs are top-of-mind worldwide thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic and many people are looking to limit physical contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Those, in a nutshell, are the factors speeding adoption of contactless technologies.
Multiple studies point to an increase in the use of contactless payment solutions, like credit cards and digital wallets, due the pandemic. PYMNTS reports that a Visa study found a 150 percent increase in the use of such technology between March 2019 and 2020. Another study cited in the article found 30 percent of consumers tried contactless cards or smartphones to pay for a purchase for the first time during the pandemic. A significant portion cited as the reason fears of contracting the virus from touching cash or POS terminals.
Retailers where interfaces such as touchscreens once played a central role are working to add contactless elements to the in-store experience.
Experiential retailer Showfields launched its Magic Wand app, which lets visitors point their phones at displays and products to get more information rather than having to interact directly with the product, reports Glossy. Visitors can also add items to a virtual cart while in the store before checking out via its app.
These changes are not just catching on at retail — the perceived advantages of going contactless are altering the infrastructure of some cities. In New York City, a contactless payment system for riding the subway is now live in every train station in The Bronx, according to the New York Post. Riders can use mobile wallets and contact-free credit cards to pay. The Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) plans to have its entire bus fleet fitted with the solution by the end of the year, with some train lines in Brooklyn also going contactless.
Early on in the pandemic, experts feared that transmission via touching fomites (contaminated surfaces) represented a significant form of spread for the novel coronavirus. By mid-June, however, the consensus had shifted, with experts cited in The Wall Street Journal pointing to indoor personal interactions as the primary form of transmission.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still considers fomite transmission of COVID-19 as possible and continues to recommend hand hygiene as an important part of prophylaxis for the virus and many other contagious diseases.
- Deep Dive: Why Contactless Card-Not-Present Transactions Are Gaining New Momentum – PYMNTS
- With retail reopening, demand for contactless technology is on the rise – Glossy
- Contactless payment now available at all Bronx subway stations – New York Post
- How Exactly Do You Catch Covid-19? There Is a Growing Consensus – The Wall Street Journal
- CDC updates COVID-19 transmission webpage to clarify information about types of spread – CDC
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see contactless payment and other contactless tools becoming a significant part of the retail experience? How can retailers that have come to depend on touchscreen kiosks and similar technologies make the shift with the least amount of headaches?