A short time ago, we were thinking about contactless payments in terms of changing consumer checkout behavior from inserting their chip cards to tapping them, and urging consumers to use mobile devices like smart phones and watches as a speed and convenience option, not as a potentially lifesaving decision.
Now, even the meaning of the term “contactless checkout” has been repurposed for a different checkout experience entirely, instead referring to curb-side pickup or delivery, in addition to or instead of in-store shopping. Payment is usually done completely online or over the phone so there is no contact between the retailer and the shopper at all.
Whenever consumers do venture inside essential retail businesses like supermarkets, drug stores, and gas stations, their checkout experiences may require interaction with high-contact surfaces, such as payment cards, terminals and keypads, which can expose consumers to bacteria and other germs. With the global COVID-19 situation raising concerns around hygiene in public environments, the U.S. Payments Forum has published practical tips for retail and petroleum merchants, ATM owners and consumers to provide a “cleaner” payment experience. The U.S. Payments Forum recognized that the need for point-of-sale hygiene was resulting in POS devices failing in greater numbers, due to well-intentioned cashiers and consumers spraying disinfectants onto the pin pads and taking other cleaning steps that could damage the devices. The Forum saw a need and quickly released a short resource, “Tips for a Cleaner Payment Experience,” that can be downloaded at https://www.uspaymentsforum.org/tips-for-cleaner-payments/. This resource gives merchants and consumers practical steps to make payments as safe as possible in day-to-day payment situations.
As businesses begin to reopen and shoppers begin to relax self-isolation while the coronavirus threat remains on our minds, there will be not only new social distancing restrictions at stores, but a new level of mindfulness about avoidable germ contact points during the checkout process. More people will see and learn from others making good hygiene choices when they checkout and this will break some old habits that technology-adverse shoppers cling to. They will see people using a smart phone or watch instead of a card, choosing to tap their (contactless) cards instead of inserting them, ignoring unwanted prompts for entering additional information into the POS device, and declining printed receipts for small ticket items and consumables like coffee or a takeout meal.
Other shopping behaviors are also going to change as a result of COVID-19. Shopping online for home delivery, ordering and paying online for curb-side pick-up of groceries, and choosing restaurants that offer more take-out dining options to replace dine-in meals will challenge both consumers and retailers to learn how to adapt to online payments technologies. The learning curve will be steep, but the need is great to learn, adapt, and get used to the new normal for retail payments – at least for the foreseeable future.
Stay safe and my best wishes go out to you and your families.
Executive Director, Secure Technology Alliance