The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that consumers consider retail stores as essential services. A recent survey conducted by the National Retail Federation (NRF) found that 61% of consumers rely on physical stores being open. This qualifies retailers as “economic first responders.”
Retail stores have stepped up their efforts to serve their communities despite the potential health risks it creates for their employees and customers. Retailers have adjusted their operations in many ways, like setting aside certain times for their at-risk customers to shop, for example. Another of the many ways stores are adapting to accommodate the needs of their customers during the pandemic is by making more contactless shopping options available.
To support contactless shopping during COVID, retailers are integrating their online and in-store operations by taking advantage of the features built into modern cloud-based POS systems. By combining online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless payments, stores are helping customers feel safe as they shop—NRF’s survey also found that 70% of shoppers during the 2020 holiday season felt safe shopping at stores as a result of the precautions taken by retailers.
The contactless shopping trend is expected to continue to gain momentum even after the threat of COVID-19 passes. The speed, simplicity, and efficiency of contactless shopping have retailers preparing to support more contactless options for their customers long into the future.
Retailers Are Making Customer Safety Their #1 Priority
During the first stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, retailers took the initiative in implementing best practices to ensure the health and safety of their customers and employees. By encouraging their customers to take advantage of contactless shopping, stores help to minimize the risk of infection while also enhancing the shopping experience, speeding transactions, and giving customers more safe-shopping options.
- Kiosks provide customers with the self-ordering and self-checkout options that put more power in their hands while simultaneously keeping them safe. The devices connect wirelessly to the store’s POS system, and they link automatically to the retailer’s online ordering system.
- Online ordering not only extends the store’s reach to new customers, but it also integrates seamlessly with the business’ other processes, including inventory, accounting, sales tracking, employee management, and customer loyalty programs.
Another key to the success of a retailer’s contactless shopping strategy is the use of a branded website and custom mobile app that reflect the in-store shopping experience for customers. The systems allow customers to view their purchase histories, and also empower employees by providing them with more information about the customers and giving them ready access to inventory levels, order statuses, and other useful data.
Adopting Best Practices for Contactless Shopping During COVID
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that retailers reduce the risk of their employees contracting COVID-19 by encouraging contactless delivery and other no-touch shopping options. The process combines online/phone ordering and payment with customers picking up their orders on their doorstep, outside the retail store (curbside pickup), or at another safe location.
Implementing contactless delivery and other remote shopping options while meeting customer expectations requires that retailers follow specific protocols:
- A restaurant’s delivery of hot or cold dishes has to be completed as quickly as possible after the food is prepared.
- When preparing food for delivery, always use tamper-resistant packaging.
- Make sure all reusable packaging is cleaned and sanitized after each use.
- Employees who make the deliveries should wash their hands frequently and wear single-use gloves for each delivery.
The combination of contactless delivery and online/phone ordering and payment greatly reduces the risk of infection for both customers and employees. Customers who place online orders are able to track their purchases and receive an alert telling them approximately when their orders will arrive. The store’s website can also be used by customers to notify stores about any delivery glitches or other problems.
Realizing the Benefits of Contactless Point of Sale Systems
At a time when so many retailers are focusing on ways to keep their business afloat, it can seem incongruous to be thinking about how to improve the efficiency and profitability of operations. Yet contactless shopping offers retail stores many opportunities to fine-tune their operations during and well-after COVID-19. A POS system with built-in support for contactless technology is a great place to start:
- Customer transactions are completed more quickly, accurately, and securely.
- Contactless systems can be linked automatically to customer purchase histories to facilitate email marketing campaigns that deliver targeted offers and messages.
- The sales data captured during the contactless transaction is available for use in generating reports that break down sales by payment type, time and duration of transaction, whether by a new or returning customer, and other metrics.
- The system makes it easy to track and compare the performance of employees, including whether they’re encouraging customers to take advantage of contactless options.
- By allowing customers to receive receipts via email or text, the system reduces paper and printer expenses while also helping to speed up the checkout process.
The famous phrase about change being the only constant describes the challenges retailers face as they watch their foot traffic dry up and their customers adopt entirely new approaches to shopping. Contactless shopping and COVID will likely be associated for years to come, but the contactless technologies that retailers turn to in their efforts to keep the lights on will ultimately be a primary factor in their success when COVID is just a bad and distant memory.
In a period of change, talech has a number of contactless POS solutions that can help your business adjust operations smoothly. From reaching new audiences to engaging with your existing customers more often, we give you the tools to adapt quickly and with confidence.
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