The impact of COVID-19 will be felt by restaurants and other retailers long after the disease has been vanquished. However, many of the pandemic-induced changes to the industry will lead to greater sales and happier, safer customers for years to come.
One recent trend that is already spurring fundamental changes in the way restaurants and retailers do business is contactless drive up, which Hospitality Technology states is “here to stay”:
- Some new Taco Bell restaurants have two drive up windows, one of which is dedicated to pick up of orders placed using the store’s app.
- Starbucks is considering dual drive-up windows, as well as both drive-up and curbside pickup.
- Most new Chipotle restaurants will feature digital pickup lanes.
- Shake Shack will add its first drive-up windows and walk-up windows to restaurants in 2021.
Why Contactless Drive Up Is a Retail Trend with Staying Power
While typically associated with fast-food restaurants, contactless drive up is booming with retailers of all types and sizes. The technology is one of several pandemic-driven trends that Chain Store Age forecasts will remain popular with retailers and their customers “long after the pandemic.”
- Customer expectations have changed to prefer minimal contacts when shopping, so retailers have to offer low-touch alternatives to maintain sales levels and increase profit margins.
- Contactless drive up helps keep customers and store employees healthy, which will be a concern for store owners and their clients long into the future.
- Contactless payments are fast, secure, and easy, which allows transactions to be completed more quickly—a win-win for customers and retailers.
- Contactless drive up is especially popular with young people: A recent survey sponsored by Medallia Zingle found that 36 percent of Gen Z and 30 percent of millennials rely on curbside pickup or delivery exclusively, while 74 percent of Gen Z and 77 percent of millennials use curbside pickup at least once a week.
In addition, 87 percent of all consumers state that they want businesses to continue to offer curbside pickup and other contact-limiting options after COVID-motivated shopping restrictions have been lifted. For young people in particular, the shopping habits they’ve adopted in the short term are likely to become their preferences in the long term.
The Right Way for Retailers to Implement Contactless Drive Up
Cloud-based POS systems are especially well-suited to supporting contactless drive up and other contact-limiting technologies. By giving customers numerous contactless options, restaurants and retailers communicate to their customers a commitment to their safety and the health of their own employees.
Once consumers overcome their reticence to a new way of shopping, they quickly become adherents after experiencing the speed, security, and convenience of contactless drive up and similar options. In addition, cloud-based POS systems make it easy for stores to create branded websites and mobile apps that customers quickly become familiar with as they shop and arrange for contactless drive up online.
Contactless shopping is one of the trends that will reshape the retail industry in 2021 and for years to come as the number of cash transactions declines.
- Conducting business with minimum contacts means reducing or eliminating a primary source of shared physical contact: customers and employees exchange bills and coins.
- When used in conjunction with self-service kiosks and customer-facing tablet displays, contactless drive up improves the shopping experience for customers and gives employees more time to spend helping other customers and performing other tasks.
- Contactless drive up is helping retailers automate more of their business processes, including up-to-date inventory and sales figures.
Key POS Features that Ensure a Smooth Contactless Experience
Customers respond differently to the contactless shopping process than they do to in-store interactions with sales staff. It’s important to make the contactless experience a pleasant part of shopping and interacting with your store. That starts with the application that customers use to shop for items and make purchases via contactless payment.
- Customers can use the app to view their purchase history, including details about the products they’ve purchased in the past.
- From any part of the app, customers can place orders and either enter payment information or choose a payment method they used and stored previously.
- Customers receive notifications that their purchase is ready to be picked up via curbside delivery or other drive up method.
- Customers reply with the time they plan to pick up the item, and perhaps a description of the vehicle they’ll use.
Restaurants and other retailers can customize the app interface to mirror customers’ in-store experience, including creative online menus and rewards offered to returning customers after they make a certain number or level of purchases.
However, realizing the benefits of contactless drive up requires that your store’s payment processing service supports the types of payment methods your customers prefer. It’s important to choose a POS vendor who makes it straightforward to choose among various payment processing options and change processing services when market and industry trends require it.
Four Unexpected Benefits of Contactless Shopping
Retailers may adopt contactless drive up out of necessity, but they soon discover the many ways that adopting contactless shopping improves their business.
- The cloud-based POS systems that support contactless drive up have email marketing software built in, which makes it simple to add customer email addresses to a marketing database. This allows you to send customers helpful information, such as the steps the store is taking to ensure their safety.
- As the POS systems track sales transactions, they make the sales data available for reports to be generated that offer insight into customers’ preferences and the efficiency of the store’s operations. The information includes average transaction duration, payment type, and purchases by first-time customers vs. returning customers.
- The sales data also indicates which employees are recording the highest number of sales and total sales volume. The reports also show whether employees are encouraging customers to pay with mobile wallets or other contactless payment options.
- POS systems eliminate the use of paper tickets used to process orders, such as those that are transferred between a restaurant’s wait staff, kitchen staff, and bar staff. Having displays in all employee work areas reduces a point of shared contact while also cutting costs and paper consumption.
Contactless drive up is a trend that impacts retailers of all types, and one that customers are likely to prefer in many instances long after COVID-19 is behind us. The challenge for stores is to implement contactless shopping and payment in ways that customers respond to, that make their employees more productive, and that improve their bottom line. Working with an experienced POS vendor helps retailers realize the benefits of contactless technology while avoiding potential pitfalls.
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