Retail is becoming a no-touch zone as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the contactless shopping experience is forecast to persist long after the virus is tamed. Pymnts.com reports that in March and April 2020, 30 percent of U.S. consumers made their first purchase using a mobile wallet. And, once shoppers realize the many benefits of mobile wallets and other digital shopping technologies, they may never return to the “old normal.”
Contactless shopping presents retailers with a tremendous opportunity to engage with their customers in many innovative ways, including enhanced personalization and a have-it-your-way approach to browsing the store’s inventory and making purchases. The benefits of contactless shopping will transform retail for businesses and consumers alike. Here’s how retailers can take advantage of contactless technology to improve the shopping experience for their customers.
Evaporating Distinctions Between Online and In-Store Shopping
No longer are retailers bifurcating their management of online and in-store operations. What began as a way to make shopping safer for customers and employees alike has become a reinvention of retail that takes advantage of the ability of modern POS systems to integrate all parts of their businesses. Cloud-based POS systems make it easy, secure, and affordable for stores to combine online ordering, curbside pickup, and contactless payments.
As a result, retail customers feel safe and comfortable adopting the contactless shopping experience. Two retail innovations that have been especially well-received by shoppers are portable POS kiosks and online ordering:
- Kiosks put customers in control by presenting them with a clear, intuitive interface they can use to browse the store’s catalog, order products, and check out via an app running on a tablet. The units link wirelessly with the store’s POS system to ensure order processing and inventory counts are updated in real time.
- Online ordering opens new markets for retailers while integrating seamlessly with accounting, sales management, customer databases, and employee management.
These trends highlight the importance of stores having a branded website and mobile app that’s customized to match the look and feel of their real-world presence. Customers enjoy a unified shopping experience, whether they’re interacting with the store online or in person. These are among the other benefits of contactless POS systems for retailers:
- Contactless transactions are fast, accurate, and secure.
- Customer purchase histories are readily accessible and automatically updated. This allows stores to offer shoppers discounts and other specials based on their past purchases.
- Stores are able to collect and analyze more sales data via the reports generated by their POS system.
- Contactless shopping reduces a store’s expenses by eliminating some or all paper receipts; customers increasingly choose to have their receipts sent via text or email.
Retailer Best Practices for Implementing Contactless Shopping
The precautions put in place by retailers in response to COVID-19 restrictions help make shoppers and store employees more confident of their safety when interacting with the store. An important component of retailers’ plans for safe shopping is ensuring their customers are aware of their contactless shopping options:
- Stores are promoting their click-and-collect options for making purchases online and picking them up curbside or at another convenient location.
- POS systems facilitate collecting customers’ email addresses and other contact information, which allows retailers to keep shoppers informed about changes in the store’s operation and to offer them special deals.
- Customers are being encouraged to take advantage of the safety and convenience of using mobile wallets and credit cards equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) and other contactless technologies.
Contactless Shopping Drives Retail Trends for 2021
Retailers haven’t realized the benefits of automation to the extent that other industries have, but that is expected to change dramatically in 2021, and not just in response to the pandemic. Among the seven technology trends that are forecast to reshape the retail business in 2021 are several related to the contactless shopping experience:
- Cash transactions may not become extinct, but they will definitely be an endangered species in coming years as digital payment options proliferate. POS systems serve as the nexus for a range of payment methods, including mobile wallets and other smartphone-based payment apps.
- Shopping will become more personalized as stores take advantage of the data customers provide to them to craft discounts, promotions, and other offers tailored to their shopping style and preferences. Loyalty cards and subscriptions will be automated, and rewards served up when and where the customer is likely to be most receptive.
- The continuing integration of online and in-store shopping benefits retailers and customers alike by maximizing the options available to shoppers and providing them with ready access to the information they need whether they’re at home, on the road, or in the store.
- The chances of a product customers crave being out of stock diminishes because POS systems automate the ordering process. When inventory levels fall below a preset threshold, the systems can alert store managers and place reorders automatically, for example.
Retailers have a responsibility to their customers to make their shopping experience as safe, rewarding, and enjoyable as possible. The good news for store owners is that delivering the capabilities their customers increasingly come to expect has never been easier or less expensive because of the enhanced functionality and integration of today’s cloud-based POS systems. The way to win long-term customers is by demonstrating the store’s commitment to putting customers first via strategic application of the latest technology.
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