Social distancing guidelines have changed the way we interact with each other, forcing companies to change the way they do business. Many of these social interaction changes are likely here to stay. One of the ways this is happening is through the rapid adoption of contactless payments.
Contactless payments were once seen as a mere convenience, but are quickly becoming a necessity for many retailers. Many companies see this as a necessary next step to keep their employees and customers safe and stop the spread of COVID-19.
Contactless payments and Kiosk enabled payments are becoming increasingly common at fast-food restaurants, where some employees worry they could catch the coronavirus by handling cash. This concern first came to light in early March when a Telegraph article quoted the World Health Organization as saying COVID-19 could stay on cash for several days.
And studies have shown that the coronavirus can remain on cardboard surfaces for up to 24 hours, and plastic and stainless steel for up to three days. This information has prompted retailers across the country to start changing their policies regarding cash payments.
Business Insider reported that Chick-fil-A stores across Florida, Maryland, Indiana, Georgia, and Virginia are refusing cash payments from customers. Instead, these stores are asking customers to place their orders and pay through the company’s mobile app.
Certain Shake Shack and Noodles & Co locations are also declining cash payments. And it’s not just restaurants that are going cashless; Walmart and the grocery store Publix recently implemented contactless pickup, delivery, and in-store checkouts. And toll bridges across the country are encouraging the public to use cashless payments as well.
Cashless and contactless payments were already a growing trend across the U.S. But it’s likely that the COVID-19 pandemic will radically speed up this shift in the coming months and years.
Playing catch up
If you live outside of the U.S., you may find it surprising that cashless payments are only just starting to pick up steam. That’s because the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to cashless payment options.
Countries like Sweden and Australia have embraced contactless payments for years. Contactless payments allow customers to pay by tapping their card on the checkout terminal, instead of using the chip terminal.
According to a 2018 study by A.T. Kearney, just 3% of cards in the U.S. are contactless, compared to 64% in the U.K. and 96% in South Korea. Countries like Sweden, Canada, England, and Australia have already made contactless payments the norm for in-store shopping.
There are many good reasons to embrace contactless payments; they shorten wait times and ensure that transactions are more accurate. But companies in the U.S. that have attempted to go cashless have faced pushback and legislation from lawmakers.
Lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and other states have pushed legislation requiring businesses to accept cash payments from customers. Many local and state lawmakers are concerned that pushing cashless payments will widen the socioeconomic gap. The argument is that refusing cash is discriminatory toward low-income customers who don’t have bank accounts.
But each of these bills was passed before the coronavirus pandemic threatened the health and safety of the public. So will COVID-19 change the public perception of a cashless society?
The economy will reopen…but will customers return?
Some states are starting to consider a plan for opening the economy, with Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina all reopening parts of their economy. And as more states begin to follow suit, it’s worth considering the role cashless systems will play.
Because in all likelihood, there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach to reopening the economy. It will look different for each state depending on the population and number of active COVID-19 cases.
Businesses will be allowed to open in waves, and stores will still be required to follow social distancing guidelines. Plus, consumers will likely be much more hesitant to head out in public, which means that businesses will need to reassure those customers they’re taking steps to protect public health.
This hesitancy among consumers has undoubtedly been the case for China after it reopened its economy at the beginning of March. Recent reports showed that China’s GDP shrank by 6.8% during the first three months of the year.
Cashless payments in the amusement industry
The global amusement and entertainment industry has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Amusement parks, entertainment centers, sporting events, live events, and trade shows all closed to stop the spread of the virus. These companies are not only experiencing a loss in revenue but are also forced to rethink their business strategy going forward.
The challenge for these companies will be finding ways to implement social distancing while still expanding their business. For businesses in this situation, cashless payment systems could be one part of the solution.
For amusement parks, waterparks, and arcades, self-serving kiosks are one of the best ways for businesses to put the health and safety of their customers first. These kiosks limit person-to-person interactions and can help slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Admissions stations allow customers to purchase tickets, create accounts, and reload their cards or wristbands. Kiosks can also allow guests to avoid the lines at food stands and will reduce unnecessary interactions between guests and employees.
Of course, kiosks are not touch-free, which is why it’s a good idea to make sure that every kiosk comes equipped with hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes. Taking these kinds of precautions shows customers that you value their health and safety, which will inspire greater confidence in your business going forward.
RFID readers are another good option since they are touchless solutions that enable contactless payments and stored value cards. And guests can use RFID wristbands for park admissions and multiple types of payments once inside the park or site. Wristbands also allow parks to monitor their site capacity to comply with ongoing social distancing requirements.
The ongoing shift away from cash
While the coronavirus pandemic has caused some industries to stall altogether, it is accelerating other areas at a rapid pace. This certainly seems to be the case when it comes to cashless payments.
For instance, Amazon recently began selling its cashier-less technology to other retailers. This technology allows shoppers to choose their items and check out without interacting with a cashier. Amazon uses this technology at all of its Amazon Go stores, which have all closed down except for the Seattle locations.
The World Health Organization did walk back its remarks on handling cash, but consumers will still be wary about handling cash in the foreseeable future. This presents an opportunity for U.S. companies to scale up their infrastructure in order to begin implementing cashless solutions. And we can expect to see incredible growth and advancement in cashless payment options and technologies over the coming years.
To your success!
Written by Brian Johnson