In a business environment that has been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the array of efforts being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, few areas in the retail and hospitality arenas have seen as much change as the payment process. In addition to mask-wearing protocols and the installation of plexiglass dividers at checkout in an effort to keep both consumers and workers safe, the ways people actually pay for their products is also seeing fundamental changes the world over.
Among the most popular ways businesses are keeping customer-worker contact to a minimum and safety precautions at the forefront are point-of-sale tech tools. These technologies, most of which were already in existence when the pandemic began, have taken on heightened prominence and widened popularity as they can give consumers added peace of mind while helping business owners boost the bottom line.
In fact, a recent Lending Tree survey showed that 40 percent of respondents preferred contactless payments while 40 percent indicated a preference for swiping a credit card and 20 percent indicated no preference. Further, a recent American Express survey found that 60 percent of people who have used contactless payments say they will use them again.
For operations looking to update their payment processes in an effort to promote safety and boost business, all while maintaining high levels of security for both the payer and the payee, these four leading touchless and low-touch payment options are readily accessible and have proven highly beneficial to both businesses and consumers:
- NFC/tap to pay: Utilizing a contactless technology called near-field communication, NFC payment methods allow consumers to simply tap or wave their credit card or a payment app-equipped smartphone at the checkout terminal to pay their balance due. When the card or smartphone is in close range of the terminal (generally within four inches of one another), the two communicate using radio frequency identification (RFID) to generate a one-time code for the sale and to complete the transaction, with the balance either going onto the credit card or being deducted from the linked bank account. The entire process takes just a few seconds and the consumer can complete the transaction without ever touching the terminal or keypad.
- Smartphone payments: Smartphones can facilitate contactless payments in a couple of ways with one of them already mentioned above. When a checkout area is equipped with one of the NFC-enabled terminals discussed above, a smartphone with a mobile payment or digital wallet app like Apple Pay or Google Pay installed can be used to make the payment in much the same way as the NFC-enabled credit cards. The apps are linked to a bank account or credit card, which is used to make the payment.
Another way smartphones can facilitate payments is through the use of money-transfer apps like Venmo or Zelle, which have become very popular for contactless person-to-person payments. Using these apps, a consumer can almost instantly send a payment to any person or business with a bank account in the United States, all with just a few taps of the smartphone screen. The money sent is then deducted from the user’s connected bank account or charged to a connected credit card and it appears as a credit in the recipient’s bank account.
- Digital ordering: Another powerful tool for businesses in the COVID era, digital ordering allows consumers to go online to a business’s website or app to select the products and/or services they’d like to purchase, pay for the purchases via the secure online checkout process using their credit card or bank account, then either head to the store for pickup or have the products shipped directly to their home. If the customer does opt for store pickup, curbside delivery can facilitate an even safer transaction. All said, by eliminating or minimizing the time customers have to spend in the store, this payment method reduces human-to-human exposure dramatically, helping to prevent any potential spread of infection and boosting consumers’ willingness to make the purchase.
- Mobile/handheld credit card readers: While not entirely touchless, mobile and handheld credit card readers can facilitate a low-touch payment experience by enabling curbside payments in addition to supporting in-person payments nearly anywhere. These readers are available as handheld units that include keypads and card readers. They can also be utilized as smartphone or tablet attachments featuring a magnetic stripe card reader that plugs into the device while an associated app uses the device’s screen as a keypad for PIN entry, signatures, etc. In addition to supporting curbside payments, these readers are great options for businesses requiring portability and/or on-the-spot payments.
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