6 Dos and Don’ts of a Touchless Shopping Experience Post-COVID-19
Just the other day, I took my son to the hardware store to pick up supplies for a project. We were both wearing masks, naturally. You can’t get into the store without one. As we browsed, you couldn’t help but feel a sense of comfort at all the visual cues for social distancing. At checkout, a huge sneeze guard separating us from the clerk put me further at ease.
Then, it was time to pay. I put my credit card in the point-of-sale reader and realized: I’m about to push the same green button every other person pushed before me. All those behavioral changes in our journey from entrance to exit concluded with the touch of a shared button.
Clearly, retailers should be hyperfocused on customer experience related to fears, worries and doubts. And while we see many immediate changes due to COVID-19, you have to wonder what will stick after a couple of years. Because the reality of safety is different than the perception, and some will argue that customers take more comfort in feeling safe than knowing for sure that they’re free from harm.
Safe and Sound
I’ve heard my neighbors talk about what they’re doing to be safe. In the next breath, however, they admit to not knowing, factually, whether the steps create any real safety. It makes them feel better. Not that retailers should take this approach. It’s more about customer-focused empathy, where you make shoppers feel just as safe and secure as they actually are.
Brands and retailers that win the “secure and safe” race will quickly and successfully get back to business. They’ll provide customers visual confirmation of safety — not to mention eliminate common required touchpoints. In fact, retailers have seen a 20 percent increase in consumers preferring contactless operations, according to McKinsey & Co.
Having worked in the retail industry for years, I have a few dos and don’ts for retailers looking for a touchless CX.
1. Do install contactless payment options.
With technology being what it is, you’ve got plenty of options in touchless payment features to choose from. Radio frequency identification (RFID) and near-field communication (NFC) both allow customers to securely pay for goods without making any contact with employees or point-of-sale systems. Look into all available options.
2. Don’t break the touch barrier.
Wherever and whenever possible, you’ll want to help customers minimize physical contact with the retail environment. Touchless door options have become quite common. Beyond automatic entry systems, you can install foot pulls on doors. Look for ways to do the same for cabinets, drawers, etc. A wrist pull, for example, would be helpful.
3. Do offer instructions.
Most stores now have visual cues for social distancing. However, that’s not always enough. Consider doing more by posting instructions on how to minimize contact further, like knuckle vs. fingertip for buttons or immediate cleaning after touching pull knobs. Also, maybe offer sanitation options at any touchpoint that can’t be re-engineered for touchless contact.
4. Don’t make it about the "thing."
It should never be about the product, the technology or the solution; it should always be about the customers. After all, they don’t much care about your COVID-19 knowledge or how much you invested in contactless options. What they want is reassurance. Look at the entire shopping journey through customers’ eyes to see where you could do better. Furthermore, guarantee them of their safety by using a digital display to share safety information or advertise the precautions you’ve taken.
5. Do talk to your customers.
Keep a pulse on customers’ preferences. Speak to them directly, of course, but you may also want to monitor social media to uncover gripes they have with other retailers. Then, make corrections before anything becomes a problem in your stores.
6. Don’t forget employees.
McKinsey reports that almost 60 percent of front-line employees feel their ideas for improving the customer experience go unheard. Just as you’re talking with customers, you need to speak with employees, too. Solicit feedback on how you can improve the experience for both customers and staff. You want all parties to feel safe and secure in the retail environment.
As of early April, over 50,000 physical retail locations had closed temporarily due to the pandemic. When they finally reopened, customers expected a much different shopping experience. People have grown accustomed to the precautions establishments are taking to keep everyone safe and secure. You’ll need to do the same if you want customers to continue walking through your doors.
Scott T. Reese is currently serving as chief technology officer at Harbor Retail, where he helps bring Harmonic Retail™ to life with intuitive Self-Healing Technology™.
Scott T. Reese is a passionate leader, a “what’s next” enthusiast, and an arbiter of progress — with the detail-oriented, get-it-done attitude needed to make sure those big ideas are actually accomplished. Scott is currently serving as chief technology officer at Harbor Retail, where he helps bring Harmonic Retail™ to life with intuitive Self-Healing Technology™.
He spent the first 10 years of his career learning how to be an effective, inspiring leader in the United States Marine Corps. Then, he spent the past two decades collaborating to make a difference as an expert in corporate process and an effective consultant in the field of technology.