Shifts in Shopping: How Businesses Are Prioritizing the Contactless Customer Experience
Shopping has changed as we know it. Consumers no longer stroll into stores and take their time interacting with products and people. Now, masks are mandatory almost everywhere and people try their best to stay six feet away from one another while making their way down narrow aisles. And while people are spending more money in-store, they’re making trips much less frequently.
Since the pandemic is still very prevalent in our lives, retailers are busy preparing for a new trend that's likely here to stay: the importance of a contactless customer experience.
Capgemini Research Institute’s new report, COVID-19 and the Age of the Contactless Customer Experience, surveyed over 5,700 people from 12 countries, including the United States, China, Brazil, and France, to gain insight into the key trends emerging in our new health-and-safety conscious world:
- touchless and voice-based interfaces;
- facial recognition technology; and
- mobile-based transactions.
Let’s dive into some of the survey results to better understand how these trends impact the customer experience moving forward.
The Future is Contactless
As the pandemic continues to raise concerns about health and safety factors while shopping in-store, it’s clear our new consumer behaviors will endure.
Many businesses see the pandemic as a catalyst to implement new touchless technology such as voice assistants into their physical store locations. Capgemini’s recent survey discovered that during the pandemic, 59 percent of consumers prefer to use voice interfaces to avoid touch-based practices. The survey also found 73 percent of organizations believe that consumers’ appetite for contactless shopping practices will persist post-pandemic.
In order to bring more customers in-store, companies are tasked to recreate the convenience and safety of online shopping. New contactless store features need to address this concern while still providing a positive customer experience. Data shows people aren't necessarily curbing their shopping spend entirely. While consumer spending fell over 16 percent in April, online retailers saw an 8.4 percent boost in sales during the same period.
Facing the Technology
The pandemic has sparked a notable increase in the adoption of facial recognition technologies given its potential to replace fingerprint-based systems. Research shows more than half of consumers prefer facial recognition for authentication at retail stores, banks, airports and offices.
With this new convenience comes concerns about privacy issues — now and post-pandemic. To address that pain point, organizations need to be transparent with policies and always acquire consent from consumers. The consumer should know what personal data will be collected and for what purpose, where it will be shared, and how long the data will be stored. This will help consumers have a sense of control over their experience.
It will be especially interesting to watch this trend as wearing masks becomes a new normal. In fact, facial recognition algorithms are constantly being updated with new mask selfies in an effort to build a smarter tool.
The Power of Mobile
During the pandemic, mobile apps are helping organizations deliver improved contactless experiences. This includes contactless payments and mobile-based self-checkout solutions. The technology is even popular in the automotive industry, as in-app services can assist with vehicle purchases and deliveries.
Capgemini research found that 66 percent of consumers prefer to use mobile apps at stores, and 70 percent are comfortable using their phones for payment. Furthermore, 62 percent would prefer to do so even after the pandemic subsides.
The Time is Now
To ensure an optimal customer experience amidst this massive disruption, businesses should connect regularly with consumers for feedback about their new contactless shopping experience. The customer journey is changing, so it’s likely new steps will have to be introduced to include a technology-driven, mobile-centric approach.
Organizations should also look to available data and analytic reporting capabilities. This step is critical as it can help identify what works well within the customer experience and what needs improvement.
Healthy and safety are a top priority for consumers in this pandemic age. Social distancing along with new health and safety practices help address consumer concerns, but organizations need to deliver a contactless customer experience in order to bring shoppers back into stores.
Brian Wolfe is vice president of commerce and digital customer experience leader at Capgemini in North America, a global consulting firm.
Brian Wolfe is VP of Commerce and Digital Customer Experience Leader at Capgemini in North America, a global consulting firm.
He has over 20 years of experience working with technology and consulting organizations. Brian co-founded two technology firms that were sold to public companies and has held a broad range of roles and responsibilities including President, Vice President, CTO, and CIO. Brian has been a frequent speaker at technology industry events and has been a member of numerous partner advisory boards.
Brian earned a BS in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, an MS in Computer Science from DePaul University and a Certificate in Business Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago. Brian currently serves as a member of the advisory board for DePaul University’s College of Computing and Digital Media. Brian enjoys running, working out in the gym, enjoying time with his family in the city, and rooting for the Chicago Bears.