Commentary: What do retail payments look like in the 'new normal'?

In the current environment, safety and hygiene are clearly top-of-mind for consumers, including when it comes to shopping. A recent Periscope by McKinsey survey found that more than 50% of consumers want stores to follow guidelines to help keep shoppers safe, such as the installation of plexiglass at the checkout, the use of masks and availability of hand sanitizers, while 59% said it’s important for stores not to be too crowded.

Along those lines, the actual payment process in retail needs to reflect those same safety and hygienic practices. How can retailers achieve this? There are different things that they can incorporate to ensure shoppers – and staff – are protected while conducting payment transactions. 

Pay by link

Pay by link presents new possibilities for retailers, whether in-store or online. With this type of payment method, there is no interaction with a payment terminal whatsoever. A link or QR code – provided either via email, app, newsletter, social media post or flyer – brings a customer to a secure payment page.

It also enables retailers to maximize the potential of contextual commerce, allowing them to match offers to their customers at the right moment, including when in-store, proving value-add for both the customer and the retailer. 

Mobile app/mobile SDK

For another hygienic payment option, retailers should consider in-app payments. An easy way to do this is with a mobile software development kit (SDK). With this kind of SDK, a retailer receives all of the programming tools and libraries required for a fast and smooth connection of their mobile shopping app to a payment platform.

This allows them to integrate payment methods into their app without any development effort on their part – making it easy to get up and running quickly to accept payments via their shopping app – eliminating the need for a customer to pay at the point-of-sale (POS). This option can also enable card-not-present (CNP) payment processing for traditional ecommerce, mail orders and telephone orders.

UV lights at the POS

Ultraviolet (UV) disinfection helps limit the spread of infectious pathogens on high-touch surfaces. The short wavelength of UV, UVC, has been used to disinfect surfaces in hospital rooms, ambulances and airplanes to eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses. Now, there are businesses that offer UVC lights for use on POS terminals’ surfaces. These no-touch devices claim to inactivate 99.9 percent of pathogens that can cause healthcare associated infections (HAIs).

Contactless payments

To avoid any contact with a payment terminal, retailers can also consider incorporating contactless payments. A March study from the Electronic Transactions Association and The Strawhecker Group found that for businesses still accepting payments on-site, 27% noted an increase in contactless payments made through smartphones and contactless cards. This increase demonstrates that consumers were more hesitant to pay by traditional methods like inserting their credit card into a terminal shared with other shoppers or exchanging cash with cashiers at the POS. And it would make sense for contactless payments to only continue to increase, particularly given the ongoing concern for hygienic shopping experiences.

Click and Collect

Retailers offering this service can reduce the amount of time people are waiting in stores for their items or even queuing in the front of the store, waiting to get in. By leveraging this, consumers can enter, pick up their order and not even have to pay, as that has been taken care of online in advance. The average length of stay can therefore be drastically reduced, helping the retailer to have less buyers on-site at the same time and therefore minimizing the risk of infections.

During these tumultuous times, it’s essential for retailers to be able to pivot quickly to support the safety of their customers and staff in-store. By incorporating the practices above, businesses can help protect everyone involved with the payment process – and encourage customers to keep coming back.

Jed Danbury is VP of Computop.

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