The COVID-19 pandemic has upended the retail industry, compelling businesses to innovate their models for survival. The retail industry, in particular, has adapted quickly to meet the new realities of doing business, with many retailers embracing technology to support such as contactless payments, mobile applications and the popular low-touch alternative, curbside pick-up. Curbside allows brick-and-mortars to still serve customers effectively and while reducing the chance for customer congestion. These were growing trends even pre-COVID and have quickly become more streamlined to meet today’s needs now.
These innovative methods of order will be a popular choice even long after the pandemic. Here’s why:
Leveraging New Alternatives
Consumer expectations have drastically changed since the top of the year, and so have retail operations. Retailers have had to pivot to innovative low-contact methods that adhere to the needs of today’s shoppers while still driving sales and increasing margins.
Curbside pickup is a safer alternative for both retail employees and customers, with its unique ability to keep interactions minimal by having customers shop online and picking up their orders from the comfort of their vehicle or having store employees bring the items to the vehicle. It also allows retailers to remain open while adhering to state and local guidelines that have limited indoor shopping. Some stores have even refined their operations by implementing drive-thru services for shoppers to pick up their items from a window to streamline the process and the customer experience.
Contactless payments, on the other hand, enables quick and seamless customer transactions, convenient accessibility, and lower health risks of both parties. Tap-to-pay has been on the rise. The pandemic has encouraged U.S. businesses as well to adopt this method. With today’s health precautions, contactless allows customers and retailers to remain socially distant while also offering a quicker transaction journey.
These two alternatives have been quite the solution for consumers and retailers, and they show no signs of letting up. According to the National Retail Federation’s Spring 2020 Consumer View survey, over 90 percent of those surveyed who have tried the BOPIS (buy online pickup in store) method, said curbside pickup was convenient. Additionally, almost 70% of retailers now accept some method of contactless payment with 94% anticipating contactless payments to increase over the next 18 months.
With people around the country embracing these new alternatives, Generation Z have taken a liking to curbside while prioritizing businesses that offer this as a service. A recent survey revealed that 36% of Generation Z-ers are most likely to select curbside pickup or delivery compared with 31% of Millennials.
Curbside and Contactless Are Here to Stay
With retailers rolling out curbside pickup and contactless payments during the pandemic and continuing to offer the services as and brick-and-mortars reopen, more consumers are becoming acclimated to the convenience of the alternatives overall – and this won’t change anytime soon.
According to a COVID-19 and the Future of Commerce report, 87% of consumers say they would like businesses to continue offering options like curbside pickup that substantially limit in-person visits. While research from Podium, reported that eight out of 10 consumers want local businesses to continue providing “pandemic-friendly” options, such as contactless payments even after the coronavirus is no longer deemed a threat to society. People will forever be changed by the pandemic, as consumers will be more cautious in stores and other public settings, at least in the near future.
With consumers’ demands and expectations increasing, and an entire generation that has a newfound appreciation for the alternatives, retailers must continue to embrace change and technology providers must better enable them through their transformation. Curbside pickup and contactless payments have been a saving grace for the retail industry and will continue to play a pivotal role now and for the road ahead.
Srini Rajamani is VP and vertical head, consumer products group (CPG), Wipro Limited.