Retail
in the time of coronavirus

In this four part guide we look at how consumer behavior has changed, how stores need to adapt to those changes, the role technology can play, and how payments will play a part in helping businesses move forward.

Chapter 4
Changing the way we pay

From contactless cards to e-wallets, biometrics, and voice recognition, the evolution of payments is accelerating to match our digital advancement. And, if things weren’t moving fast enough, COVID-19 came along. Almost overnight, cash became the enemy. Not only are retailers having to rethink store layouts, fulfillment capabilities, and service challenges, they’re having to find ways of accepting payments that keep everyone safe without exposing yourself to fraud.

Fortunately, as far as payments are concerned, plenty of solutions already exist to facilitate everything from contactless to totally automated payments (i.e. AmazonGo). That said, most of you probably don’t have the time or budget to support a fully grab-and-go experience. So here are some suggestions for adapting your payments to meet today’s safety expectations and stand you in good stead for the future.

Contactless shopping with a personal touch

Contactless is the payment embodiment of social distancing. So it’s hardly surprising that adoption has soared in the past months. In April, Mastercard conducted a global study in which 82% of respondents said they view contactless as the cleaner way to pay, and 46% have swapped their top-of-wallet card for one that offers contactless. 

This has partly been aided by the increase in the upper limit for contactless transactions. 29 countries across Europe have implemented these new limits with the UK, Ireland, Estonia, and Poland making permanent changes. As a result, the average contactless payment in the UK has risen to £36.29.

Contactless payments are a powerful tool when it comes to opening stores safely. But for many retailers, the challenge is how to offset the physical distance afforded by contactless payments, with the delivery of a friendly, personal service. Here, the magic lies in the services which can be activated when your customer’s card is read by your point of sale (POS) payment terminal.

Traditionally, the disadvantage at the point of sale was that every customer was treated as a stranger unless they had a personal relationship with the in-store staff. But now, if your online and your in-store payment data is connected, a regular online customer can be recognized the moment they tap their card to the terminal. You can then trigger all sorts of benefits, such as adding loyalty points directly to their card, inviting them to take part in consumer surveys, or helping them subscribe to an ongoing service.

And of course, the Near Field Communication (NFC) technology that supports contactless cards can also be used to accept payments from mobile devices. So, if you accept contactless cards, you can also accept the likes of Apple Pay and Google Pay™️. 

The rise of the QR code

NFC technology, contactless cards, and mobile wallets have been around for a while with strong usage in Europe and growing adoption in North America. What is new for both however, is the rise of the QR code as a payment vehicle. QR codes let customers make payments without the need for a payment terminal. A shopper simply needs to scan the code with their smartphone and the amount can be transferred directly from their account.

China is leaps and bounds ahead of the West in the adoption of QR codes. Alipay and WeChat Pay rely on QR codes for point of sale payments. And many Western retailers have invested in terminals which generate QR codes to support these methods. All Adyen terminals, for example, come with this functionality as standard.

Importantly, QR codes are contactless. Which is why they’ve been popping up everywhere in recent months. From digital menus, to shoppable window displays, the QR code has been heralded as a means of returning to ‘normal’ while maintaining your distance. Which means QR code payments aren’t going anywhere.

"Payment links have been a great addition to our customer care team's arsenal of tools to support our customers.”

Mark Dougall ∙ Head of Operations, Monica Vinader

Payment links have also been used to support distant-selling from stores. In-store staff notify regular shoppers of items in-stock and issue a payment link once a shopper is ready to buy. The items can then be delivered to the shopper’s home the same day, keeping contact to a minimum but still providing the instant gratification of an in-store experience. 

“Being able to provide a secure and seamless way for customers to pay remotely meant we were able to react quickly to changing customer needs. Having Pay by Link in place meant we could continue to meet the demand of these customers whilst also continuing to trade from our Brompton Junction stores.”

Christina Lindquist ∙ Head of Marketing, Brompton Bikes

Bringing the ecommerce payment in store

A QR code can also be used to trigger an ecommerce payment in store. For example, the payment terminal generates a QR code which, when scanned, directs the shopper to an online payment page. From there, they can finish the payment as if it were a standard ecommerce transaction, complete with risk checks. 

Pay by Link, our payment link technology, can also be used for in-store payments via the payment terminal. This new feature allows customers to scan a QR code from the terminal at the beginning of the transaction, and complete the transaction on their phone without having to touch the terminal. This gives you the flexibility to provide a variety of services to your customers based on their specific needs during this time. 

Takeaways

There are lots of innovative ways you can safely take payments in store. And many can be rolled out without huge reinvestments in infrastructure. NFC payments, coupled with the increase of the upper limit will make contactless payments easy for most transactions. And the increasing prevalence of QR code payments will open up new possibilities, potentially allowing traditionally ecommerce payment methods, like online banking, to be used in-store.

As always, flexibility and customer-focus are of the utmost importance. As payment innovations accelerate, it’s critical you keep your eye sharply on the horizon. The right technology partners are vital. As well as helping you to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions we find ourselves in now, they’ll ensure you’re ready for whatever comes next.

We’ll leave the last word of advice to Brompton Bikes’ Christina Lindquist:

“Our business and social environment has been changing at such a blistering pace over the last few months that plans had to be ripped up or modified on a daily basis rather than focusing on the long term – none of us can predict the future and so we need to be agile and think outside the box at this time to survive.”

Christina Lindquist ∙ Head of Marketing, Brompton Bikes

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