This past year, there’s been a greater emphasis on health and safety that goes beyond having hand sanitizer dispensers every six feet. Customers are more aware than ever of the quality of hygiene and cleanliness of the stores they visit. The majority of retailers are implementing contactless measures for the first time ever, and learning as they go.

Amazon Go stores have already started to pioneer this process, allowing customers to literally walk into a store and grab what they want and walk out with no need for a checkout or sales associate. A system of cameras, sensors, and scanners in the store works with a customer’s mobile app so items taken off a shelf are added to a virtual cart and then purchased as they leave the location. They call this technology, “Just Walk Out.” This is also part of Dash Cart, their smart shopping cart that identifies items as they are placed in a shopping cart which is being developed for conventional grocery stores.

Amazon Prime members who shop at Whole Foods can now open an Amazon app on their phone to obtain a QR code that’s scanned at the register for member-only discounts—all without having to type on to a keypad.

Even as the world advances past the pandemic, we’ve now oriented an entire generation of shoppers to expect as few physical contact points as possible. This doesn’t have to erode the familiar brand experience in-store or online. It conveys care and trust to the customer as they move through the different parts of the in-person or virtual customer journey. Here’s a list of things retailers need to implement contactless options.

Reduce or eliminate all contact points.

Stores have started to eliminate pens, order forms, keypads, and the need for signatures. Contactless payment options like Apple Pay or Google Pay use near-field communication (NFC) technologies to communicate with point-of-sale systems and encourage contactless payment instead of handling cash.

Protect customers and staff.

Plexiglass barriers are suddenly everywhere, trying to protect both customers and employees as much as possible when interacting in person. Traffic patterns in stores or separate entrance and exit points have contributed to these safety protocols.

Integrate these processes online.

Digital commerce was already contactless, but in-store processes should be in sync with the online and in-app ones. Shopping, buying, and the support and service experience should all feel contactless and self-serve but with helpful agents available whenever needed.

Extend to the warehouse and to the office.

Even with the global move to remote work, some workers still have to come into an office regularly or work in warehouses or back office locations. Protocols also have to be in place to keep office workers and warehouse staff protected so they can focus on doing their jobs. Gartner predicts that by 2024, the ordering and replenishment processes for most organizations will be completely touchless.

With vaccines achieving global distribution, relief is coming. But a return to the way we were may not be coming in the near-term or ever. For example, keeping hand sanitizer nearby or wiping down the touchscreen TV on the airplane is probably not a bad practice to keep beyond the pandemic. Contactless options were already emerging pre-pandemic and as shoppers get more comfortable with this way of shopping, we expect the trend to stick around for the future.

About Andy Wibbels

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