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Touchless Payments in Retail

23-04-2021 5 min read

Eliminating Proximity While Securing Sales

Retailers are especially hit by the corona crisis and are taking different measures to deal with loss in revenue.  Measures implemented to comply with hygiene requirements include offering home delivery and adapting their locations to minimize transmission risk for customers and employees. Masks, shields, spacing are used to ensure a safe purchasing experience, leading up to that most important interaction: the payment. Many stores already ask their customers not to pay in cash, as it holds a higher risk of spreading infections. But even cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay still require physical proximity. At best, you hold your card or phone very close to the terminal. At worst, you need to slide your card in or through the terminal and enter your PIN-code. That interaction is already uncomfortably close in a store, but it is even more unpleasant if the cashier has to hand you a mobile terminal at arm’s length. Customers are changing their behavior due to the coronavirus crisis, and they might avoid stores that do not fulfill their need for safety, including maintaining a safe distance during the payment procedure. 

Get the Payment onto the Customer’s Device 

One way to eliminate physical interactions and provide a safe payment transaction is through email or SMS (or a social messaging channel like WhatsApp). Customers already submit the necessary data during the purchasing process. For example, when you order food by phone, the restaurant invariably asks for your number or the pharmacy will ask for a digital address to reach you. Clothing stores might have asked for your email to sign you up to their loyalty programs years ago. If you ordered something with the option of ’cash on delivery’”, chances are you have entered your email address on a website or online portal.  

Obtaining digital addresses enables retailers to send their customer a payment link, equipped with local or international online payment options: Cards, PayPal, <Big Tech X> Pay. There are many nationalized payment options as well such as P24 in Poland, Vipps in Norway, EPS in Austria, iDEAL in the Netherlands, Klarna in Germany, M-Pesa in Kenia – you name it. Customers can simply authorize the payment with the details provided by the merchant. No download, no registration, no login, no typing, no errors, and last but not least, no touching. And on top of that, there is no need to defer customers to an e-commerce website, which many retailer may not even have. 

Receive Confirmation Immediately 

Real-time feedback and confirmation are critical to the customer and the merchant. Touchless payments enables customers to pay from home before going to pick up their prescription. For goods delivered to their home the payment can be initiated in advance, at the door, or even after the fact.  

Build Trust in Customer Relations 

Digital addresses can not only be used during a touchless payment process, but can also be a valuable means of communication, for trade promotions, special offers, or any news you have to share. Offering communication through messaging platforms like WhatsApp prevents your business from ever missing an order again because you were not around to pick up the phone. 

Fraud risk is minimized as well, because the customer is expecting a particular payment request from a merchant in a particular timeframe.  

Details Matter 

A good request to pay solution could offer some additional useful features: letting the customer increase the amount of the payment, to add a tip for example, or allowing the merchant to add an expiration date and time for the payment link, after which a payment is no longer possible. Alternately, the person receiving the email or SMS could forward it to someone else to pay, for example mom or dad. The person making the payment does not even have to be in the same house, town or country. 

How to Get Started? 

Mainly, the retail location needs an online device: a laptop, tablet or even just a smartphone. Simply access the request to pay webpage to enter the amount you want to invoice and a digital address. The data populates a predefined template – preferably branded with the merchant’s logo – and the associated payment page has the merchant’s bank account number hardcoded. Your request to pay solution can be up and running in days, without integration. 

That does leave some administration to do in the evening: matching the payments to the orders. But this is easy to do and a small price to pay to enable safe business transactions for you and your customers. Touchless payments can also be integrated directly into the system that retailers already use to register orders and calculate open items.  Integration requires just a couple of API calls, if the retail system is up for it. 

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