Shopping habits constantly evolve. The same is true of how we pay for essentials. That said, COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated the pace of change as companies and consumers suddenly find themselves having to conduct business amid a global pandemic.
Below are five emerging shopping and payment trends that every business owner should follow moving forward.
Cash is still alive, but…
Consumers still pay with cash, but not as often. Although the risk of disease transmission through the exchange of paper currency and coins appears to be relatively low, ATM withdrawals have plummeted because of the general public’s growing preference for safer electronic payment options.¹
It doesn’t make sense to ditch the cash register just yet. Though if your business isn’t set up for alternative payment methods – such as credit and debit card processing – you’re limiting yourself to a marginal pool of potential customers.
The rise of contactless payments
Traditional credit card processing might be preferable to using cash; however, there’s still contact between buyers and sellers when handling magstripe or chip cards. No matter which party swipes or dips the card, there is still a level of contact (i.e., exchanging the card, signing a receipt or screen, or entering a PIN number).
Contactless payments are a much safer option – financially and epidemiologically. Customers never have to relinquish their NFC-enabled credit cards, smartphones, or wearable devices at the point of sale. Better still, these payment interfaces never touch the POS terminal during checkout.
Although there are desktop POS card readers with NFC capabilities, consider investing in a mobile or wireless terminal. Doing so allows you to process payments:
- Anywhere on the store floor, which helps promote social distancing (and shorter lines)
- In the field, which is ideal for contractors (or business travelers when events return)
- At the curb or on deliveries, which is increasingly important for many restaurants
- Just make sure your contactless POS reader can also accept EMV chips and legacy magstripe cards.
The shift to voice purchasing
Online shopping was already incredibly popular prior to coronavirus.² With lockdown rules in place, even more consumers have migrated to eCommerce. This move lets customers purchase and pay for their goods and services remotely – without having to set foot in your business.
If you want to make the shopping process even easier, consider the growing popularity of virtual assistants such as Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant. Rather than fill their online shopping carts by hand, consumers can simply speak their choices. Amazon Pay has already invested heavily in voice purchasing – suggesting this concept will only spread in the future.³
The resurgence of virtual terminals
Some business models don’t lend themselves to in-person or online payments. Merchants that collect orders primarily over the phone or by email fall into this category. The same goes for freelancers not quite ready to invest in a full-fledged POS system.
With a virtual terminal, however, you can take orders over the phone and key each customer’s payment information into a secure online payment form. Browser-based virtual terminals aren’t new, but their popularity is likely to increase in a post-pandemic world. This is especially true now that cloud access allows you to process transactions and view reports from any Internet-connected device.
Keep an eye on P2P payments
Peer-to-peer (P2P) payments are typically reserved for sending money to family members or friends. P2P technology continues to evolve at a rapid rate. It’s possible peer-to-peer payments could cross over to the business world – especially as related technologies such as social media, cryptocurrency, and blockchain all become even more mainstream.
With technology evolving so quickly, it’s impossible to cover all the payment trends that will emerge in the post-pandemic world. Still, what most of these newer technologies have in common is their ability to facilitate commerce – while minimizing the risk of transmission between buyers and sellers. While it’s true that updating your payment environment to take advantage of these trends may be expensive, making these types of investments will help make the buying process as safe and seamless as possible, while boosting customer confidence, and potentially increasing sales.
For a more complete list of changing shopping habits – and how they might impact your business – be sure to review the accompanying resource.
Written by Dori Bright. Infographic by Firstdata.
1 “The Future of Cash Transactions in Question Amid COVID-19,” Governing.com, 29 April 2020
2 “US ecommerce sales grow 14.9% in 2019,” Digital Commerce 360, 19 February 2020
3 “Voice solutions,” Amazon Pay