The rise in contactless convenience
As the world begins to open back up, many people have become very wary of public touchscreens, communal card readers, and the handling of cash when completing a purchase or transaction. These customer-driven changes are paving the way for a new low-touch economy. As a result, many retailers are under increasing pressure to create the contactless shopping experiences that their customers demand.
A recent state of contactless payments report by Raydiant revealed that 80% of consumers had used contactless payments in the past 12 months. 74% of those surveyed had concerns about cash's cleanliness, and 64% had the same worries around paying by card because of touching card readers. However, the big warning sign for retailers, brands, and venues was that 57% of consumers advised they would be more likely to do business with those who offered a contactless experience.
Having consumed a diet of 24-hour rolling news and fear over the last 18 months, many consumers are venturing into the world again with great trepidation. When shopping, many are now choosing options that allow them to complete a purchase without coming into contact with a touchscreen or other people. As a result, we have seen many businesses offering click and collect options for items purchased online or by phone.
Convenience and safety appear to be the biggest motivations for shoppers changing their habits en masse.
Tech-savvy consumers expect brands to provide them with the wow factor. But they don't want to waste their time waiting in a long line, encountering pain points, or feel endangered. So, whether online or offline, they will always choose the quickest and easiest route.
The increase of mobile payments such as Apple Pay and Google Pay means that consumers can retire fumbling around with bulky purses and wallets looking for cards. Instead, a hassle-free tap of the smartphone to complete a transaction is becoming much more appealing.
How convenience is driving customer loyalty
In an industry that has experienced a tsunami of change, customer loyalty and retention have been steadily declining for several years. The convenience-driven shopper expects that their convenience always takes priority. This new mindset forced supermarkets to offer delivery services and gyms to provide at-home apps and virtual training sessions. Even Hollywood is slowly embracing the ability to stream blockbusters into people's homes rather than cinemas.
Every consumer is now bombarded with an abundance of choices.
But only a handful of brands will anticipate their needs and save them the only non-renewable resource we have, time. Unsurprisingly, 78% of consumers reported that they now value convenience more than they did before the pandemic. Frictionless, flexible payments are typically high on the list of priorities. Still, the harsh reality for retailers is if they are not convenient to deal with, they will switch to a competitor who is.
In our relentless pursuit of saving time and making our lives easier, it's easy to forget that every action also has consequences. There is an increasing argument that our demands for convenience are putting the world at risk of sleepwalking into a cashless society.
With cash no longer king, millions will feel left behind
Digital natives would argue that handing over shiny coins in exchange for products or services feels strangely out of place in our digitalized world. But what happens when consumer demands for greater convenience result in the removal of cash registers and lead to the disappearance of ATMs?
The reality that many don't think about is that millions of people could quickly suffer without access to cash.
Elderly customers who don't have access to the internet or struggle with the concept of card payments or trying to memorize their PIN is an obvious example. Those with physical or mental health problems could also struggle with cashless only options. Entire communities in areas with poor connectivity or those trying to bounce back from bankruptcy could find themselves unable to benefit from online services.
A friend of mine recently shared a story of how when his friend transfers money into his account after splitting a restaurant bill, he always puts the description as the name of a sex toy, so it appears on his bank statement. This joke was mildly amusing until his bank manager questioned these transactions during a mortgage application. This story is an excellent example of why you might not want the description of every transaction documented by your bank.
In the same way that users sacrificed their privacy for convenience, there is an argument that the convenience of contactless will also come at a price.
Whether that is a trade you are willing to make will depend entirely on your worldview. But what we can all agree on is there is no such thing as a one size fits all solution when it comes to how we spend our hard-earned money.
For the most part, most people will happily go cashless and enjoy the convenience that it provides them in a digital world. But we all need to have options available to us depending on our circumstances. We also need to be aware of the implications it could have on the disadvantaged members of our communities. Privacy in a cashless world could be a thing of the past, but hopefully, we won't face a binary choice. Should that day ever arrive, only you can decide if this was a price worth paying.