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Contactless Commerce; Providing Goods and Services During a Crisis

During a public health emergency, footfall declines but these days, we have more tools than ever for providing goods and services remotely. 

Against the backdrop of the deepening coronavirus crisis, merchants all over the world are holding their breath, waiting to see how the public health emergency will evolve and impact their businesses. 

Affected areas are likely to see significant reductions in footfall as people seek to avoid contact and exposure. The need for goods and services, however, will not decline. Thankfully, there are now more tools than ever before to help keep businesses running and essential goods and services flowing.

Payment Touchpoints

Human contact is the biggest risk factor during an outbreak and limiting interaction is key to stopping its spread. That is why the WHO and governments in affected regions move quickly to recommend quarantines and self-isolation. 

While many businesses can implement remote working practices, the movement of essential goods and services is vital during such a crisis. Retail workers and those who deal with the public will be on the front line. Workers in chemists and pharmacies will be particularly exposed.

When it comes to commerce, cash, cards and even payment terminals are notorious sources of contamination.  Money is dirty and a huge risk factor in the spread of infectious agents. In China, the government has already begun a programme of disinfecting currency

A study in 2018 showed that the credit card terminal in an airport pharmacy contained more viruses than any other surface tested. Further studies have shown that debit and credit cards actually carry more germs than currency. Promoting cashless, contactless and touchless online payments is a good way to prevent the spread of illness amongst your customers and your staff.

Contactless Commerce

Here are some of the ways that merchants can reduce human contact and risk while keeping the flow of goods and services going during an outbreak scenario…

Automation at the Check-OutAutomated self-service checkouts and secure cash handling machines are already a common feature of many retail outlets. While they have been primarily introduced for cost-saving and security reasons, they can prove useful in limiting staff contact with contaminated cash.

Cashless & Contactless PaymentsFor merchants who don’t have access to expensive, automated machines, contact with cash can be limited by encouraging contactless card payments for in store transactions or other remote payment methods. Low value purchases can be made contactless using just a ‘tap’. Make sure staff don’t take cards from customers to tap on their behalf. Higher value transactions will require a PIN entry. As such, terminals should be sterilized regularly.

Online PaymentsEncouraging customers to purchase via your website further minimises interaction and risk. Advance online payments combined with contactless collection or delivery options are a good way to limit exposure for both customers and staff.

Deliveries & CollectionsImplementing a system for collections or deliveries is a good way to reach customers who can’t reach you. In China, big name companies like McDonald’s, Starbucks and KFC have begun stepping up their contactless delivery, collection and payment capabilities to protect workers and customers. You should however ensure that you have a safe and secure system for taking payments. Simply taking card details over the phone is safe from a health standpoint but a real minefield when it comes to data protection and exposure to fraud. Payments can also be handled via a standalone ‘Payment Request Platform’ that can turn any exchange of payment into a touchless ecommerce transaction.

Solutions like Prommt allow you to send instant, secure and personalised payment requests to customers via email, mobile and other messaging channels. Payment request systems like this completely remove the need for any physical contact, turning it into a virtual interaction. 

Another benefit is that payments are processed using 3-D Secure (unlike over-the-phone payments) so it can protect you from fraudulent chargeback costs. Payment requests are quick and easy to create and combined with the added protection provided by 3-D Secure make the system suitable for any type of transaction, even high-value items.

We’re already marching towards a completely cashless society. Public health emergencies, like the current coronavirus outbreak, are yet another factor that will undoubtedly accelerate the process.