Industry insights Read time : 4 minutes

COVID-19 continues to evolve the customer experience

COVID-19 continues to evolve the customer experience | NMI

It's safe to say that the world will never be the same after COVID-19. Nearly every aspect of our lives has changed and, in many cases, it's difficult to imagine some things returning to the old version of normal. This is particularly true in the worlds of restaurant, retail and grocery. These industries rely on great service to wow customers and earn repeat business. Unfortunately, the threat of spreading coronavirus means merchants must seek new ways of safely conducting business while still delivering a high quality of service.

Restaurants find new ways to take orders, accept payment

There are many ways to help curb the spread of the virus, but one of the most effective is to reduce or eliminate human interaction. For example, at most restaurants it isn't necessary to have wait staff take orders in person, tableside. Some restaurants have eliminated avoidable contact by having seated guests access menus via a QR code shown on the table and then order their meals with their phones from that online menu. Guests also pay via their phones. In essence, these restaurants are relying on ecommerce solutions for dine-in customers. Of course, this requires the restaurant to have an online menu, ordering and payment functionality.

Alternatively, some restaurants are printing QR codes on receipts, which the guest scans and is then taken to an online portal for payment. Every reduction in interaction helps, especially during the checkout process, where cash or cards are being exchanged and handled.

Retail, grocery lean into self-service

At the height of the pandemic, while most were sheltering in place, Amazon and any other retailers with an ecommerce presence saw a spike in online orders. Within the grocery vertical, online orders skyrocketed. Indeed, NMI's online checkout solution experienced a more than 300% increase in transactions since March when many states began enforcing orders to stay home. Of course, as states have reopened, customers are once again venturing out to their favorite retailers and grocery stores.

As with restaurants, retailers and grocers are trying to limit close personal contact with customers, while still providing a good overall shopping experience. They're doing this in a few different ways:

  • Self-service/checkout—Grocery chain Giant Eagle recently launched its "Scan Pay & Go" solution that arms shoppers with a handheld mobile computer they can use to scan items as they're placed in their carts. Amazon, Kroger and 7-Eleven have conducted pilots of self-service solutions where shoppers can help themselves to items and skip the checkout line by paying via their phones before leaving the store. These types of solutions reduce time spent in-store with other shoppers.
  • Kiosks—Kiosks offer consumers a unique opportunity to pay by card while avoiding interactions with a sales assistant—taking an additional physical touchpoint out of the purchase experience. In addition to self-checkout kiosks, there’s a new set of next-generation kiosks on the rise that are proving to be useful for dispensing more than just beverages or snacks, and can be used to purchase electronics, beauty products and even clothing.
  • BOPIS (buy online, pickup in-store)—Forward-thinking retailers were already adopting BOPIS strategies before COVID-19, but many have now fully embraced the model. Giving shoppers the ability to purchase items safely and conveniently from home and then pick up their orders in-store (minimizing the amount of time in-store with other people), is a winning proposition.

Contactless payments on the rise

As we mentioned in a previous blog, we live in a time when cash and even traditional card payments carry the risk of exposure to the virus. By using contactless cards or mobile wallets like Apple Pay, Samsung Pay and Android Pay, shoppers can tap and pay from their devices with minimal interaction or risk of transmission. Every merchant should be ensuring their payment solutions can accommodate contactless payments since many customers will be looking to use them going forward.

Next steps for ISOs, software developers

These solutions all have one thing in common: they make dining out and shopping safer, while also making the customer experience more convenient. In many cases, they also require some form of a technology upgrade on the part of the merchant. If you're an ISO or software developer catering to these industries, consider how you can help your customers reduce unnecessary contact while maintaining a high quality of service. If you need assistance, contact us to learn about a variety of solutions available from NMI and its partners.

NMI Team