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Contactless Operations in a Post Covid-19 World

Contactless operations have become necessary during COVID-19

As the worldwide struggle against the coronavirus pandemic continues and much of our ‘normal life’ remains on hold, organizations are attempting to traverse a fast-changing landscape. In addition to mitigating safety risks, companies that find ways to recreate the same pre-pandemic human relationships—among everyone from vendors to workers and customers—will distinguish themselves and achieve customer loyalty within a contactless future. A future that many expect to be the new normal in a post-COVID-19 world.

Moving Forward with Contactless Payments

In March 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave several interviews to different news outlets regarding COVID-19. In one of those interviews given to YouTuber Philip DeFranco, Dr. Fauci advocated using cashless payments for item deliveries and pickups.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made people increasingly sensitive about their hygiene, which seems to be fueling contactless payments, with many shoppers and merchants refraining from the use of cash. Contactless payments are expected to be the new normal as the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed how people buy goods, with many businesses being forced to make the switch to online sales and cashless operations.

According to a MasterCard study that surveyed consumers in 19 countries, shoppers worldwide are quickly adjusting to social distancing controls, with more than 75 percent using contactless payments. More than 80 percent see contactless as the safest way to make payments. Additionally, the pace of tap and pay is seen as an advantage as it enables consumers to move in and out of stores more quickly, avoiding unnecessary contact with other shoppers.

With 74 percent of the respondents saying they will continue using contactless as the preferred option after the pandemic is over, it is evident that the shift towards cashless operations will continue beyond the virus.

Why Contactless Operations Are Needed to Cope With the Effects of COVID-19

Contactless operations have kept economies going during the COVID-19 pandemic while allowing people to minimize their exposure to the virus. Contactless payment is regarded as the most hygienic and secure way to make proximity payments. Marketplace players are reinforcing this by changing their brand message from contactless payments for greater convenience to ensuring health and safety with ‘no-touch’ transactions.

POS contactless digital payments, such as Near-field Communications (NFC), Quick Response (QR) codes, or facial recognition, limit the spread of the virus through cash exchanges. On the other hand, e-commerce limits purchases made in-person to ensure that customers can buy the items they need sitting at home.

Not only has the virus forced people to make purchases from their homes, but it has also forced a change in their payment methods. Those who were suspicious of cashless payments before coronavirus has no choice but to rely on them now. Customers who were only comfortable paying through cash-on-delivery are now trying contactless methods.

From items like groceries to electronics, people have been ordering online many times more than before. This is evident from the surge in grocery delivery apps recently. Walmart Grocery, Shipt, and Instacart have recently recorded between a 124% and 218% increase in their delivery app downloads.

Lastly, contactless operations have made it possible for businesses to keep their sales flowing during an uncertain time. For example, a company named Detrack has adopted a fully contactless process for deliveries. From the mapping of routes to alerting customers of their deliveries, they have adopted a digital process.

As a result, their customers no longer need to sign for deliveries by hand, and drivers don’t need to attend in-person briefings. And, of course, they’ve instituted contactless payments as part of the process. All of these constitute the best practices for integrating contactless operations to deal with a post-COVID-19 reality.

Working Effectively Across Silos

As the world moves towards contactless operations, businesses will have to work across silos to deliver secure, end-to-end workforce and consumer experiences while retaining the integrity of their brands through their organizational changes.

A contemporary, data-driven viewpoint, referred to as IDEA, can provide a critical framework and objectivity in helping an enterprise identify challenges, determine their severity, and develop approaches that iteratively resolve them as external factors evolve.

Proposed by McKinsey, IDEA comprises of four steps that help companies facilitate contactless operations from identifying risks to solution implementation. These four steps include:

1. Identifying Interactions—knowing how in-person interaction is happening within your value chain.

2. Diagnosing and Prioritizing Risks—defining the risks related to each type of interaction/contact and then prioritizing risks based on factors such as severity and frequency.

3. Developing and Executing Solutions—determining the most effective intervention types for your business and then executing solutions based on this finding.

4. Adapting and Sustaining—working across the enterprise to continually adapt solutions to the constantly changing global scenario.

Ensuring Contactless Deliveries

One of the most important aspects of contactless operations is ‘no contact’ deliveries. In order to make the delivery process safer and more efficient, automated operations, including digital billing and contactless delivery, must be made the norm. This doesn’t just apply to delivering the order to the customer but also dropping off freight to warehouses and loading docks.
The good news is that AI-enabled self-driving trucks and delivery drones are already a reality. The need for them has just become manifold due to COVID-19. Take the example of UDI (Unity Drive Innovation), a Shenzhen-based startup. They have self-driving vans that are delivering groceries during the pandemic.

Additionally, a Chinese-based delivery service Meituan has adjusted its food delivery software to fully prevent in-person interaction between their customers and the drivers delivering the food. Instead, customers just add a note to the order that specifies a particular delivery place where the food can be dropped off safely. This allows customers to get their food without having to engage with the driver.

More companies should follow suit and automate any areas of delivery that they can. They can do this with the right technology, cloud computing, and remote software development teams.

Prioritizing Data-Driven Platforms

Knowing that COVID-19 will be here for a few months at least, you will have to pull up your socks before reopening your store or resuming business operations. Not only will you need to open up with fewer workers, but you will have to stack up on the technology that can make a meaningful difference in your business. The need to find out what technology is working and what isn’t has never been greater.

Why is that? The following statistics pertaining to restaurant operations provide some answers:

53 percent of consumers are adding more mobile apps to reduce their contact with on-site staff
37 percent of restaurant owners believe customer order to be the most important technology area to develop in the next five years
95 percent of restaurant owners believe that technology increases the productivity of business operations

Before you fully resume business operations, you should find out the following about your current tech solutions to enable a contactless future that adds value:

• Does it offer a good return on investment? Is it all paying for itself?
• Will it allow you to increase your profits, or will it make it harder for you to concentrate on your business’s profitability component?
• Does it ensure access to required data when needed?
• Does it combine well with the other solutions in your technology stack?

Ideally, your tech stack should include solutions that can reduce the time spent on administrative tasks by doing the work of multiple workers. Indeed, with fewer workers, you may not have sufficient resources to handle and optimize the full potential of what you’re investing in. With the COVID-19 pandemic limiting profits, it has become vital to find out whether or not a technology is critical to operating your business.

My recommendation would be to prioritize data-driven platforms such as inventory management, POS, and CRM systems. These systems are useful for monitoring user/visitor data, generating sales, and getting easy access to cost-control resources. They will provide you with quick access to easily understandable data and can be used across your business.

Increasing Use of Cloud Solutions and Remote Software Development Teams

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has transformed business and consumer behavior, allowing trends that align with remote work and changing needs to take center stage. The deployment of cloud infrastructure and solutions is one of them.

Cloud is playing a key role in allowing companies and governments to rapidly implement solutions to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and ensure continuity. For many businesses, using cloud solutions is all about securely facilitating work-from-home (WFH).

Even if you already had a WFH facility in place before the coronavirus outbreak, you will need to increase the number of servers to efficiently support the growing numbers of employees working from home. With cloud solutions, you can easily scale up and down within a short period, whenever needed, to support your current needs and spend on only what’s necessary.

In addition to cloud technology, a flexible workforce, such as a remote, outsourced software development team can help you build and grow tech solutions for contactless operations. Hiring remote software developers is the best way to complete software, mobile, or web projects during the current pandemic. Not only does outsourcing reduce development costs, but it also allows you to focus on your core competencies.

Today, you can reach outsourced software development teams spread across the globe with a click of a button. This will prove invaluable in the coming months and years as businesses, individuals, and governments come to terms with the new normal of contactless operations.

The Contactless Operations Best Practices During and Post COVID-19

Knowing that COVID-19 will be here for a few months at least, you will have to pull up your socks before reopening your store or resuming business operations. Not only will you need to open up with fewer workers, but you will have to stack up on the technology that can make a meaningful difference in your business. Most of this technology is focused on the following best practices for contactless operations:

1. Maintaining Social Distance

Business operations must be planned in a way that reduces the risk of spreading the virus. This means that customers need to be kept out of stores and away from each other at safe distances.
With this in mind, retailers should look to make the buying experience for shoppers as safe and stress-free as possible — and this is where a contactless pickup system comes in. The main benefit of such a system is that it keeps shoppers outside the store, reducing the risk of contamination for both consumers and the staff inside the store handling pickups.

2. Minimizing Contact Upon Delivery

In a post-COVID-19 world, the technology that eliminates the need for drivers to hand in their devices for the signature to customers is needed to keep employees safe and prevent them from transmitting the disease to other customers.

In order to make the delivery process safer and more efficient, automated operations, including digital billing and contactless delivery, must be made the norm. This doesn’t just apply to delivering the order to the customer but also dropping off freight to warehouses and loading docks.

The good news is that AI-enabled self-driving trucks and delivery drones are already a reality. The need for them has just become manifold due to COVID-19. Take the example of UDI (Unity Drive Innovation), a Shenzhen-based startup. They have self-driving vans that are delivering groceries during the pandemic. More companies can follow suit and automate any areas of delivery that they can.

3. Providing a Convenient and Safe Way for Processing Card Transactions

Contactless payments are needed for more than just protecting your employees and customers from possible exposure to the virus. They are also needed to increase the speed and security of your transactions.

Allowing customers to make a transaction by simply waving their smartphone over the payment system is an additional safety measure that can help prevent the transmission of the virus as well as provide customers strong protection against both the virus and fraud.

Bottom Line

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, contactless operations are fast becoming the norm. Businesses that make the greatest headway in both the adoption of contactless operations and implementation of technology that enables them to stand to benefit the most in a post-COVID-19 world

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