Previously considered a niche or a nice-to-have option at best by U.S. consumers, contactless experiences have become absolutely essential during the COVID-19 pandemic. Everything from virtual telemedicine appointments to contactless delivery and payment systems have seen usage skyrocket in 2020.
Given that businesses and customers alike are taking advantage of contactless experiences for their own safety right now, this isn’t exactly surprising.
But a GetApp survey of nearly 1,000 consumers tells us that not only will contactless experiences remain important long after the pandemic is over—they will become a deciding factor in who customers decide to do business with. (See our survey methodology at the bottom of this page.)
In this article, we’ll dive into the results of our survey to understand why it’s important for your business to support great contactless experiences long-term. If your business is struggling with contactless experiences, we’ll also offer advice on how to improve these experiences and keep customers coming back.
Contactless experiences are here to stay
Key finding: While less than half of consumers (45%) considered contactless experiences important before the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly double that number (82%) say those experiences will be important when the pandemic is over.
Nearly all small businesses (92%) have had to reinvent themselves to stay open during this pandemic. If you’ve had to hastily implement contactless experiences to cater to customer needs—be it curbside pickup service, contactless payment options, or otherwise—you’re certainly not alone.
If you expect interest in these experiences to return to “normal” levels post-pandemic, though, you're mistaken. Our data shows we’ll enter a new normal, as 82% of customers tell us the availability of a contactless experience from businesses will still be important when the pandemic is over. That’s nearly double the amount that felt this way before the pandemic (45%).
Though the health and safety aspects of contactless experiences have taken center stage this year, consumers have noticed other, more long-term benefits.
Take transaction speed, for example. A majority of those who say that contactless experiences are important say it’s because they’re quick (59%). They’re right. A March study found consumers using curbside pickup completed their shopping trips 35% faster than shopping in-store. Contactless payments are also much faster compared to chip-enabled credit cards.
Even more consumers in our survey (67%) highlight that contactless customer experiences are important because they’re easy to use.
In other words, consumers found more opportunities to use contactless experiences this year, discovered unexpected benefits, and now they want more.
Gen Z is the contactless generation
Key finding: Gen Z consumers are more likely than any other generation to consider contactless experiences important and are also more likely to switch businesses to those with better contactless experiences.
This long-term appetite for contactless experiences isn’t the same across the board. For example, here’s how that 82% figure on the importance of contactless experiences from the previous section breaks down by generation:
The younger the consumer, the more likely they are to consider contactless experiences to be important after the pandemic is over. Gen Z in particular puts a ton of value in contactless experiences with 9 in 10 saying they consider them important.
That’s not all. Gen Z is also the generation most willing to take action if their experiences aren’t up to par. When asked if they’re likely to switch retailers or service providers to ones with better contactless experiences, 9 in 10 Gen Z consumers say they are.
Short-term, this means that the younger your consumers tend to be, the more they’ll scrutinize your contactless experiences, and the higher the risk is if you don’t deliver. There’s long-term implications to consider too: As Gen Z and subsequent generations begin to make up a larger share of consumers, all businesses will have to deal with heightened expectations around their contactless experiences.
The stakes are high. Yet many businesses—especially small businesses—aren’t able to keep up with this sudden shift.
Inconsistent contactless experiences drive customers away to big businesses
Key finding: Consumers say most industries aren’t able to deliver consistently positive contactless experiences. They add that larger chains are doing a better job than small businesses.
We know consumers want contactless experiences for the foreseeable future, but are businesses able to deliver? Not always. In fact, the data gathered by GetApp shows many businesses have a lot of ground to cover.
When we asked respondents to select all of the industries that have delivered consistently positive contactless experiences, only two—retail (54%) and restaurants (52%)—were selected by a majority of respondents, and just barely so. eCommerce, an industry that relies almost entirely on positive contactless experiences, was only selected by 34%.
Many businesses unexpectedly had to quickly implement contactless solutions this year, and they can attest that there are multiple challenges to delivering a consistent contactless experience:
Consistency at transaction: Customers expect to be able to easily complete contactless transactions regardless of what device they’re on (laptops vs. smartphones), what access point they use (websites vs. dedicated apps), or what channel partner they interact with (working directly with your business vs. a third party).
Consistency at payment: “Cash or credit” is no longer acceptable—the options for payment have broadened considerably from contactless cards (Visa) to mobile wallets (Apple Pay), wire transfers, and digital currencies (Bitcoin).
Consistency at delivery or pickup: Shipping companies, overwhelmed by increased demand, aren’t meeting expected delivery dates. The variability in pickup processes from business to business is also causing confusion among some consumers.
Though customers showed some patience for inconsistencies at the beginning of the pandemic, our data shows this patience is wearing thin. Remember our earlier generational breakdown of the likelihood to switch businesses based on contactless experiences? When confronted with a bad experience, three in four consumers (75%) say they are very or somewhat likely to switch retailers or service providers to those with better contactless services.
And where are consumers going to get these better contactless experiences? Big businesses. When asked which businesses have made the best impression on them with their contactless services, large stores such as Walmart (32%) and large eCommerce companies such as Amazon (24%) were mentioned more often than small stores (19%) or small eCommerce companies (20%).
The writing is on the wall for small businesses: Improve your contactless experiences, or lose your customers to your bigger, more technically-enabled competitors.