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You can buy, but don’t touch: How businesses can prepare for contact-free payments this holiday season

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(Image credit: Image Credit: 3112014 / Pixabay)

Throughout the past 18 months, nearly everything has been distanced – friends, relatives, shoppers, lines at grocery stores – the list goes on. The pandemic quite crudely highlighted the ways in which we were unhealthy, from how close we stood next to each other on subways (usually within 1 inch and nearly always touching) to how rarely we cleaned our phones and hands. On the bright side, it also encouraged the creation of solutions, which we didn’t know we needed, to unhygienic problems (e.g., a portable door handle hook), and hastened the adoption of other important ones – namely, digitization and contactless payment options.

The contact-free payment market has been on the rise in recent years, with nearly a quarter of millennials having used Apple Pay at least once. And, like so many other things, the pandemic sped up its adoption tenfold; in fact, the market is expected to reach $52 billion by 2027, up from $12 billion in 2019. This means that, largely, credit cards in their current form could become somewhat obsolete, and age-old association requirements such as physical companion cards during in-person shopping could be eliminated for good. Considering credit cards in their infancy were arguably the largest payment revelation of all time, this is big news – for both consumers and corporations alike.

And if businesses – both retailers and otherwise – want to ensure sales, initially from younger generations but realistically all age groups, and boost their bottom lines, they’re going to have to adapt and incorporate these new technologies and concepts of digital transformation into their systems and back-ends quickly. The holiday season is a good time to capitalize, and the months leading up to it are crucial for planning an experience that seamlessly meets customer expectations. Although the holiday season for technologists is a time of “code freeze” and non-production changes, there are steps that every organization can take to improve the small, yet meaningful, facets of their business.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind over the next in order to ensure your company is prepared ahead of the holidays:

 1. Research and prepare for incorporation of a chat commerce platform that allows both payment and two-way communications in 2022. Naturally, the platform will need to be integrated into your pre-existing infrastructure and thereby extending it from in-person (i.e., at brick-and-mortar locations) to chat payments. A recent Clickatell study found that 82 percent of millennials are looking to make purchases via apps such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, so those platforms are particularly relevant when considering adding payment solutions. Second, as far as two-way communications are concerned, many customers prefer the option to communicate with brands via SMS, which includes opting in and out of sales, requesting updates on shipping and returns, and beyond. 

2. Sync up with your dev and IT teams. Of course, before signing on the dotted line and integrating a payment platform into your back-end, both developer and IT teams should be brought into the loop early on. Even more so, a CTO or executive with a similar role should be involved in the research and vetting of the software platform providers as well – they will better understand the ins and outs, what’s needed from a technical perspective and any potential roadblocks to integration. Moving forward, your IT team will need to have access to all resources offered by the provider and be available to discuss any potential data security regulations and concerns (particularly if your brand is cross-border). Of course, customer security and safety are the most importance and will be addressed throughout the entire process. Once the integration is complete, the cybersecurity component should then be communicated thoroughly and frequently to customers in a consistent manner (see tip #4).

3. Prep your sales and customer service teams. This kind of enhanced technology changes the game for sales and customer service teams by streamlining their customer intel, while adding a layer of complexity in their ability to help. A contact-free option for payments, combined with two-way communication, provides a dramatically improved commerce experience for the customer, but also the service rep – they will now be able to solve payment questions and transactions (e.g., shipping delays, returns) directly and be more in-the-know on any potential issues that may arise. For sales folks, this is an increasingly important selling point for brands – and something that will set your company apart from the beginning.

4. Communicate the plan to your customers. A customer support integration without customer awareness isn’t helpful. Your company should be using ad, marketing, and social spend to meet customers where they are and inform them of the update. If possible, provide promotions to encourage participation; and, on the flip side, also provide an easy way for them to opt-out. Again, quality customer service is all about options for each and every consumer in your rolodex, not just Millennials or Gen Z. Remember, not every tech-savvy solution will be the best fit for all. Ultimately, this tailored approach will increase customer satisfaction and brand loyalty across the board and serve as a potential catalyst for the biggest motivator in new business – word of mouth.

5. Set your revenue goal and timeline early (and high). As we all know, some of the most cumbersome parts of technology overhauls are conversations around return on investment (ROI) and stakeholder satisfaction. Luckily, the past year and numerous research reports show us that this is the way of the future (if not the now), and return on investment will be significant, if not incremental. While a timeline on ROI may be hard to place, it’s a fact the next five years are slated to see a drastic increase in contact-free payments and omnichannel communications (particularly as Gen Z and the larger group of digital natives trickle into adulthood and the workforce). Adopting now will place you at the curve, if not slightly ahead of it.

While the above are not the only steps necessary for the successful implementation of a contact-free payment solution, they are arguably the five most important – and the ones that will ensure your entire infrastructure, employee base, and customers are informed and ready to adopt the change. Incorporating this technology will prove value from a revenue perspective and how your customers interact with you and view your brand – ultimately, as one with forward-looking solutions to everyday problems and takes into account each and every consumer’s preference.

Jeppe Dorff, Chief Product & Technology Officer, Clickatell

At Clickatell, the leader in mobile communication and Chat Commerce, Jeppe oversees Clickatell’s global footprint by delivering its Chat Commerce Platform to large and small organizations.