Staying Connected With Retail And Hospitality Customers Through Contactless Tech
Chief Marketing Officer, Zebra Technologies www.zebra.com.
Retailers, restaurateurs, hotels and other businesses centered on providing hospitable experiences know better than most how challenging it has become to connect to customers in recent months.
For the most part, interactions have become purely transactional as people keep their distance. Customers who walk into brick-and-mortar stores or restaurants these days tend to be focused on getting what they need and getting out as quickly as possible. Some curbside customers don’t even crack their windows to say hello, and instead resort to a friendly wave through the window. And workers delivering food, groceries and parcels to customers’ homes may never see the people they’re serving since many wait until the delivery person has left before retrieving their items. In-person interactions today are brief.
Though this level of avoidance would have been considered rude before the pandemic, most people now accept deliberate physical distancing and limited dialogue as necessary, for now. There’s an appreciation and respect for others’ cautiousness when interacting in person, as we all do our part to curb the spread of the virus. However, there’s a difference between creating distance and disengaging altogether.
The customer experience remains a top influencer in consumers’ shopping and dining decisions, and businesses’ ability to sustain operations long term is dependent on their ability to meet each customer’s unique needs. Although connecting with customers in person has been a challenge, we’re seeing some of our clients apply our contactless, mobile tech solutions in creative ways to help recapture more intimate interactions and deliver personalized experiences from a safe distance.
In my opinion, one of the most profound ways to show customers you understand their current needs is to allow them to scan items as they grab them — either on their own devices via an app or using personal shopping devices you provide in the store (and sanitize after each use) — for mobile device checkout from anywhere in the building. Customers could then either scan a credit card (if using your device) or tap to pay using a linked payment account wherever they’re standing to avoid the checkout lane.
By syncing loyalty program memberships in the app or on the device and enabling digital coupon redemption, you’ll be able to continue to provide the expected customer experience. Another option is to install barcode scanners at each checkout lane to allow guests who prefer to pay at a register to still make a contactless payment.
Personalized Digital Experiences
Whether you provide mobile devices for guests while shopping or dining, or you simply direct them to use an app on their own devices, make sure you’re personalizing digital interactions. Greet them by name when they log in to your device, or use near-field communications (NFC) to sense — and acknowledge — when they walk through the door. Immediately retrieve the shopping lists saved to their profiles, and correlate them with a map of your store or property to help customers navigate quickly and safely, and integrate personalized promotions associated with either their current list or order history.
Fast Voice Assistance
Make sure your solution offers a push-to-call or more instant push-to-talk (PTT) feature so that customers can request staff assistance from afar. Retail customers can use it to see if an item not on the shelf is available in the backroom, call when they’ve arrived for their buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS) order or request assistance at checkout. Diners can use it to request refills or notify servers about issues with their orders, and hotel guests can use it to request concierge assistance.
Remember, the goal is to deliver safe, efficient customer experiences in order to preserve customer loyalty and revenue. With contactless solutions, customers shouldn’t have to go through a formal checkout line or interact with an associate to enjoy the full brand experience.
Two Things To Think About When Implementing Contactless Solutions
Though most of the software and hardware needed to deliver contactless experiences is fairly simple to roll out, be sure to consider:
1. Accessibility And Ease Of Use
If customers can’t build a basket, make a payment, redeem loyalty rewards or call for assistance in a few steps, they may not use your solution. And if customers only have flip phones — or they don’t have a phone — they won’t benefit from smartphone apps.
Ensure you think about how you will serve all customers, regardless of their technical acumen or personal device access. And make sure customers trust your solution. Show them how you’re protecting their privacy (via anonymous logins or unique identifiers) and keeping them safe overall (via hands-free facial recognition or visible disinfection of shared devices).
2. Solution Management
Even the most basic mobility solutions must be configured, secured, monitored and maintained to enterprise-grade standards, even if you’re a small business with fewer than 10 employees. You can’t afford to take shortcuts when you’re collecting personal info, such as addresses and credit card info. Concurrently, if your mobility solution goes down for any reason — if a device isn’t set up correctly, the software is slow to load or a network connection is lost — your entire operation can come to a screeching halt.
If people can’t pay, they will walk out empty-handed. Even a few hours offline can wreak havoc for months. So, if you don’t have the resources to properly configure and manage the hardware and software used to deliver contactless experiences, enlist the help of a third-party managed services provider.
Remember: You may be implementing contactless solutions for safety’s sake today, but when implemented strategically and thoughtfully, the convenience they provide can improve the customer experience and reduce labor burdens long after the pandemic.
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