Facing a second pandemic surge and slow vaccine rollout, many businesses fear joining the more than 90,000 companies shuttered in the first six months of COVID-19. But businesses now have something they didn’t have last March — knowledge about changing consumer preferences and technology built to respond. In 2021, customers continue to prioritize safe and convenient shopping. Businesses can accommodate their needs with payment technology that reduces the need for in-person interaction at point of sale.

Contactless, omnichannel and unattended payment solutions provide pandemic-friendly contact-free options and e-commerce support. Although these modern payment methods have grown increasingly popular, the pandemic offers a unique opportunity to embrace new technology and accommodate short- and long-term consumer preferences.

Contactless payments enable short-term comfort and long-term convenience.

The pandemic has increased consumer anxiety about the cleanliness of cash exchanges and shared credit card devices. Recent data shows that 30% of shoppers feel uncomfortable making cash purchases, while over half of consumers have used contactless payment methods during COVID-19.

Contact-free payment reduces physical contact — and the transmission of germs. So, it’s not surprising that consumers are prioritizing safer, touch-free shopping experiences.

Contactless payments isn’t just a one-size-fits-all tool for short-term consumer comfort. With a wide range of payment options, business leaders can select the model that works best for their businesses. Tap-and-pay technology allows customers to pay by touching their smartphone or card to a reader, increasing check out speed and cutting down staff contact. Meanwhile, with QR code payment, customers access payment portals via smartphone scanners — a cost-effective contactless solution.

Though the pandemic has accelerated consumers’ preference for contactless payment, it’s a convenience they’ll expect from your business beyond 2021.

Omnichannel payments provide in-store support for online sales.

Amid the uncertainty of 2020, one thing held steady: the dominance of e-commerce. While online shopping was a staple pre-pandemic, the avoidance of in-person interactions encouraged a wider shift to digital channels.

But even as e-commerce appears to dominate, digital success is inextricably linked to brick-and-mortar. The pandemic demands convenience, and customers now rely on click-and-collect orders, in-store returns for online purchases and loyalty programs from businesses with both a physical and digital presence.

Think about how the restaurant industry has adjusted during the pandemic. Customers order and pay for food using their devices — and then use curbside pickup. Omnichannel payment systems enable curbside ordering by providing a consistent sales platform.

An investment in omnichannel payment systems enables long-term support for digital channels and frictionless shopping experiences.

Self-checkout reduces contact and cuts cost.

The pandemic accelerated interest in automated technology: According to NMI data, there is a 30% increase in opportunities for unattended solutions. Used everywhere from restaurants to parking garages, unattended payment technology supports kiosks, vending machines and even hand sanitizer dispensers.

There’s no question why automated solutions are in demand — unattended services reduce in-person interactions as customers fear another surge. Moreover, self-service kiosks offer business leaders the unique opportunity to ensure safety and convenience for customers while embracing cost-saving technology. By reducing wait times for customers and costs for small- and medium-sized businesses, self-checkout kiosks create long-term efficiencies that will remain important after the pandemic end.

Embrace technology that responds to known preferences.

As COVID continues to impact and create the potential for shutdowns, it’s critical to rely on technology that reliably meets consumer needs.

Contactless payments operate as a short-term fix during the pandemic and a long-term solution for convenience and lower expenses. Whether you opt for self checkout, omnichannel, tap-and-pay services or another solution, you can count on the fact that customers will increasingly expect contactless payments going forward.

Nick Starai is Chief Strategy Officer and one of the co-founders of NMI who played an integral role in the formation and launch of the NMI payments platform in 2001. He drives the strategic direction of the company and supports NMI’s enterprise clients and overall partner success. He also brings 17 years of experience in the payments and technology industry. He has a passion for fashion, technology, and cigars and enjoys finding unique cigar lounges when he travels.

Payment stock photo by Drazen Zigic/Shutterstock