Touchless payments


Eliminating proximity in retail payments

Retailers are taking different measures to face the Corona virus and its economic fall-out. They turn to home delivery and adapt their locations to minimize transmission risk for customers and employees. Masks, shields, spacing… all that to get to that most important interaction: the payment. Preferably not by cash anymore, and that leaves cards and mobile wallets like Apple Pay.  But even those still require physical proximity. At worst, you need to slide your card in (or through) and punch in your PIN-code. At best, you hold your card or phone near the terminal. Very near. That is already uncomfortably close in a store, but it is even less pleasant if the person at the door is holding out a mobile terminal at arm’s length.

Get the payment onto the customer’s device

One way to eliminate these physical interactions is through email or SMS (or a social messaging channel like WhatsApp). When you order food by phone, the restaurant invariably asks for your number anyway. A pharmacy will typically have a digital address to reach you. Clothing stores signed you up to their loyalty programs years ago. If you ordered something “cash on delivery”, chances are you entered your email address somewhere.

Having or getting a digital address enables the retailer to send the customer a payment link, armed with local or international online payment options. Cards, PayPal, <Big Tech X> Pay. Or P24 in Poland, Vipps in Norway, EPS in Austria, iDEAL in the Netherlands, Klarna in Germany, M-Pesa in Kenya, etc. The customer can simply authorize the payment with the details provided by the merchant. Nothing to download, no registration, no login, no typing, no mistakes, no touch. And, no need to defer people to an e-commerce website, which a retailer may not even have.

Immediate confirmation

The critical factor here is real-time feedback and confirmation. To the customer and, crucially, to the merchant. The employee in the store or at the door can see right away that the customer paid, and hand over the products. From a distance, of course. It enables people to pay from home before going to pick up their prescription. For home delivery, it enables payment in advance, at the door, or even after the fact.

Trusted relationships

If the merchant already had a digital address, great. If not, what a great reason to obtain it and see if the customer is OK to start using that for other communications. Also consider an asynchronous messaging channel like WhatsApp, to avoid that hit or miss of picking up the phone in time to take the order.

Fraud risk is minimized by the customer expecting that particular payment request from that particular merchant in that particular timeframe. Not sure about this new restaurant? Just wait for the food to arrive before you pay.

Details matter

A great tool for such a solution comes with some more handy features: letting the customer change the amount of the payment, but only upward, to add a tip if that makes sense. And, letting the merchant add an expiration date and time for the payment link, after which payment is no longer possible. Also nice: the person receiving the email or SMS can forward it to someone else to pay. Mom or dad, for example, who do not even have to be in the same house, town or country.

How to start?

Mainly, the retail location needs a device to be online with. Laptop, tablet or even just a smartphone. Just access to a webpage to enter the amount and a digital address. Those feed into a predefined template (preferably branded with the merchant’s logo, for example), and the associated payment page has the merchant’s bank account number hardcoded. The whole thing can be up and running in days, without integration.

That does of course leave some admin to do in the evening, matching the payments to the orders they were for. But, as long as we are mostly stuck at home anyway… that seems like a small price to pay to enable safe business. Ideally, retailers would want to enable this directly from the system they normally use to register orders and calculate what people need to pay in their stores. That is also just a couple of API calls away, if that system is up for it.

Want to know even more? Watch what our COO Bart de Vries had to say about Touchless Payments at the virtual Serrala Finance Conference 2020 in this video.

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