The pandemic’s not over, but vital payment lessons have been learned

The pandemic’s not over, but vital payment lessons have been learned

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Retailers and restaurateurs, especially small businesses, may be breathing a sigh of relief now that 2020 has ended. But the pandemic is far from over.

The good news is SMB retail and restaurant businesses now have an advantage that they didn’t have when the pandemic began in 2020: experience. As the playing field continues to change and evolve, they can tap into their knowledge about what works when consumers choose to (or have to) engage in different ways.

Here are three of the most important pandemic lessons that expanded SMB’s knowledge of how to leverage unified payments to adapt and keep operating and generating revenues.

Consumers expect unified payment experiences across all channels. SMB merchants, some for the first time, established and strengthened their digital presence during the pandemic to meet their customers’ demands. Many discovered that an omnichannel business can’t operate efficiently with multiple payment solutions (i.e., a solution for card-present payments and a different solution for online or in-app ordering).

A single, unified commerce solution, integrated with applications that power all channels, enables the consistency that consumers want as they engage in different ways or start a shopping journey on one channel and complete it on another.

Consumers want self-service options. When COVID-19 cases are at their highest, consumers are, understandably, more cautious. Self-checkout kiosks give consumers the ability to maintain a safe social distance from cashiers and other customers waiting in line, and they can also shorten the time shoppers spend in a store.

A 2020 survey by weighing technology provider Shekel found 87% of consumers worldwide prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-service options. Kiosks with integrated unattended payment solutions enable SMB retailers to meet this demand, as well as save time for staff to conduct other business-essential tasks. Self-checkout can also help employees feel safer as close interactions with customers are minimized.

Consumers Demand Touchless Experiences. The COVID-19 pandemic has raised awareness of potential breeding grounds for viruses and bacteria. To minimize health risks, more consumers are opting for contactless payment options when they’re shopping in-store.

NMI’s recent Cost of Cleanliness survey found that 53% of consumers use contactless payments “often” or “very often,” and during the pandemic, 43% of consumers actively avoid shopping with retailers that don’t accept contactless payments.

To stay competitive, SMB retailers should adopt near-field communications (NFC)-enabled payment terminals that accept contactless payment cards and mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. Alternately, businesses can create touchless payment experiences in other ways, such as text-to-pay and QR code payment solutions.

In addition to pandemic lessons that taught SMBs about specific payment functionality, businesses also learned that, overall, their payments platform must be flexible. A unified payments platform gives SMBs the flexibility they need to meet customers where they are depending on their circumstances and make transactions as convenient and easy as possible.

It’s crucial as SMBs continue to optimize payment experiences throughout the pandemic, but it’s also a lesson that will help them stay competitive as they navigate their businesses well into the future.

Chief strategy officer,

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