Contactless payments are now possible.

How social distancing is going to affect contactless payments

I was reading an interesting article about creative ways restaurants are enforcing social distancing rules. It is tough to tell people that they cannot sit close to their loved ones or friends when they are dining, but some establishments have managed to do it in an interesting way. Its a little depressing to think about, but I have nothing but respect for the people who have found ingenious ways to enforce social distancing.

Yet, there is something that is not exactly making the rounds in the restaurant industry, and that is contactless payments. Before the pandemic, digital payment methods were not a necessity – they were nice to have, but most smaller establishments chose not to have them for different reasons.

Fast forward to July 2020, and contactless payments have become a necessity for most restaurants. In this article, I am going to reflect on the rise of contactless payments and where the technology could be in the next few years.

The rise of contactless payments in this age

Before diving into how online payments became so popular, we need to dive into how these systems work. Contactless payment systems refer to any method that allows businesses to collect payment without requiring cash or any physical contact between two people. Online payment methods cover different techniques like mobile wallets, online invoicing and biometric fingerprint cards.

The technology works differently. For example, mobile pay requires the use of Apple Pay or Android Pay to work while biometric fingerprint cards use a thumbprint as opposed to a PIN number. However, while technology differs, they all offer the same benefits. It allows people to make their payments without having to exchange cash.

While contactless payments have been growing in popularity, their use has skyrocketed in recent months because of the pandemic and social distancing rules. When the pandemic first struck, people were not only forced to stay home, but there was a lot of concern that the pathogens could live on metal surfaces like coins, which would have provided added incentive to implement alternative payment systems.

Social distancing made contactless payments a necessity. For example, in March 2020, seventy-nine per cent of people worldwide and over ninety-one per cent in Asia said they use tap-and-go payments.

However, the growth in contactless payments is more than just social distancing. To keep safe, most people could not use publicly shared devices like point-of-sale terminals and checkout counters. The contactless payment option gave people a cleaner and safer option to get what they need so they didn’t have to put their health at risk. Thanks to these modern payment systems, people have been able to obtain what they needed while keeping themselves safe.

What is the future of contactless payments looking like?

While lockdowns are lifting and restaurants are allowed to host guests within limited capacity, it is hard to imagine consumers going back to more conventional payment systems. Payments through cards and other remote systems have exposed people to the benefits of contactless payment systems.

These payment systems have allowed consumers to reap the benefits of shopping or eating at a restaurant while also keeping themselves safe. So I believe that consumers will still prefer using contactless payment systems over other options once the situation returns to normal.

For example, London saw a significant decline in the use of cash as the preferred payment method. In 2019, two out of five SMEs in the UK stated that cash was the most preferred payment method. However, in 2020, one in ten SMEs felt that cash would be the preferred payment method.

In addition to customer convenience, there is also the question of social distancing rules to consider. Restaurants need to enforce social distancing rules, and it is hard to imagine contactless payments not being part of the many options restaurant owners will use to enforce social distancing.

Preparing for the future 

How do you prepare for the future where contactless payment is going to be the norm? Easy. Restaurants must invest in the right hardware and software to make contactless payment systems a reality. EPOS systems can open up extra options for restaurant owners who are looking for an easy, cost-effective setup that will make digital payments more feasible for the business.

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