Touchless Tech: How The Pandemic Is Changing The Way We Shop

Dec 3, 2020, 10:29 PM | Updated: Dec 4, 2020, 5:29 am

SANDY, Utah – COVID-19 has changed the way Americans buy stuff as we look for ways to shop without interacting with other people. Many companies are developing contactless payment methods to meet that growing demand, including a major convenience store chain that chose Utah as a proving ground for its new technology.

7-Eleven’s Mobile Checkout

7-Eleven’s “mobile checkout” program works with an app you download on your smartphone. You scan what you want to buy right in the aisles and then pay with your phone without having to approach a cashier. Just shop, pay, then hold your phone up to a cube called a “confirmation station” as you exit, which lets the cashiers know you’ve paid using the app.

A “confirmation cube” at a Utah 7-Eleven. (KSL-TV)

KSL took it for a spin and found it works as advertised and is certainly contactless.

“The intent of this is not to remove human interaction in our stores,” said Jolly John, 7-Eleven’s senior director of digital strategy. “It’s to allow customers to have better control over their experience so they can shop the way they want to shop.”

John said during the pandemic, customers have been clamoring for a way to get their morning cup of coffee without having to interact with cashiers, touch credit card terminals or wait in line with other customers.

KSL’s Matt Gephardt scans an item using 7-Eleven’s mobile checkout. (KSL-TV)

“It was already in the works prior to the pandemic – timing has worked out,” she explained. “The need has increased, because the customers are wanting to be contactless, to be touchless.”

Touchless Technology

7-Eleven is far from the only business looking for ways to adapt. Study after study has found tap-and-go technology is in high demand.

But one surprising study found millions of Americans have touchless technology in their wallets right now and don’t even know it.

According to a survey from CompareCards.com, nearly half of Americans did not recognize the standard symbol for “touchless payment” or “contactless payment.”

Tap-and-go technology is in high demand across the country. (KSL-TV)

“I suspect that an awful lot of people have seen that symbol which is basically just the Wi-Fi symbol kind of turned on its side, but they just don’t necessarily know what it means,” said Matt Schultz of CompareCards.com.

If that symbol is on your credit or debit card, it means you can use your card by simply holding it just above the card terminal. If the machine also has the symbol, it will process your transaction.

“The truth is that contactless is kind of perfectly built for a time like we’re in now, because you don’t have to hand that card to anybody. You don’t even necessarily have to touch the terminal,” said Schulz.

Less surprising to Schulz was that people seem to love it once they learn about it.

Once people start using it, CompareCards found 39% said it has become their preferred way to buy stuff in a brick-and-mortar store.

Often, it is faster than swiping or inserting a card and then keying in a PIN, and it is touchless and clean.

In a new survey, 39% of respondents said contactless payment has become their preferred way to buy in a brick-and-mortar store.

“That would be pretty appealing to a lot of people right now,” said Schulz.

Mobile Wallet

Keep in mind, if your current plastic does not have touchless tap-and-go capability, you can still use the technology through a mobile wallet. Most terminals that accept touchless cards will also take touchless mobile payments when you hold your phone above the credit card terminal.

Another benefit of contactless payment touted by experts is security.

Your tap-and-go card or smartphone masks your real payment information through encryption. So, even if a bad guy somehow intercepts your transaction, that encryption will make it useless to a thief.

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Touchless Tech: How The Pandemic Is Changing The Way We Shop