Finding Just the Right Touch in a Touchless World
By Nancy Walter, Senior Strategy & Implementation Manager & Amy Perifanos, VP, Strategy & Implementation, Gongos, Inc.
In a few short months, we’ve moved from being a society where touch was a valued currency to welcome people into our sphere and get jobs done, to one that is functionally touchless. Today we need to get the same jobs done, while protecting people from a voracious virus. With technological advancements and the need to innovate and progress while providing safety, we’re heading toward living a touchless life.
It’s almost uncanny how many communal surfaces we touch in a day—elevator buttons, school lockers, computers at FedEx, doorknobs, handrails, bathroom faucets and toilet flushers, gas pumps, grocery carts…the list goes on. When buying products or services, we hand over cash, key in rewards numbers, use ATMs, hand credit cards back and forth, and have been taught to reuse grocery bags. This is not to mention the shared economy—Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, scooter shares, delivery services. It’s no wonder that hands are responsible for transmitting an estimated 80% of infectious diseases.
While transactional technology and innovation was once all centered around security and privacy, over the last two months the conversation has quickly shifted to a different type of safety for most consumers—their health and the health of their families. This shift is particularly important in the U.S., where 2% of transactions were touchless in 2019 versus a country like Australia where 90% of small purchases were touchless.
Here are just a few examples:
- As of late March, 22% of connected consumers globally used a digital wallet (e.g. Apple Pay) to buy at least one product in a physical store.
- Two-thirds of U.S. consumers are using self-checkout and 87% would prefer to shop in stores with touchless or robust self-checkout options.
- South Korea has a seen a 30% increase in card and mobile payments between January and February.
But this also means, if we can’t touch keypads, we can’t touch people. In fact, physical separateness from other people is the best way to reduce the spread of a virus. Social distancing just doesn’t offer the same joy and faith in the future that touchless options do. In fact, right now many of us crave more contact than an elbow bump after several months of limited hugs and handshakes.
When you’re talking about people versus keypads, “touch starvation” is a real thing that can actually alter the neurons and hormones in a person’s brain and lead to isolated feelings, depression, and anxiety. Sheltering in place necessarily means that 14 million single-person households in the U.S. are touchless, when they need to be touchful. Over one-fourth of people older than 60 years live alone in the U.S. (Read more on the important topic of loneliness.)
Building toward a Touchless and Touchful Business
Winning in the new normal will require companies to support a functionally touchless and emotionally touchful world. It requires deep understanding of your customer and employee needs, and a commitment to innovation and improvement beyond current business models to reimagine consumer fulfillment. Here’s some inspiration on how other companies are transforming:
- Improve business models: Mastercard raised the limits for contactless payments in 29 countries and is removing the need for a PIN to allow more contactless payment.
- Reimagine customer and employee experience: Sam’s Club concierge service allows people to access “Shop from Your Car” service. Seniors and other at-risk members pull up to a special area in the parking lot, are given sanitized tablets to use for making an order, then an associate shops for them and delivers the items to the car.
- Navigate short-term needs (hugs) before long term issues are resolved (a vaccine): Fox Trail Senior Living Center in Virginia bought “safe suits” to allow relatives to hug residents safely on “Squish Day” each week. The costumes include a shark, hippo, unicorn, minions, and the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, which are sanitized after each use.
How will you reimagine your business in the new touchless world? One thing is for sure – you must be in tune with your customers to ensure their experiences are as emotionally in touch as they are functionally touchless. Once you do this, you will find that it will satisfy both their foundational needs for safety and security, while at same time, provide them with a sense of belonging that transcends the world as we know it today.