Wednesday 24 June 2020 4:20 pm

Businesses must avoid becoming the avoided

On top of a tragic human toll, the COVID-19 pandemic has battered businesses – especially small ones. This is evidenced by the United Kingdom’s April 2020 gross domestic product, which experienced its largest drop in a single month in history, falling 20.4%. As restrictions stemming from the pandemic lift and people emerge from their homes – where many of them have been for more than three months – these businesses face multiple challenges.

Being allowed to open and have customers in their stores and restaurants is only the first hurdle for businesses looking to get back on their feet. One of the biggest societal changes to emerge from this global pandemic will be newfound hygiene anxiety, as people across the globe pay much more attention to what they touch and look for opportunities to avoid exposing themselves to germs. 

Many consumers will avoid small, enclosed spaces (see: shops and restaurants) altogether, so in order to avoid becoming the avoided, businesses must take steps to reduce the spread of germs within their locations. 

Looking for answers

Business owners everywhere know they must clean up their acts to survive in the new hygiene-anxious economy. Far and wide, we have already seen the creative use of outdoor space in dining and retail as a means of alleviating customers’ concerns and reducing the spread of germs. But for businesses in multi-seasonal climates, the clock is ticking. Eventually, the warm weather of summer will give way to autumn and winter and by then, businesses must already have figured out how to serve customers indoors. 

For indoor business to work, customers and employees must touch fewer surfaces and have the option to stay socially distant. Knowing this, many businesses are deploying touchless technology to both eliminate touch and increase convenience by moving their businesses onto customers’ mobile phones. This touchless technology uses QR codes and new audio QR codes to send instructions to different devices. The best part is that its applications are only limited by your imagination – if it is information or has a button, it can probably be presented on or controlled by someone’s smartphone.

Where might you see this kind of technology? Allow me to illustrate a few scenarios for you.

You own a shop. You use touchless technology already via near-field communication (NFC) “Tap and go” at your point of sale. However, your card or phone have to be within 4cm, whereas an audio QR can let customers make contactless payments from up to 7m away, exponentially further than the 4cm. This allows you and your employees to experience social distancing at the point of sale or reduce the time you are within 2m of each other. Businesses without this technology will find it incredibly challenging if not outright impossible.

You have a restaurant. Your customers enter the restaurant and see an audio QR decal and open the App,  it magically displays the menu so your customers can review and place their orders on their phones, meaning customers and servers are no longer passing physical menus back and forth. Your customers then use the app, with touchless solutions, to pay their bill – no more customers handing their credit or debit cards to servers, nor servers handing a frequently-touched mobile point of sale machine to customers. By eliminating the exchange of visible items like menus and cards, you also eliminate the exchange of invisible germs, not to mention mix ups in orders.

You run a hotel. You use touchless technology to allow guests to control every part of their stay from their phone – check in, hold valet tickets, control elevators, change the channel in their rooms, order room service, check out. Each one of those things could be touched by however many guests you have in your hotel, but instead you use touchless technology to eliminate all of those touchpoints and the inherent exchange of germs. You want to enhance your guests’ travel, not germs’ travel.

You own an apartment building. You know germ reduction has vaulted to the top of many prospective tenants’ checklist of concerns, and you know your elevator – a confined and frequently-traveled space – is a hotbed. You can integrate your elevator with touchless technology to let your tenants control it from their phones, removing everyone’s need to touch the physical buttons and reducing downtime and maintenance caused by people using pens and keys to press the buttons. 

Are you getting the picture?

Making this a reality

In addition to making places much more sanitary, this will also make customer experiences a lot more convenient by turning their phones into universal remotes. As luck would have it, making things more convenient for customers has always been an integral part of generating and retaining customers, so business owners can take comfort knowing that really, they are just working to solve an issue that they have been working on all along: the need to bring in more customers and look after them better.

As restrictions lift, touchless solutions can help businesses bring customers back in, but only if those customers know businesses have taken these steps to address their hygiene concerns. Similar to the Visa or Mastercard decals you see at points of sale, decals signaling the presence of touchless technology can help businesses inform customers of their options. 

There is no question the pandemic has greatly damaged U.K. businesses, but that means there is only one way to go: up. As more and more businesses reopen, the future is promising. Foot traffic in retail establishments across the country jumped 45% immediately after widespread reopenings. We all know the trajectory that we would like our businesses to take, and adopting  technology to address consumers’ and employees’ biggest concerns is certain to be a huge part of achieving that.

For More information contact Founder & CEO Minfo Global minfo.com or rstorti@minfo.com

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