Going Touchless

Going Touchless 1920 1280 Chute Gerdeman

Removing friction from the buying process has been at the forefront of retail and restaurant experiences for the last 5 years. From mobile ordering and delivery to the AmazonGo model, we’ve seen significant changes in operations that are removing any strain for consumers. The current state of social distancing has forced us all to shop online, order takeout, and buy online while picking up in store, meaning the removal of friction is more important than ever. It has businesses fighting through the constraints of the current crisis to minimize the damage to their bottom lines. Some brands have been caught without a seamless option, which has left them scrambling to get apps and mobile options together to meet the rapidly evolving consumer demand.

In the post COVID-19 world we believe customers will have heightened awareness about their shopping environments and how safe they are at every touchpoint. The result will be brands doubling down on Touchless Experiences.

Mobile Connectivity

We’ll see brands, specifically QSR/Fast Casual restaurant and grocery segments, shift to mobile only ordering and pick-up/delivery. Northeastern Grocer, Fairway Market, who has recently launched mobile scan and pay through their app has seen a 300% increase in users. Focusing on the mobile offer and the seamless service consumers receive, mobile ordering will increase drastically in the coming months. As consumers become more accustomed to this social distanced transaction model, we believe it will become a preferred form of purchasing. This will force brands that lack a strong technology offer to move quickly in order to meet these new consumer expectations. It will also encourage brands to increase and enhance the services offered through their mobile and digital touchpoints.

Drive-thru Business

We believe we’ll see an increase in drive-thru only pickup as a preferred method of engagement for both consumers and brands. With new reports of Starbucks considering drive-thru only, we see the strong potential for this becoming a standard method of operation for certain brands and retailers.

For years, brands have been asking the question, “How do you make the drive-thru interesting? How do you make it a real experience?” With the added pressure to attract and maintain brand affinity, we’ll see brands engaging in new ways for those customers that choose to shop from their cars in the coming weeks and months.

Thought starters that might spark a creative idea for your business:

  • To express your brand in a meaningful way during the drive-thru experience, think about entertainment and brand dialogue while consumers are waiting in the queue. Create a unique and engaging experience—rethink the norm.
  • If your drive-thru is adjacent to your building, there’s likely an untapped canvas for meaningful messages that can connect to your shopper… use that valuable real estate to communicate with your shopper while they patiently wait their turn.
  • Add-ons and plus-ups are perfect for that drive-thru experience and help with sales lift. Incorporate a grab-and-go option right in the drive-thru.
  • Airports have “cell phone waiting lots.” What’s happening in your parking lot? Is it a sea of concrete? Perhaps consider making it into an oasis for waiting. Landscaping, lighting, hospitality. Treat the parking lot as the lobby into your experience.
  • What’s old is new again. Sonic and other “retro” brands have maintained a “drive-in” business for years. Can your brand capitalize on an in-car hang space for your guest?
  • Fuel your customers’ use of your mobile app and mobile web destinations by utilizing gaming technology and AI to unlock new rewards and activities during each visit.
  • Combine your product delivery with another service that satisfies and delights your shopper while they wait. Maybe a quick, touchless car wash shows up in your drive-thru lane, or you partner with a local brand to deliver their product in a safe environment.
  • Enable pre-shopping through digital and mobile channels and offer sampling, cross-sells, and upsells based on the products that your consumers are ordering/shopping.

And if your shoppers don’t have a car? Consider “walk-up” and “walk-thru” experiences for that pedestrian shopper, especially in urban centers. While you can’t deliver the complete experience, you can still provide a window into your brand and a valuable service.

Self-serve equates to self-care. Various contactless self-service technologies have been adopted over the past three months in China including face mask vending machines, hot meal vending containers, and Self-service takeout pick-up lockers.

– Retail Customer Experience


What is unlikely to subside is the current penchant for cleanliness, experts say. A whopping 87% of U.S. shoppers prefer to shop in stores with “touchless or robust self-checkout options,” for example, while more than two-thirds are using some form of self-checkout.

-Retail Dive

In-Store Experience

Bye-bye unsanitary kiosks! Even prior to the pandemic, restaurants have been getting flack for their use (and the cleanliness of) in-store kiosks. Yes, consumers like the convenience of ordering efficiency and not having to wait in line, but fears of what lies on the kiosk have grown—especially with reports of fecal matter found in some of the largest restaurant chains in the world. As cleanliness becomes a top priority, handsfree ordering direct from a human or through a personal mobile device will be the preferred form of interaction.

Though we believe consumers will once again look to social environments to share in conversation and human connection, they will choose environments that have adopted their new habitual preferences. Looking for spaces that are not confined and brands that communicate their cleanliness practices will become an emerging priority and we believe the early winners in the return to retail will show that they’ve considered this as the doors swing back open.

Thought starters that might spark a creative idea for your business:

  • Team training will be key to communicating brand messaging around cleanliness. Though many brands have standards, it’s time for them to be clear to the consumer. Through digital training tools you can gamify the entire experience to effectively train employees not only the best way to create a safe and healthy environment, they can learn how best to communicate those practices to their patrons and shoppers as well.
  • Sanitary stations and out-of-bathroom hand washing options will become in-demand. Showing how brands are supporting cleanliness habits will only build trust with worrisome consumers.
  • Consider new product packaging and containers that require fewer touches and less handling. Your shopper will appreciate it when they unpack their order at home.

“In these unprecedented times, we recognize the need to make our customers trips to the stores faster and more efficient,” Todd Jones, CEO of Publix, said in the release. “By expediting this [contactless] payment option, we will help customers reduce contact with commonly used surfaces like PIN pads.”

– Retail Customer Experience

More from the Preparing for Next series

Bookable Experiences

With businesses shuttered across the country, extraneous spending being curbed, and personal services being postponed due to stay-at-home orders, “access” could take on a whole new meaning as we start to emerge from the crisis and get back to business.


A collection of insights research and observations across retail, restaurant, c-store and grocery. Helping brands provide a better experience for their customers. Enjoy.

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