Is Contactless the New Mobile- and Voice the Ultimate Contactless?
By Glen Sarvady
It was only a few years ago that I recall BIG’s Resident Visonary John Best counseling credit union leaders regarding their digital strategies, “If you don’t build out your mobile platform, you might as well not bother with digital.” It was a controversial statement at the time, but it’s now conventional wisdom. The hand-held device has become the go-to channel for members across a wide array of demographics, surpassing the desktop for engagement volume.
But commerce never stands still, and the COVID-19 pandemic has given digital migration another jolt forward. “Contactless” is the new buzzword. Many consumers have become skittish over transacting in cash at the point of sale. Whether these fears are borne out by science is beside the point- perception often trumps reality in these situations. Even more interesting, however, is how an act as simple as the handoff of a credit card has become frowned upon. Consider how a gloved hand now extends a POS terminal for a drive-through customer to insert their card. Now consider how bizarre this interaction would have seemed just four months ago.
Even largely contactless interactions are suddenly being scrutinized. How often is the key pad on that ATM machine being wiped down, for instance, and didn’t I just see the guy in front of me cough through his withdrawal? Even PIN debit touch screens at grocery stores are viewed warily by some.
Of course, smartphone-resident digital wallets- including apps like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay- can deliver a truly contactless experience. And even if a payment app requires tapping on a phone screen, people are understandably more comfortable revisiting their own germs. These digital wallets have not yet reached mass adoption, but COVID has certainly created an environment ripe for a quick uptick. Credit unions are well aware of the importance of “top of wallet” status for their payment cards; heightened interest in contactless should serve as a wake-up call to promote “top of app” standing as well, ensuring that card credentials are loaded into the digital wallets that will comprise an increasing share of transaction volume.
For a truly contactless experience, however, is there a better model than voice? Banks and credit unions are already experimenting with Amazon Alexa and Google Home capabilities, most often deployed from the comfort of their residences. This works well for bill payment and balance queries today, but it’s hardly a stretch to envision these capabilities extended to vehicles, soon making it relevant for point of sale purchases.
It may be too early to declare “If you don’t build out your voice platform, you might as well not bother with digital.” At a bare minimum, however, credit unions should stake their claim ASAP to reserve their brand identity on voice channels. Otherwise they could find themselves re-living the late 90s web headaches of discovering some troll has already poached their natural URL.