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Research Finds 12% of U.S. Population Will Only Use Contactless Payments Moving Forward

Recently, SYKES surveyed 3,000 U.S. adults to uncover how they are adapting to shifts in the consumer experience in the era of COVID-19. SYKES found that 12% of respondents say they will only use contactless payment going forward. But how, specifically, will this change in mindset affect hotels? To find out, we spoke with Hilary Hahn, Vice President of Emerging Brands + FinTech at SYKES.

Does this research indicated that hotels need to start taking payments via mobile apps instead of just cash/credit?

While most hotels already resist accepting cash payment — as it’s easier to automatically charge fees with a customer’s card on file — what our new consumer survey data suggests is that hotels that wish to offer a true digital customer experience must allow for newer digital forms of payment. 

The number of Americans who prefer contactless payment continues to grow; 12% of our respondents — more than 1 in 10 people — tell us they will only use contactless payment, relying on mobile payment apps and their digital wallet.

COVID-19 has been an unequivocal accelerator for digital transformation. Major retailers such as Nordstrom and Lululemon have already announced they will no longer accept cash. Companies who weren’t already offering methods of contactless payment are behind, and must catch up to consumer expectations — now, and in a post-pandemic world. Accepting credit cards simply isn’t enough for a growing number of consumers.

How quickly will consumers expect to see this type of payment flexibility?

Consumers expect immediate shifts. Just as we expected our favorite restaurants to offer safe takeout service practices during lockdown and now expect QR code menus, and digital contactless menus, consumers expect contactless payment to be part of the purchase experience. For more than a quarter of 2020, new digital money-management habits have been formed and it’s wise to recognize that most Americans will not be comfortable going back to a pre-pandemic payment way of life.

Will it be easy for hotels to offer this type of payment flexibility?

Many hotels had already incorporated digital check-in, check-out, and digital room keys available through their mobile apps. These options are no longer “nice to have” digital experiments or practices, but rather an expectation for Americans. This means, if they haven’t already, businesses must rethink their customer interactions — no longer asking customers for a physical credit card for validation, etc. They must implement new digital-only protocols. Think about adopting similar technology to the CLEAR biometrics TSA security experience that has been offered at most airports.

Will credit cards become a thing of the past?

Credit cards are not going away — not for a long while. There will be a marketplace for them, but we must get used to the fact that our cards will appear digitally on our phones, rather than needing to physically take them from our wallet to swipe or hand over to a retail worker. At some point, you're not going to need your physical wallet. Your wallet will eventually be completely in your personal digital device. And for service gratuities, there will be apps allowing digital tips vs cash, such as TipYo.

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About the Author

Hilary Hahn, Vice President of Emerging Brands and FinTech at SYKES, is a recognized voice in digital and customer centric experience. Follow her on Twitter at @HilaryHahnNow.

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