By Shlomit Kugler, CEO, MyCheck

For all the talk lately about Contactless, it’s helpful to look at what it actually is, how this technology has developed and where it’s headed.

Contactless used to be considered by most business owners as “nice-to-have,” but not necessarily “must-have.” Each year since we started MyCheck in 2011, we thought, “This might just be the year when mobile payments takes off.” But each year, a new hurdle needed to be overcome for the contactless ecosystem to evolve to the point of widespread adoption.

The current pandemic and subsequent change in consumer behavior has undoubtedly led to the adoption of all things digital in the hospitality space. Hotels should take note and develop a strategy for how to stay ahead of the curve, both in relation to customer needs and desires and to technological advantages.

The Evolution of Contactless

In MyCheck’s early days, Google Wallet was expected to conquer the (NFC-based) mobile payments market, but in reality the adoption was poor. This was due to the users needing a supported device and the merchants needing additional hardware as well as an acquirer, a gateway that supports the transaction.

It’s important to note, too, that the adoption of mobile payments moved far more quickly in regions where cash was the primary method of financial transaction– look no further than mobile payments in Africa and India for examples. Yet in much of the word where credit card use is higher, the transition to mobile payments has been slower. This was phase one.

Phase two began when mobile payments were applied to solve specific problems. This could be placing an order from a store, a waiter adding to a customer’s tab in realtime on an app. This application of mobile payments to remove friction continues to create value today. Speaking of today, mobile payments in the time of COVID-19 have grown dramatically. This trend was evident fairly early on in the pandemic. Hotels and restaurants would need to adjust to a new way of living. Guests would continue to be very cautious, even if no risk remained, representing a long-term change in social habits.

Suddenly, mobile payments and contactless technology in general have an opportunity to help the hospitality industry address this serious concern of minimizing contact between guests and staff. This can be done without impinging upon collecting relevant guest data, sharing information, digital communication, and responding to guests’ requests. All of this contactless tech creates a more seamless experience for guests, not only making them feel safe but comfortable.

Hoteliers still want to give guests a personalized experience, while minimizing physical contact. When done right, guests get a unique, high-touch user experience without fear of being exposed to the virus. Some quick examples of how this could be implemented: For restaurants, menus can be made digital, orders can be placed via app, website, or phone, payment can be transacted the same way or via contactless terminal. In hotels, check in and out can be done digitally, guest communication can be done via chat apps, email, or website chat bots for Q&A, and food and beverage can be better integrated into the overall hotel experience.

Where Contactless is Headed

One of the fastest growing trends today is the usage of digital keys. Like mobile payments, there are significant hardware roadblocks that keep this technology from being more widely adopted (supported door locks and supported apps), but we’ve made several recent advancements like integrating mobile web and native apps to create keys and there is certain to be more in the near future.

Voice is also getting more attention. Siri, Alexa, Google, and Cortana have been a hot topic for several years now, but more recently the integrations with other technology have made voice even more powerful.

However, as hotel technology evolves, we will see two conflicting trends: The need to better know your guest and offer a highly customized experience and the guests’ desire for data privacy. GDPR, the right to be forgotten, and other data privacy movements restrict the amount and kinds of data about customers that can be collected. We will need to find a balance between the two, and find a way to continue to offer personalized experiences without intervening in personal guest data. We will likely see more queries of guests and setup configuration preferences to address this without collecting data.

It can be intimidating for a business to know where to start. The most important thing is that even small enhancements, done strategically, can have an outsized impact on guest experience. Though it may be nice to have all the new contactless solutions now, transitioning from a fully manual system to a digital one takes time.

Have faith, though, that we all have been so impacted by COVID-19 that guests will appreciate the efforts you are making as a business to make them feel more safe and at ease. Start with one contactless tool now that will bring the most benefit to your business and grow from there. Your guests want to know you’re doing your best to keep them safe and provide them with an excellent experience. Contactless is a powerful tool to help accomplish both.

Together with her 3 partners, Shlomit founded MyCheck in 2011. Shlomit is the Global CEO, responsible for managing MyCheck’s activities internationally. Shlomit was formerly an Account Supervisor with Saatchi and Saatchi Israel and prior to that, helped develop another startup while living in London. She received her Executive MBA from Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

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