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Contactless payments must evolve from 'how' to 'why'

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Some organizations around the world have advised consumers to avoid cash transactions and to instead switch to contactless payments to deter the transmission of coronavirus.

While most of us intuitively acknowledge that money is dirty, there is a lack of research and expert consensus about the actual risk of viral transmission with cash or credit card transactions. According to one study conducted by the researchers at Queen Mary University in London, credit cards can be just as contaminated as cash. The study indicated that one in 12 bank cards had traces of infectious bacteria.

This research notwithstanding, we are living in unique times with fear surrounding coronavirus. Whether you are telecommuting more often, traveling less, or your barista is visibly cringing as you hand over your credit card, you are likely seeing real-life examples of how this epidemic is starting to impact everyday behaviors.

If this current environment of heightened apprehension persists, contactless payments, and the contactless economy overall, will see a boost in awareness and demand.

As part of our work at The Futurist Group, we collect thousands of structured product reviews from consumers about current and emerging payment products. Our research is ongoing and unique in its focus on assessing the relative importance of all payments features that are on the market today. Given these unique times, we have analyzed the impact of coronavirus on consumer sentiment and perceived importance of contactless credit card technology.

On March 3, the same day that the WHO issued their advisory, 38% of consumers evaluating a credit card offer with a contactless feature indicated that this feature is a table stake need, a 26.6% increase compared to a prior period.

While this is early data, and more time is needed to assess the real and lasting impact on consumer behavior, this is an indication that the tipping point for contactless usage in the U.S. may arrive faster than anticipated.

In this moment in time, issuers must increase awareness of the contactless feature on their cards. Targeted marketing efforts must go beyond explaining the functionality and instead educate consumers about all benefits that contactless can offer. Responsible communication should prioritize those who are at the highest risk for infection.

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