Hands-Free vs Handheld: The Disadvantages of Handheld Devices

We’re currently in the middle of a third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, even with vaccines being rolled out as fast as possible, there are new strains that have been proven to be more infectious than the first strain.

This means that retail workers and other customer-facing employees in retail outlets are stores are even more at risk of infection, not just from the micro-droplets, but also from contact with common surfaces. Studies have shown that the coronavirus can live on surfaces for as long as 3 days.

This means that handheld devices used in retail stores can be contaminated for that long, thus increasing the risk of retail workers being exposed to infection in the workplace. These surfaces are dangerous to both employees and customers.

For employees, they have to touch these devices every time customers need to pay. So, touching the contaminated device, then touching the card, and handing it over to the customer increases the risk of passing the contagion on to the customer.

This means everyone is at risk, plus this is how super-spreader events occur. All it takes is one customer touching the card and rubbing their nose without disinfecting their hand to become infected. Unfortunately, hand-held devices such as the POS terminals are a staple in the retail sector and used by pretty much all retailers.

So, should you continue to use handhelds or use an equally effective hands-free option? Well, that depends. Let’s examine the dangers of handheld devices in this era.

Why are Handhelds Dangerous in the Retail Sector?

Easy to Transfer Microorganisms

Reports show that customer-facing retail workers are at risk of contracting coronavirus five times more than their colleagues who don’t deal with customers directly. The covid-19 virus can be easily transferred from one person to another if people do not take any precautions after handling the same hardware.

The average grocery or retail store uses at least one of the following carrier devices:

  • Barcode reader
  • Debit or credit card terminals
  • Pens or styluses (low tech but sometimes needed)
  • Cash register
  • POS machines
  • Worker-facing touchscreen devices
  • Infra-red temperature readers or scanners

While the last one is not used by buyers, it is often used by different cashiers depending on how many cashiers and pay points that the retail store has. All it takes is just one infected cashier to spread the disease within the store. This is why some retail workers are scared and worried about going to work in their store.

Therefore, even though some handheld devices are low-trafficked and have fewer users than the POS or other customer-facing devices, they are equally dangerous and capable of transmitting the covid-19 virus.

Not as Efficient and Wastes Time

With the increasing number of coronavirus cases, every second spent in a retail store matters. Why? Because the amount of time you spend inside a retail store is directly proportional to your chances of getting infected by the disease.

Handheld devices have been known to malfunction for a variety of reasons. So, even though they’re pretty good, they are not 100 percent reliable. This is where hands-free technologies like contactless payments can help.

With a simple barcode or QR code, shoppers can simply scan the code with a store’s QR code reader to pay their fees at the cashier point. This way, once the total is calculated and they scan, they’ll just enter the amount they want to pay and it’ll be accepted. This is a pretty straightforward process that takes less than 10 seconds for most people.

The good news is smart retailers are adopting the contactless payment option which helps minimize contact between the shopper and the cashier. More importantly, it’s time-saving for both the buyers and workers.

Increases Wait Time for Consumers

While shopping in-store used to be fun and involving a lot of rituals, the pandemic has essentially rendered all of those rituals obsolete. The days of feeling the heft of the items, their texture, the quality of the packaging materials, and holding multiple items while comparing prices and ingredients are gone –temporarily at least.

These days, when buyers visit their local grocery or retail store, they just want to get in and out as quickly as possible. They understand that spending so much time in a closed, air-conditioned space increases their risk of contracting the coronavirus.  

Unfortunately, due to new safety protocols, in-store purchases often means spending a lot of time waiting in line even after picking the items you want. Then when you get to the cashier point, you still have to deal with handheld devices that may not work as efficiently.

This delay arising from the interactions between customers and retailers’ handheld devices is partly responsible for the long wait times in stores. Transactions that should take no more than 30 seconds now take 2-5 minutes.

What’s the Alternative and is there a Viable Solution?

Absolutely, there is. Retail brands in the country and across the world have started adopting touchless, hands-free technology that allows buyers to get in and out of a retail store with minimal contact with high-risk touchpoints.

These retail brands are actively seeking ways to minimize and even completely eliminate contact between buyers and workers in the store. Some are beginning the implementation of touchless checkout and automatic doors, touchless kiosks, voice and facial recognition, and the integration of Apple Pay and Android Pay.  

Then, there’s curbside pickup. Even though curbside pickup has been around for a while, it completely exploded in 2020. In fact, second to face masks, curbside delivery and pickup is an option that causes buyers to feel safe when visiting a physical retail or grocery shop. Curbside is a broad term for pickup options that allow people to buy their items online or in-store and pick them up at designated pickup points.

All curbside pickup and delivery features are largely powered by the buy online, pickup in-store (BOPIS) technology. But that’s only the beginning, hands-free tech touchless payment points, BOPIS integration, and self-checkout points (this will help minimize contact with the cashier) help everyone stay safe and secure while improving customer confidence.

Retail brands that are currently enjoying massive success are utilizing these technologies to drive sales, boost revenue, improve customer retention, and encourage consumer loyalty. Buyers will become repeat customers if they know that they’re safe when shopping at a retail store or picking up their items.

Our Conclusion

Here’s the reality: the pandemic has changed how we shop. And even when things hopefully get back to normal, the new shopping behaviors that buyers have acquired will remain.

Not just because of the safety measures that new and emerging technologies like BOPIS bring, but also because of the ease and convenience of shopping. Also, retail workers are also learning new habits that might be difficult to unlearn.

Retail brands that intend to weather this tumultuous period and remain relevant in the future would do well to start integrating as many touchless and handsfree tech into their entire retail operations. This means the implementation of BOPIS and BORIS (buy online return in-store), enabling contactless payment options, and investing in augmented reality tech like [redacted].

[redacted] is an augmented reality technology platform that uses machine learning to transform your retail operation’s efficiency, by providing real-time inventory management, improving customer interactions with your store, and seamless order fulfillment protocols.

Some retail brands are already using similar augmented reality technology to help consumers see what their items would look like without necessarily touching the items. Innovative retail brands can set up the [redacted] platform for everything from virtual clothing try-ons like Adidas is offering, to virtual makeup sampling.

IKEA for instance uses AR for furniture placement simulations. There’s a wide range of functions that our AR-based platform can help your retail store with including BOPIS, BORIS, curbside pickup, and in-trunk delivery. If you’d like to see how we can help your retail brand become more profitable, schedule a free demo today