Consumers, Unsurprisingly, Continue To Worry About Using Touchscreens: Research

August 8, 2022 by Dave Haynes

A lot of consumers continue to worry about germs on touchscreens and would welcome touch-free options, according to the results of a survey conducted across four countries.

Research conducted in the UK, US, China and Japan – commissioned by UK-based Ultraleap, which markets touchless technology – suggests more than half of consumers in these markets (52%) are concerned about touchscreen hygiene, and those concerns are broader than just COVID-19.

The survey also found that the majority of respondents (72%) are also changing their behaviour at least sometimes to avoid germs on public touchscreens and nearly a third (29%) are always changing their behaviour. These behaviours include: touching the screen as little as possible (25%), using hand sanitizer before (29%) or after (45%) touching the screen, or even avoiding places where they have to use a touchscreen (10%).

This avoidance behaviour is likely to have a direct commercial impact on retailers and brands. Touchscreens provide autonomous service points for consumers, while also providing a commercial uplift in certain environments. Its reported that self-service kiosks bring in higher-than-average order sizes, and require fewer staff at checkout in QSR environments.

“Fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Burger King rely on self-service touchscreens to upsell more food and drink. If people are actively not using them, then brands are losing revenue opportunities. Our report demonstrates that offering a touchless option on their self-serve kiosks can provide a solution that caters to all consumers – especially those who are more hygiene-conscious. Doing so can help generate incremental revenue of between $1,800 – $4,500 per month in a QSR location,” says Saurabh Gupta, Vice President of Out-of-Home Product at Ultraleap.

The research also reveals that consumers are not only open to (83%) but are actively positive about touchless solutions as an alternative to touchscreens – 68% of respondents said that they’d be more likely to visit a grocery store or fast-food restaurant if it offered a touchless self-service screen.

The company says it used SurveyMonkey’s targeted panels to strive toward a nationally representative sample of 500+ respondents in each market. The samples were balanced for age and gender.

People interested can download the full report here.

Few people would be surprised that in a climate of global health emergencies – COVID-19 and now monkey pox – that the general public is more than a bit jumpy about touching things. But people regarding touchscreens as being “icky” is not new. There are lots of stories and reports dating back years that noted how interactive screens in public screens had stuff on them, because the fingers of the general public aren’t always clean.

The emergence of COVID-19 – particularly prior to evidence that the contagion was mainly an airborne threat – had a lot of people (me included) speculating that there were dark days ahead for touchscreen-focused companies. But the opposite happened, as self-service screens minimized close customer-to-staff contacts in fast food restaurants and shops, and helped counteract staffing shortages.

In a podcast interview I did recently with an exec from the German firm Ameria, which like Ultraleap markets touchless technology, it was suggested that touchscreens would continue to needed and used by people to get everyday things done, like get tickets and pay for things. But Ameria suggested that in circumstances like museums and attractions in which people didn’t absolutely need to use a touch surface, they’d rather go touchless if that was an option.

This is all a we-shall-see situation. It’s not realistic to expect screens to be wiped down and sterilized after every use, but we’re all kind of conditioned now (or should be) to rubbing our hands together with sanitizer after using screens or touching other surfaces. Probably the biggest factors in touchless adoption for everyday things like self-service are technology costs, reliability and speed. If it takes shoppers longer to order and pay for things, that would chill a lot of operators who are all about through-put and reducing friction.

There’s also the evergreen reminder that touchscreen surfaces get a lopsided amount of attention and worry. The “infected” person who uses a touchscreen and theoretically leaves pathogens behind is also leaving them behind, in theory, on surfaces like door handles and railings. The medical term is fomites.

  1. Miguel Fonseca says:

    As a consumer i still worry of germs not just in touchscreens but also in door knobs and other objects i touch at the supermarket. There is nothing special in touchscreens to avoid.

    On another note touchless tech does not match what users expect and in a question of 5 to 10 seconds they are touching the glass or drop out…

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