First off, Happy New Year! We hope you and your business are doing well. 2013 promises to deliver some major changes in the merchant space this year, so here’s my #1 piece of advice to you: Now more than ever is the time to accept everyone’s preferred payment method! For those of you who follow industry news, you’ll note that mobile payments in particular are making some serious strides. In 2011, mobile payments totaled $100 million. By the end of this year, that number is expected to jump to $6 billion dollars - a number that will only continue to grow as the market develops! According to the BBC, 1.8 million Smartphones are sold every single day, driving this increase in mobile transactions.
One of the most exciting things about these new mobile payment applications for consumers (and you may have some on your very own phone), are the rewards and loyalty programs built right in, speed of pay, and ease of use. Now, if I were accustomed to accepting cash, debit and credit cards, I’d have a few questions: How do I access these payments? Do I have the right hardware? What if I set up for one mobile payment application and it becomes obsolete after I’ve put through an investment? Do I go through my ISO? Do I go through the mobile application company? Shouldn’t I wait to see which mobile payments “win”? All valid questions! Combine that with all the talk about EMV coming down the pipe and NFC (Google Wallet anyone?), it’s enough to make your head spin.
You more than anyone know how competitive today’s economy is. If you’re reading this, chances are you are already accepting credit cards. As a consumer, isn’t it disappointing to want to spend at a store, only to find they only accept cash? And aren’t you more likely to automatically return to a store where your shopping experience was easy? Yesterday, competitive advantage was about accepting credit cards while everyone else took cash. Now it’s one step further and a great opportunity to grow your own business in ways that were not possible a few years ago. What does this mean for you? Competitive advantage and new customer opportunity. The easier you make it for someone to pay you, the higher chance you have of not only acquiring new customers but driving them to come back. Some of you may think, “I’ve never lost a customer because I didn’t’ take their "New Payment Choice A", they were able to just pay with their credit card/debit card/check/cash. Although that may be true, is it likely they returned despite you not offering their preferred method of payment?
Not only are these new payments important for driving sales, but the amount of analytical data that you can obtain about your customers is staggering! With applications like LevelUp, you can see your customer demographic as well as customer spending behavior.
Here’s some final food for thought: if you’re hesitant to go full-force into mobile payments acceptance, there are other ways to drive customer loyalty and dip your toes into the water with traditional payment methods!
- Rethink American Express and Discover (if you don’t already take them): American Express has a great program now called One Point that eliminates monthly fees and deposits your American Express sales along with your other credit card transactions-no delay! If your ISO is a full-acquirer (most are), chances are you’re now able to accept Discover (without having to sign up through Discover directly) and might not know it (hint: if you see a line for Discover on your statement, you can probably take it)! In many cases the cost to accept Discover is the same as your cost to accept Visa/MasterCard. Better yet, by accepting Discover, you also are able to accept Diner’s, JCB, UnionPay, and other card types as well. The more payment types you can advertise in your storefront/signage, the more foot traffic you’ll get through your door.
- Check guarantee is another valuable program for many merchants. Check guarantee covers you in the event of bounced checks, reimbursing you the full check amount, less a small cost.
- Avoid Surcharges - Finally, you may have heard about the lawsuit against Visa/MasterCard that this week resulted in a ruling allowing retailers to impose surcharges (up to 4%) towards card-carrying customers. However, just as we spend less when only cash is accepted, you run the risk of consumers spending less when they know 4% of their sale amount will be surcharged. Whereas some merchants will be utilizing this, by setting yourself apart from the pack and refusing to impose surcharges (maybe even advertising that you refuse to!). Trust me, it will not go unnoticed by your customers. Customers will perceive your business as the one with the discount in comparison to your competitors. If I spend $100 at Frank’s Restaurant and they charge 4% to me, then I am really paying $104. If I spend $100 at Tom’s Restaurant and he doesn’t pass that to me, I am paying $100. I get a discount at Tom’s compared to Frank’s. Sometimes, you only get one shot to retain a customer; you don’t want to jeopardize that chance by charging more than you have to. By not charging you may be losing out on the 4% you’re entitled to charge, but it may cost you that cardholder’s future business, which is likely to be far more valuable. The same theory applies towards avoiding minimums on credit card purchases.
At the end of the day, that’s just my advice and encouragement. Some of this may be realistic for you, some not. Do what works for you. All that you can do is keep up-to-date on what’s happening out there and making informed decisions. Check back at MerchantWarehouse.com, where we’ll bring you up to speed with training resources and webinars.