Not so long ago, you needed to be a wealthy business mogul in order to afford to hire an assistant. Thanks to the artificial intelligence that is becoming a part of everyday life for rich and poor alike, you don’t need to be a corporate jet-setter to make those mundane tasks in your life flow more smoothly. Now you can welcome electronic virtual helpers like Google Assistant into your routine.
What Is Google Assistant?
It might have come a little late to the virtual helper party, but Google Assistant is now giving Alexa, Siri and Cortana – from Amazon, Apple and Microsoft respectively – a run for their money. All of them work on the same general concept: You get its attention by saying a catch phrase such as “hey, Google” or “OK, Google” and then give it your instructions. In seconds, you can get sports scores, check the weather, find out if you have an appointment, play a party game, hear a joke or search for a recipe that can be read step by step as you prepare it. Although it has only been available to consumers for a little more than two years, Google Assistant now works with over 5,000 devices including smartphones, smart TVs, speakers, thermostats, home security system and an ever-increasing number of others.
Google Assistant and its competitors can all perform many of these functions well. However, the geniuses behind Google are not content to just measure up. Some additional capabilities of Google Assistant are its ability to make follow-up requests without saying the initial “Hey, Google or “OK, Google” catch phrase again. This makes the dialogue with your virtual helper more like a conversation. Your Google Assistant can also tackle multiple tasks at the same time, which is quite a linguistic feat for even an adult human. Finally, your virtual assistant recognizes your voice and also can be customized for the voices of members of your household on separate accounts, which would allow your spouse to request their own calendar information, a song on their own favorite playlist, or news from their favorite outlet. When set to Pretty Please mode, Google Assistant can teach manners by only complying with a request after someone has asked nicely.
At this point, Google probably knows more about most of us than we would ever want to believe. Through Android phones, calendars and Google search on our laptops, PCs and tablets, Google can track our likes and dislikes, our purchases, who our friends are, our social media habits and a dizzying array of other things. While many might view this as a mixed blessing, it can make some aspects of our lives easier. Making payments is one of them.
Thanks to this feature, you can repay a debt or request money from a friend. To get started, you need to set up a Google Pay account. Then, get your Google Assistant’s attention and make the request. For example, “Hey Google, pay Bella $20 for breakfast.” As long as Bella is also signed up with Google Pay, the money will be whisked away to her in seconds without you ever needing to know her account information.
Not sure if you’re ready to start accepting or receiving payments? Don’t worry, Google will prompt you to input the initial data if you haven’t done so already. Before you know it, you can say hello to fast money transactions and goodbye to frustration and unpaid debts.
While it’s in its early stages, it’s possible small business owners might one day choose to forego the use of their credit card payment processing system in favor of accepting an electronic assistant payment. The obvious drawbacks include the need for both the customer and business owner to be aligned with accounts, as well as the fact that using and accepting credit cards or digital wallets on today’s modern payment readers is already an easy and ingrained process.
You can download and use Google Assistant on your Apple or Android phone. Like all electronic personal assistants, it may not be able to provide all the services you would need from a human personal secretary, but it can simplify some tasks and be fun to use as you see where the future is heading.
When you set up the structure of your business, you needed to decide how it would be organized. It may have come down to issues of hierarchy and how your various departments or employees worked with each other. In the end, one of your prime considerations probably was the nature of the work your company does as you worked to become efficient and cost-effective as possible. If you chose a project-based model, you may now be facing billing challenges that you did not anticipate. Taking steps to overcome these obstacles is vital if your business is to thrive.
Characteristics of the Project-Based Model
Before we dive in, let’s get down to a definition of a project-based business. In general, companies are either structured to sell products or to complete tasks. The latter is what is known as a project-based company. As a side note, it’s also viable to build a hybrid structure that incorporates aspects of each of these models. Typically, in the project structure, teams are put together in order to get a particular job done, and there is only limited interaction between groups. In most cases, it only happens when the tasks at hand make it necessary. Certain types of businesses lend themselves to the project-based model. Examples include web and graphic designers as well as construction workers and other contractors.
Accounting Challenges for Project-Based Businesses
What distinguishes project-based companies from those that are focused on products is more than chain of command. If you are to run a successful project-based enterprise, you have different accounting needs. Whereas standard business accounting is concerned with all revenue and expenses for the entire company, project-based financial management uses accounting that focuses on each particular job. This model has powerful advantages. Revenue and expenses are tracked day by day, providing constant input about what is working and what is not. Thanks to this close, ongoing scrutiny, the entire project is under the microscope, including materials, labor and time delays. This makes it easier for managers to make changes quickly and bill appropriately with fewer mistakes and less need to make corrections later. The overarching goal of project-based accounting is to ensure that the task is done on time and on budget by monitoring and recording all components of the work throughout the process. Failure to stay on budget is the most common reason for projects to fail outright or fail to be profitable.
Recurring Billing: The Biggest Challenge
In the project-based model, work happens over time. As a result, you will often find that you need to help your customers split their payments into manageable chunks that they can pay over the course of the job. While this scenario certainly makes sense in the majority of cases, it can lead to some challenges:
- Keeping track of your customers. This is a particularly pesky problem if you have a large company with numerous jobs being completed simultaneously by different teams. In situations like this, it’s crucial to invest in tools that keep track of your large customer base, note any promotions individuals may be using, and send immediate notifications for any delinquencies in payment. You don’t want to complete too much additional work without being paid for the work already completed.
- The need for flexibility. Clients will have their own individual payment requirements. One might request a monthly option; others could prefer quarterly, semi-annually or even once a year. In order to meet these varying needs, be sure your payment processing company furnishes you with the tools and knowledge you need to customize these payment schedules.
- Automation. Today’s technology takes most of the guesswork out of those day-to-day business tasks that can so easily fall between the cracks. Because you definitely do not want to forget to send invoices to your customers, find a merchant services provider that can help you automate the task using your point-of-sale solution. There certainly is no need to reinvent the wheel every time a bill needs to be sent.
- Keeping payments secure. If clients fear that your website, your mobile payment device, or your on-site credit card payment solution is not secure, they will be justifiably reluctant to entrust their sensitive payment data to you. Check with your payment processing company to be sure that all of your systems are fully upgraded and PCI-compliant.
- Transaction issues. If your customers pay online, you may encounter times when their transactions fail for whatever reason. Searching for these takes time that would be better spent running other parts of your business. With recurring billing software in place, you don’t have to go through the tedious process of monitoring each one as it comes in, and your customers can instantly be notified of the problem by email. The software feature also makes it easy for you to create a tracking report that helps you spot trends that merit a closer look.
- Unnecessary complexities. Even if your clients tend to only make payments for the project you are completing, you should be sure that your recurring billing software integrates seamlessly with the payment gateways and shopping cart on your website. It’s more cost- and time-efficient to accept both project-based and product-based payments using the same solutions. Not only is tracking in real time easier, but it also makes sense when you are looking at the flow of revenues and expenses across the entire company.
For many enterprises, following the project-based model is the most efficient way to complete the work at hand. Others may find that a hybrid structure that combines some job-centered and some project-based features is optimal. Whatever the best solution is for you, it’s important that you are proactive in terms of your accounting practices. Taking steps to make recurring customer payments flow as smoothly as possible before problems arise can save you infinite hours of backtracking through records, with all of the frustration and stress that entails. With the help of a high-quality billing and/or payment software suite, you can actually use your time and resources to expand and grow your business.
Your non-profit might not be in the business of making money for its shareholders like a private sector corporation, but it still needs funds. Without capital, your organization cannot accomplish its mission, and it cannot pay the staff members who work so hard to achieve its goals. That’s why it’s important to make it easy for donors who want to help you move forward.
Benefits of Online Donations for Non-Profits
There are several benefits you will receive when you accept online payments from your donors. They include the following:
- Donating is fast and easy, increasing the likelihood that busy people will give. No checks or follow-up calls are necessary on the part of the giver.
- Donations can happen seamlessly from your website. Interested individuals can be inspired by what you do, click on a “donate” button and complete the transaction in seconds.
- Donation tools make setting up recurring gifts easy. It’s a win-win for your busy staff as well as for time-conscious donors.
- Accepting online donations puts you in touch with younger visitors to your site and allows you to begin the process of cultivating a long-term relationship with an often hard-to-reach demographic.
E-gifts, especially recurring ones, are one of the best ways to build a long-term future for your organization.
Choosing the Right Donation Tool
There seem to be an infinite number of online donation tools and payment service providers, which makes it hard to decide which one to use. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you a computer novice for whom ease of setup is a prime consideration?
- Do you want to accept recurring donations?
- Do you have additional information about your donors that you want to record and track?
- Do you sometimes have fund-raising events that require tickets that you want to sell online?
Regardless of which tool or provider you ultimately choose, understand that you will need to pay a fee no matter what.
The costs of donation and payment acceptance platforms vary. However, look for a site that provides the following features:
- Find a site that is already registered as a foundation, or a provider with experience serving non-profits. Be sure your solution enables you to accept donations as an IRS-approved non-profit organization.
- Look for low transaction fees.
- The entire transaction should take place on your website using a widget or payment page; the donor shouldn’t be redirected elsewhere.
- The platform should accept recurring payments.
- Donors should trust the donor platform. Make sure you advertise its credentials prominently on your site.
- If you are mostly going to be selling event tickets, be sure you find a platform that can accommodate your need.
Just as e-commerce is becoming the status quo in our society, giving online has gained great popularity. It’s a trend that won’t be going away anytime soon, so take advantage of the convenience it offers to your staff and donors alike. Make online donations a part of your non-profit’s donation profile today, and everyone will be the winner.
With the exception of the holiday season, many merchants find that their sales are the highest just before school starts. Of course, that is particularly true if you sell products geared to kids and teens. While it is young consumers who will have very definite opinions about what they like, it is their parents who carry the wallets. Make it as easy and seamless for parents, and their happiness will be reflected in your profit margins.
Give People What They Want
In short, stock the products that have been popular in past years, and don’t forget to keep your ear to the ground for the cutting-edge trends. Your point-of-sale (POS) system should enable you to easily retrieve sales data that reveals what customers loved. Use social media and helpers such as Google’s free trends tool to learn what people are interested in and buying right now in your area.
Demonstrate How Your Products Will Answer a Back-to-School Need
Go to any store, and you will see shelves filled with products. In order to inspire potential customers to actually buy what they see, help them to visualize your items in their own backpacks and dorm rooms. Use photographs and even whole displays to showcase your products in the educational setting, and people will be more likely to incorporate them into their lives.
Get on the Digital Bandwagon
If you want increased sales and happy customers, one of your best vehicles is the internet. Take advantage of hot social media sites such as Instagram and Pinterest to find trends as well as advertise what you have to offer. Make your posts fun and visually appealing, attracting shoppers’ attention with photos. Dedicate an entire section of your e-commerce site to back-to-school gear so that people know right where to go. Even if you don’t have a website, you cannot afford to miss out on the sales that online channels can drive to your brick-and-mortar store.
Attract Old and New Customers with a Giveaway
What student or parent can resist freebies? Make it fun – and potentially lucrative – for people to come into your store by allowing them to enter into a contest or raffle. The sky is the limit, so get your creative juices flowing. The key is to make your store stand out from the rest, incentivizing people to spend more and even bring their friends.
Make Your In-Store Shopping Experience Frustration-Free
Harried parents and kids want to walk in, get the clothing, shoes, electronics or school supplies they need and be on their way as quickly as possible. The more you as a merchant can help them to achieve this goal, the better their experience in your store will be, the more they will buy and the more likely it will be that they will return. To that end, be sure that you check your inventory and that popular products are in stock. Train your staff to be experts in locating exactly what your customer asks for, including knowledge about supplemental or substitute products in the same category. No matter how crazy things might get on the sales floor, coach your staff on how to be friendly, relaxed and helpful. Finally, if you are equipped with mobile credit card processing, give each of your sales staff a portable credit card reader. Eliminating long checkout lines and enabling customers to pay from wherever they are in the store can streamline the payment process and greatly enhance the customer’s buying experience.
The weeks right before the start of school and college may be your second busiest of the year. Capitalize on this opportunity by doing everything you can to boost the appeal of your products and cater to customers’ goals, needs and priorities. If you follow these suggestions, they may prove to be some of the best things you learn this year.
Ecommerce businesses are not the only ones that accept credit cards without needing to physically swipe a card. In more and more brick-and-mortar stores, customers use their digital wallet-equipped smartphones to tap near field communications (NFC) readers. These purchases have their pros and cons, which should be reviewed before you decide if accepting NFC transactions is right for your business.
The number one benefit of NFC transactions is convenience for the customer. Few people ever leave the house without their smartphones. If someone has taken the time to input their credit card data into the device’s digital wallet app, buying something is fast and easy, with no cash or plastic necessary. The speed and ease of purchase also helps to appeal to a younger demographic of purchasers. Millennials have a lot of buying power and they have been the early adopters of this technology, expecting purchases to be almost instant and convenient.
Furthermore, NFC transactions are secure. The transaction is encrypted from start to finish and the merchant never even touches the customer’s phone, which reduces your liability.
Finally, record-keeping is a breeze both for you and your customers. Buyers can elect to have a paper receipt or an email one, and your point-of-sale system to which the NFC reader is attached has software that keeps track of all purchases. With fewer slips of paper flying around and your data stored in the cloud, you can rest a lot easier with the knowledge that tax time will not be so grueling (and you are also saving the environment by using less paper!)
Sadly, we don’t live in a perfect world, so it stands to reason that NFC transactions using wired or wireless card readers have their stumbling blocks. Out of all of them, fraud is the most dangerous. As a merchant, you may be held responsible for refunding the customer if a purchase is fraudulently made using their digital wallet.
How can fraud take place? For one thing, not all payment systems require that a purchase, especially a smaller one, be authenticated with a signature, password or fingerprint. Few merchants take the time to check a customer’s ID or jot down the name as a precaution, which can sometimes allow an unauthorized person to make the purchase.
There’s also an app available for Android that criminals have been using to steal personal information. If a digital wallet isn’t properly protected, a criminal can steal their credit card information using this app merely by brushing up against their phone. With the credit card information they obtain, criminals can then use these details to make fraudulent purchases.
The Bottom Line
Purchases using NFC readers are not going to go away anytime soon; in fact, they are gaining in popularity. They can be a great way to streamline the payment process, which often leads to happy customers who are impressed by your tech savvy.
Before you take the plunge, however, be sure your equipment is upgraded, your staff is trained and you know how to protect yourself in the event that you suspect fraud. Running a tight ship by regularly checking in with your merchant services provider to ensure that you have the latest security upgrades can go a long way toward promoting safe NFC payments. And finally, always listen to that inner voice. If something about a purchase strikes you as odd, get additional information from the customer to verify their identity. You can never be too careful.
If you don’t own a business or have never accepted credit cards from your customers, you might be under the impression that refunds and chargebacks are just two different words to describe the same phenomenon that occurs when a merchant takes money out of their account and returns it to the customer. In reality, the distinction is stark. While both are to be avoided, chargebacks are by far the worse of the two.
What Is a Chargeback?
When a customer initiates a chargeback and it is decided in their favor by their credit card company, you as a merchant are left with no recourse other than to return the money. Although you might feel powerless throughout the dispute process, there are many instances when merchants lose the case simply because they failed to provide the requested documentation by the deadline date imposed by the financial institution. These disputes don’t go away; they need to be addressed as soon as they arise if you are to have any chance of coming out on top.
In addition to being compelled to return the customer’s money, many chargebacks resolved in the customer’s favor also do not require that the goods that were purchased be returned to the merchant. As a result, you might find yourself lighter in your wallet as well as in your inventory.
What Is a Refund?
Although most credit card companies request that customers attempt to resolve the problem with the merchant before going to the next level, many people go straight to the financial institution. This happens for several reasons. For one thing, customers usually are given an automatic, temporary refund by their credit card company, giving them ready access to the cash amount they paid for the item. Of course, it is deducted if the case is decided in the merchant’s favor, but having cash in hand now is often a big lure.
In addition, some customers are not totally honest in their reasons for requesting a refund. Therefore, they would rather skip a discussion with the merchant and let their credit card company do the heavy lifting.
By contrast, the refund process takes place between a customer and merchant with no involvement by the credit card company. Ideally, this is a friendly process that is completed with no hard feelings. In the best case scenario, a once-disgruntled customer who receives stellar and timely attention from you throughout the refund process might end up feeling even better about your business than ever.
As a merchant, you have a good deal of leeway when it comes to refunds. In the clear policy that you set up and publicize, you can offer full money back, a partial refund minus a restocking fee or store credit in lieu of cash. The key is that you must be totally transparent about your policy to avoid confusion and bad feelings.
For merchants, it is a far better course of action to work out a refund with your customer whenever possible. When you do, you can avoid the unpleasant situation that arises when an unhappy buyer resorts to the chargeback process.
Chargebacks should be avoided at all costs not only because they can result in bad blood between you and a customer, but also because they can lead to negative consequences for you and your business. For one thing, chargebacks often mean that you need to pay extra fees to your merchant account provider. Worse still, a repeated pattern of chargebacks might lead your provider to impose restrictions on your account or close it altogether. Therefore, it is far better to voluntarily pay the customer back even if sometimes you need to swallow your pride and objections in order to do so.
Credit cards are ubiquitous these days, but they come with risks both for the customer and the merchant. For sellers, an overwhelming percentage of the chargebacks they experience throughout the lifespan of their business are due to fraud, and the numbers are skyrocketing. In just two years between 2015 and 2017, there was a 51 percent increase in chargebacks due to fraud.
In addition, a little less than 10 percent of chargebacks happen due to merchant carelessness. If your website incorrectly represents the image of a product, for instance, the chances of an unhappy customer who disputes the charge are very high.
A small but significant four percent of chargebacks take place due to customer dissatisfaction with a product. Although this is not always due to something you did or did not do, it is important for you as a merchant to keep track of buyer feedback to gauge which products are successful and which are not.
A far more disturbing statistic is the 41 percent of chargeback-requesting customers who take this step because they never received the product. Even if a small number of these people are lying and actually did get the order they requested, any merchant who experiences a high incidence of these types of chargebacks needs to look at their product delivery process from beginning to end.
Similarly, since a full one-quarter of chargebacks are due to the incorrect product being sent, it behooves any seller in this situation to closely scrutinize their inventory acquisition, tracking, monitoring and shipping processes.
What a Retailer Can Do to Avoid a Chargeback or Refund
First, understand why chargebacks and refunds occur. Carefully review all of the chargebacks you have been slapped with over the past year. Do you see any patterns? Are people consistently getting incorrect products, for instance? If you do identify a trend, take steps to stop it in its tracks.
Second, respond immediately when a customer has a complaint or a concern. Remember, the people who buy your products are the lifeblood of your business. Without them, you will fail, so treat them with the timely attention and respect they deserve. Many a decision to escalate a complaint to the next level has been defused by a manager who listens to the customer, makes sure they understand the customer’s concerns and demonstrates that steps are being taken to address the situation. Even if it ultimately does not end in their favor, the customer will feel that they were heard and acknowledged.
Third, don’t be shy about displaying your return policy. Transparency is the name of the game when it comes to disputes with products. If your policy is prominently visible in-store, online and on the receipt the customer receives, you can refer back to it should a concern arise. In a word, you are covering yourself against any future disagreements.
Fourth, if a customer buys something from your store that is called Daisy’s Flowers and Gifts but the charge on their credit card bill shows up as DFG LLC, the buyer might dispute the charge simply because they don’t recognize the merchant name. Nip that potential problem in the bud by having the same name on your merchant account as you do on your signage and website. If it is different and there isn’t anything you can do about the situation right now, be sure to tell the customer at the time of purchase and, if possible, later via email of the discrepancy.
Fifth, follow best practices set up by the credit card industry and your merchant account provider for all transactions, whether they are card-present at your retail location or card-not-present online or via the telephone. Failure to adhere to these standards can leave you vulnerable to penalties as well as the initial chargeback.
Sixth, be sure the payment processor you choose is reputable. The company should always upgrade their equipment and software as soon as updates are released. The company should take steps to protect both you and your customers against fraud by adhering to all industry security standards. Furthermore, customer service representatives should be available to answer any questions or concerns you have in a timely fashion. If there is no live help available, they should at least offer chat or email support in real time. With these safeguards in place, many instances of fraud-based chargebacks can be stopped before they affect your business.
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If you plan to sell any of your products or services via the Internet or mobile device, you need to decide upon a way to accept customers’ card payments while remaining protected from fraudulent or unauthorized access to your account. PayPal is one of the most popular options, and it satisfies both of these criteria. But does it offer everything you need for you and your business?
What Does PayPal Offer?
In recent years, PayPal has become a household word in the realm of retail payment processing, used by small and some large companies as well as sole proprietors. What attracts so many companies and entrepreneurs to PayPal, and are these features all they’re really cracked up to be?
- Set-up. If you have done any online shopping as a consumer, chances are good that you already have a PayPal account. All you need to do to begin using it for your business is to upgrade your personal account to a business account. Doing so is free; however, as a PayPal user you will pay fees for every credit or debit card transaction you make. These fees are often much higher than using a standard POS system. Over time this can add up to a lot of extra money you weren’t planning to spend.
- Flexibility. PayPal allows you to accept payments from most major credit and debit cards as well as via customers’ PayPal accounts. But this is often where the flexibility ends. Especially if you are a retail business. You can gain the same flexibility and more using in-store and online processing accounts from other merchant services providers.
- Different accounts for different needs. If you are more of a casual seller, a freelancer or a contractor, PayPal offers a premier account that lets you make and receive payments under your own personal name. If your company is larger and you instead want to operate under your business, corporate or group name, PayPal offers you the option to sign up for a business account. This can get tricky though as you have to remember passwords and emails for each of the accounts you set up.
- Integrated solution. As a business owner, you have enough to do without wasting time scrambling around to find all of the different components you need to accept and process customer payments. This is where an integrated solution that combines a merchant account with a payment gateway is beneficial. A good merchant services provider can secure all customer data and handle all of the time-consuming interactions with banks and merchants that can bog you down and even make you vulnerable to data breaches.
- Mobile solutions. Yes, there’s an app for that, and PayPal provides it. Thanks to their Android and iPhone solutions and PayPal Here reader, customers can safely make mobile purchases on their phones or tablets. But most merchant services companies can provide similar solutions with mobile e-readers or terminals to take your business on the go.
The Downside of PayPal
As you can see, PayPal brings many benefits to the table, but all of those benefits don’t end up being all that special once you really do your research. In addition to the negatives mentioned above, there are additional downsides to PayPal to be aware of before making it a part of your retail payment processing solutions.
- Costs. While it is true that it costs nothing to sign up for PayPal and there aren’t maintenance or membership charges, you are required to pay them a fixed percentage of your sales price plus a small per-sale fee. For example, a sale made in the U.S. could carry with it a 2.9 percent surcharge and an additional $0.30 fee. International sales are even pricier. Furthermore, you will need to buy additional PayPal services should you wish to let your customers make payments on your website.
- Frozen accounts. Ask around about PayPal and it won’t be long before some merchants tell you a horror story about their account being inexplicably frozen, leading to long delays before they could get their hands on their own money. If your account is flagged as suspicious, it can be frozen and your funds held without much of an explanation.
- Doesn’t protect against unscrupulous customers. Although PayPal does a great job shielding you from data breaches and identity theft, the same cannot be said for its ability to keep you from being harmed by nasty buyers. The sad truth is that there are malicious customers who want nothing more than to cheat you. They might lie and say that you never sent the product they ordered, or they could claim that it was damaged or was not the same as was advertised. Whatever the case might be, PayPal does little or nothing to help you resolve these types of disputes. In the end, you might just have to refund the customer’s money even though you know very well that you were not at fault.
Should you use PayPal as your merchant account and payment gateway? Only you can make that decision. Weigh all of the pros and cons of PayPal, and look closely at other merchant account providers to see where the real benefits are.
The credit card payment process is deceptively simple. It’s all too easy to become complacent, assuming that your merchant account provider, the banks and credit card companies have everything down to a perfect science. While the vast majority of your payments will go through without a hitch, it’s the few that don’t that can cause you grief. This is even more daunting when you own a business with several locations. Understand some of the common pitfalls that you can avoid as a merchant, and you can drastically decrease the likelihood that you will take a big hit.
Don’t Leave Yourself Open to Skimming
Skimming is an illegal act that occurs when someone unscrupulously captures a customer’s credit card information and then uses the data they collect to manufacture an artificial credit card. All it takes is the lethal combination of a disgruntled or dishonest employee, a portable card reader and a tablet or mobile phone. Now that online credit card payments are ubiquitous, the thief doesn’t even need to find a way to produce a false card; they simply input the numbers, expiration date and CVV to order products under the false card.
While it’s impossible to be a mind-reader and know the internal motivations of everyone on your staff, it does help to have personal relationships with your employees and show concern for their well-being. Keeping your door open and listening to people’s concerns and frustrations can enable you to get a sense of whether employees are working well on the team or if they may need to find other opportunities. For the owner of multiple franchises, this can be nearly impossible to accomplish on your own. However, you can meet with the management staff of each location on a regular basis, helping them to recognize the signs of discord and encouraging them to come to you if they have any reason to believe that trouble is brewing.
Keep Customers’ Credit Card Data Safe
Thanks to EMV chip cards now being the standard, merchants are less likely to need to hold onto customers’ sensitive cardholder data. This is because the chip system allows customers to keep their card in their own possession throughout the payment transaction, with the information sent to the processing company in encrypted form.
The time when you may still run into this problem is if you take payments over the phone or take orders at some other external location. To simply input customer data into a file on your computer and assume it will be safe is a serious lapse of judgment. In fact, hackers like nothing better than to worm their way into the computers of small businesses and steal this exact type of information. To give yourself maximum protection in cases like this, do some serious research. Take advantage of the built-in encryption features of your operating system. If you’re a novice with computer security, invest in your own future by consulting with an expert. Putting together a safety net that is as ironclad as possible may seem like a luxury because you may not see how many hackers you detract, but it’s worth every penny.
Don’t Give Employees Free Access to Systems
You should have an open door policy when it comes to hearing workers’ grievances, but that should not extend to your computer systems. Allowing anyone and everyone to use your equipment and providing access to your virtual office system and point-of-sale software leaves you extremely vulnerable. You never want to find out how much damage just one disgruntled employee with a little computer knowledge can do in a short period of time.
The key here is knowing who to trust. Most likely, you will need to delegate some important and data-sensitive tasks to others. This is particularly true when you run multiple franchise locations. Only time and experience will give you a clear indication of who is the most trustworthy on your staff. Chances are, they will be the people who have been working for you for the longest times. Even after you have assigned them higher-level responsibilities, continue to monitor your systems. While they may not intentionally do harm, they may make mistakes that close monitoring can nip at the bud.
Keep on Top of Your Record-Keeping
Even in this age of electronic data, businesses still seem to generate mountains of paper. Keeping everything well-organized and current is a full-time job in itself, and it unfortunately slips through the cracks for many busy entrepreneurs. The end result can be disastrous. Then when you do decide to have a major clean-up, you might inadvertently discard what is important and keep what is not.
The IRS requires that businesses retain certain pieces of financial information for seven years. If the worst happens and you are audited, you need to be able to get your hands on all of the important receipts, reports and records they require. If you can’t, you risk paying serious penalties, not to mention enduring psychological stress.
Particularly if you have multiple franchises, it only makes sense to hire one or more people who will be solely responsible for ensuring that your financial house is in order. In addition, you should have an excellent working knowledge of your mobile payment processing system and/or point of sale solution for training and monitoring purposes. If you aren’t sure how everything works, your payment processing company’s customer service center can help. On the other hand, if you own a smaller business with just one location, you may have no choice but to be your company’s financial manager along with all of your other duties. If this is the case, dedicate a set amount of time at the end of each day to make sure that receipts are where they should be, cash is accounted for and records are properly filed. Even just a few minutes each day will make tax time go infinitely more smoothly.
Resolve Disputes Quickly
Nobody likes confrontation or disputes, but they are a necessary evil in the business world. For whatever reason, many times having nothing to do with you, customers will dispute a charge for a product or service that you provide. As part of their dispute, most ask their credit card company to give them a refund. Usually, the company will do so provisionally during the period of time when the dispute is being investigated. As a merchant, you will be required to send the customer’s credit card company a copy of the receipt or other documents. Failure to send them before the deadline they give you will probably result in a chargeback. Accumulating chargebacks will have a detrimental effect on your account status. If they keep happening, the account could even be canceled or you could be charged other penalties.
No one would argue that running a business, particularly one with many locations, is easy or that you won’t make a mistake here or there. However, failing to do your part in resolving disputes can damage your relationships not only with your merchant account provider but also with customers. Be proactive in avoiding this by dealing with disputes right away as soon as you receive the request. Make it a priority.
Be Careful When Selling Internationally
Having a global reach by making your products available to several countries or even worldwide can be a heady experience. What’s more, it can be profitable, particularly if you have a product that is highly sought after in new markets. However, you need to know what you are doing before you take this giant leap. That’s because the e-commerce environment is swarming with criminals who want nothing more than to deprive you of your money and products.
Before you go global, learn about internet crime, and take measures to protect your business against it. Become acquainted with the red flags to watch for when you receive a foreign credit card transaction, and arm yourself against problems by keeping current on the latest scams and schemes. Better yet, be sure to work with a processing company that has an international payment gateway equipped with all the latest security features.
Today’s credit card processing process offers a level of ease and security unlike any that customers or merchants have experienced in the past. Even so, the potential for problems still exists. Being as organized, proactive and careful as possible will help you to stay clear of the worst of them, giving you more time to run your business and make it profitable.
Trade shows are a terrific way for you to expand the scope of your business, attract new clients and sell your products in a whole new way. Nevertheless, it can be quite intimidating when you get to the show floor and see all of your flashy competition. Coming up with ways to set your booth apart from the rest can help you make the most of your trade show experience.
The early bird definitely gets the worm when it comes to making an impact on simultaneously over-stimulated and exhausted attendees. Weeks and even months before the show, start brainstorming ways to create a buzz about your business. That means using social media to announce your plans and promotions. In addition, be sure to order branded swag well enough in advance so you’ll have items to hand out to visitors at the show. Items such as T-shirts, pens, mouse pads, phone cases, stress balls and even socks can go over well.
Give Advanced Notice Via Email
Available to all trade show participants is a list of the other vendors and customers registered to be there. Ask for it ahead of time so that you can see who you know. Send out a personalized invitation to these people to stop by your booth. The more the merrier, and the better it will be for you. When attendees you don’t yet know see that your space is popular, they will drop by to find out what all the fuss is about.
Incorporate What Works
If you have the time and it makes sense logistically, go to a couple of shows before you make your own debut. See what works and what is resonating with people. Are the popular booths having contests, giving out candy or playing games? Do you know that old saying about the smorgasbord: Take what you like and leave the rest? That is how you should approach this mild and perfectly legal form of industrial espionage.
Focus on Your Display
You want your set-up to shout success and innovation, while also being inviting to people passing by. While you don’t need to spend a lot to get noticed, make the commitment to your display. If it looks attractive and solid, so will you. Research trade show display providers and find the right balance between quality and price. Then, be sure to tap a trusted graphic designer for your booth and signage. Remember that you will probably be able to re-use your booth at future shows or even sidewalk sales or fairs, so a small investment could go a long way.
Hand Out Big Reusable Bags
Anyone who has spent any time perusing the booths at a show will tell you that they never have a large enough bag to carry all of those great free giveaways. By furnishing a very large bag prominently emblazoned with your company logo, you will be accomplishing two purposes: satisfying a need while simultaneously making your company name something that is carried around the entire venue by an ever-increasing number of grateful attendees.
Streamline the Buying Experience
Thanks to modern technology, even the most staid of brick-and-mortar establishments can now take their wares on the road. All it requires is mobile credit card processing equipment. Don’t just refer people to your website or physical store; have some of your products on hand for immediate purchase. You just need a tablet or smartphone paired with a secure card reader, which will process customers’ payments in a matter of seconds and make you look like the innovative, tech-savvy company you are. Check with the venue to ensure you’ll receive a strong signal for your mobile device, and test your equipment once you arrive to ensure smooth transactions.
Create a Fun Vibe
Many of the old-school vendors have been at conventions year after year. Their staff might be tired and jaded, thinking only of when they can pack up and leave. You, on the other hand, have the opportunity to be the life of the party as a new and hungry entrepreneur. Make your exhibit booth interesting and interactive, and also find ways to network. Invite people to go out with you after the event or sponsor your own gathering at a nearby establishment.
Create a Company Video
It’s great to chat up passersby about what you do, but you can only talk to a finite number of guests at a time. While you are having these conversations, you can make even more of an impact with a company-specific video that runs in a loop. People are attracted to big screens with color visuals, so use this to your advantage with a video. Not sure how to make one? Enlist the services of local college students or young film or video enthusiasts, who are often willing to work for a lower fee with exposure as a trade-off.
In a nutshell, trade shows are what you make them. They can either be long, boring and frustrating or they can serve as springboards that can help bring your company a whole new level of exposure. Take some time to lay the groundwork with research, a compelling display and innovative ideas, and you might just be amazed at the places trade shows can take your company.
If the idea of being your own boss and selling products or services you are passionate about excites you, one way to jump-start your dream is by opening a franchise business. What makes a franchise even more appealing is that, in many cases, much of the marketing work has already been done for you. However, there is a lot more to consider about opening a franchise location than just the fact that potential customers may already know your brand.
Before you consider buying into this business model, remember that there is more involved than just the cost of buying the franchise. You also need to consider what you will be paying for your initial equipment and products, as well as what you will spend on salaries and ongoing expenses. Getting good financing in advance is a must.
Understand the Franchise Model
Before you buy into a business, it’s crucial that you know that your personality and working style meld with what the franchise business demands. You should be interested in the products or services the company offers, or at least be interested in helping the people who need or enjoy those products or services. You also must be willing to run your store the way the company requires. If you can’t or if it will drive you crazy over time, you are probably better off forging ahead on your own.
Be Aware of Your Time Commitments
Running a franchise business is no different than managing your own independent store in at least one way: It will take a good portion of your time, particularly in the beginning. Before you sign on any dotted lines, do some research online or talk to other franchisees you may know who have businesses with the company you’re considering. Be sure that you are willing and able to put in the time this enterprise will demand. Also, find out vital pieces of information such as how long the franchiser has been in business, the success rate of franchisees and the turnover rate.
Learn from the Successes and Failures of Others
As stated above, interacting with other people who run a franchise can be a game-changer. Find other franchisees who are willing to be candid with you, and you could save yourself a lot of time and heartbreak. Ask questions such as the following:
- What was the most important thing you have learned since starting your business?
- What have been the keys to your success?
- What was your biggest failure, and what did you learn from it?
- How long did it take for you to make a profit?
The more you know at the outset, the less you will need to learn the hard way.
Have a Cutting-Edge Payment Processing Strategy
Attracting and keeping customers involves more than just having great products or services and competent staff. People will also respond to a positive in-store experience, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by installing a modern payment processing system that makes the checkout experience fast, secure and seamless. Modern point-of-sale systems also possess numerous additional features that include inventory and customer management tools, employee management, sales tracking, report generation and much more. With this equipment at your side as a franchisee, you can automate many tasks that were once time-consuming and prone to error.
Taking the plunge into starting your own business can be both exciting and scary. Stack the deck in your favor by learning as much as you can in advance. If you do, owning a franchise may prove to be the ticket to your ultimate success.
Once upon a time, shopping was pretty simple. While people may have ordered items from a catalog once in a while, most of their shopping took place in a brick-and-mortar store where they paid for purchases with cash or check. With the rise of credit and debit cards, ecommerce, online payments, digital wallets and peer-to-peer payments, cash continues to lose its dominance, but does that mean it will soon go extinct?
The Advantages of Cash
Physical money continues to have some upsides. For one thing, consumers can make a purchase that cannot be easily traced or tracked. In an era when data breaches and identity theft are very real and can wreak havoc on a person’s entire life, this is a compelling reason to pay with dollars and cents. Cash is also very nice to have on hand for impulsive activities such as throwing change in a tip jar or donating to those in need. Furthermore, cash is accepted almost everywhere without a problem. In some cases, businesses will even give customers a discount if they pay for their purchases with cash. Finally, cash is finite; consumers know exactly how much money they can spend, and when it’s gone, it’s gone. For many, this makes planning and budgeting a lot easier.
The Downsides of Cash
Many of the things that make cash great can also be liabilities. For instance, the fact that it cannot be tracked means that if money is stolen, it’s probably gone forever. Furthermore, while cash is instrumental in helping to create a budget and limit spending, unforeseen needs and emergencies arise that may require a person to spend more money than they physically have on hand. This is where having a credit card or a digital wallet set up on your mobile phone can be a life-saver. Many of today’s retailers are equipped with NFC card readers that securely process a payment in a matter of seconds.
Advantages of Credit Cards
Credit cards have some definite pluses. For one thing, they are more secure than cash. If they are stolen, the customer generally is only responsible for a maximum of $50 spent by the thief. In addition, customers who pay with plastic can dispute charges and eventually get their money refunded in many situations. Also, many card providers give extra benefits including extended warranties and reward points as incentives. The added purchasing power of credit cards cannot be denied. Finally, being a responsible credit card holder boosts a person’s credit score over time, helping them when applying for mortgages and business loans.
Plastic and Ecommerce
These days, people don’t even need to get out of bed to purchase the goods and services they want. Online shopping using a credit card offers great convenience and often more reasonable prices. Some consumers remain queasy about providing sensitive financial data online, and there’s no doubt that fraud, data breaches and other criminal activities still occur and will probably continue to blight the marketplace. However, today’s enhanced encryption, tokenization and other security measures continue to convince a growing number of consumers to shop online with a credit card.
The Bottom Line
The benefits of credit cards, online shopping, digital wallets and other modern payment methods cannot be overstated, but their presence in the retail landscape does not mean that cash will soon be obsolete. Although consumers might not carry around a lot of bills and coins, it’s probably a safe bet that they will never totally forego the freedom and spontaneity that carrying cash provides.
When you move to a new city, one of your first tasks is to scope out the neighborhood in order to understand the lay of the land, the culture and what resources are available to you as a resident. When you’re an entrepreneur setting up a new ecommerce store, you will encounter a similar challenge. It’s necessary to quickly achieve a clear understanding of the different players involved in your payment ecosystem, and the two most important are payment gateways and merchant accounts.
Facts About Payment Gateways
When a customer submits an order for one of your products online, the payment gateway is the first place the order goes. In short, a payment gateway helps to make the payment possible by facilitating its approval. It is, in effect, the intermediary between you as the retailer and the payment processor. It is responsible for securing and encrypting all types of transactions, including credit and debit card as well as alternative payments. Transactions can occur in several ways: via an integrated shopping cart, a hosted page or an application program interface (API). Regardless of which of these you use, the payment will first travel to the payment gateway. Then it goes to the payment processor, on to the credit card network and, at long last, to the customer’s credit card issuer where it can be authorized. Once this happens and the charge is approved, it wings its way electronically to your merchant account. Perhaps the most amazing aspect of this process is that everything takes place within a matter of seconds, and as long as the gateway you choose is PCI compliant, you can rest assured that the customer’s sensitive financial information remains safe.
Before selecting a payment gateway, get the answers to the following questions:
- How soon do you need it?
- How much are you willing to pay?
- Is the payment gateway Level A compliant?
- Does the gateway offer customer support that you are comfortable with using?
- Does the gateway accept the types of payments you want to provide for your customers?
- Does the gateway allow for automatic recurring payments?
- Does the gateway offer hosted payments that take the customer to a secure site during checkout and then return them to your site afterwards? This is a much more secure solution.
- Does the gateway integrate with your current accounting, billing and shopping cart solutions?
Facts About Merchant Accounts
Whereas the payment gateway is the first step in the payment process, your merchant account is the last. It is the place where everything is reconciled before the funds from successful sales are transferred into your business account. This holding tank for your funds can accept many different types of payments: credit and debit card, wire, ACH and digital wallets. Generally speaking, the funds in your merchant account are sent to your business account on a regular schedule. Keep in mind, however, that there will be a period of time, usually two to seven days after money has been added to your merchant account, that you will be unable to access it (some providers do offer next-day funding). Check the terms of your payment gateway contract to learn what your specific setup dictates in terms of this waiting period duration. If you have not signed on with a payment gateway yet, you can often negotiate wait time duration as one of the terms in your agreement.
When choosing the merchant account that is best for you, get the answers to the following questions:
- Does the account offer 24-hour live customer support? If not, are you happy with what they do provide?
- Does it allow you to process online and offline transactions?
- Is the solution PCI-compliant?
- How long does it take on average to process funds?
- What fraud protections do they offer?
- What is the length of the contract, if applicable?
- Are there early termination penalties?
- What other fees are involved?
Dedicated Vs. Aggregate Merchant Accounts
There are two different types of merchant accounts. As the name implies, dedicated merchant accounts are set up just for you, the business owner. You have the ability to receive rates from your payment processor based on your sales numbers. As you might imagine, this increased level of control comes at a price. You will need to go through an extensive underwriting process that involves a good deal of paperwork and jumping through other hoops, but the end result almost always justifies the extra work. By contrast, aggregate accounts are a lot easier to obtain but do not allow you to have the same degree of control over your rates or when your money gets paid out to you. They basically combine your money with funds from many other businesses, and you pretty much have to live with whatever rates the company gives you.
A Brief Word About End-to-End Payment Platforms
Wouldn’t it be nice if your payment gateway and merchant account were seamlessly integrated and you did not need to purchase them separately from different companies? Well, an end-to-end or full stack payment platform does just that. If the idea of smooth integration appeals to you, find a provider that combines your shopping cart, payment gateway and merchant account. If all of the moving parts are administered by the same provider, you are sure to have fewer hitches in what can sometimes be a very complex payment ecosystem.
Sure, accepting payments represents only a tiny part of your entire business model. Your staff, products, website, physical store and future plans are bound to take up most of your time and energy. However, the entire house of cards that is your retail business can collapse in a heap if your payment environment is poorly executed. If you dedicate yourself to choosing the best payment processing, gateway and merchant account providers who are equipped to meet your unique business needs, you will reap the rewards for many years to come. So act like you would if you have just relocated to a new neighborhood. Find the people and networks you can make the most fruitful connections with, and you are sure to quickly feel right at home.
While the climate of brick-and-mortar retail stores might appear dismal given the continuing collapse of major chains (such as Toys R Us and Sears), the fact is that stores and businesses continue to be opened every day. However, the future of retail seems clearly dependent on retailers forging a new business model that includes an online experience. Downsizing with a streamlined curation of products augmented by a digital shopping experience may save the brick-and-mortar environment and make it continue to thrive.
The coffee behemoth Starbucks has already adopted this approach by removing nearly 200 products from its stores, while Target and Kohl’s have additionally reduced their in-store inventory, specifically by downsizing their in-store product number in order to showcase popular items, while at the same time increasing their selections online. This approach has resulted in not only an increase in point of sale payment processing for retail outlets, but also in online credit card processing.
Fighting Brand Confusion
The saturation of the retail market by companies selling nearly identical products creates an air of brand confusion for the consumer, as well as uncertainty in regards to exactly which product to purchase (when confronted with twenty different versions of the same thing, shoppers tend to freeze, unable to make a decision). Stocking fewer items which have been curated in order to create a shopping experience tailored to your specific shopper will not only remedy this problem by cutting through the deafening noise inherent to this retail landscape, but will also reduce operating costs. Competing with Amazon shouldn’t be your job; instead, you need to curate a collection of products that appeal specifically to your target customer.
Before reconsidering your product offerings, you need to have a clear understanding of your brand identity and your target market. If your customer is a hip, urban twenty-something with an interest in vintage stereophonics, then anything unrelated probably shouldn’t be on your shelves. Secondly, an evaluation of recent sales will assist greatly. Once you have a clear overview of your weakest and strongest selling items, it will aid in streamlining your inventory. Additionally, review those products which sit in the middle. Are there other retailers within your area that sell the exact same things? If so, this competition may be lowering the percentage of your return (or perhaps you’d care to feature these items solely in your e-commerce store, augmenting your target shopper’s options and experience in the process).
Speaking to e-commerce and its pairing with the retail experience, Aseem Chandra, Vice President of Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Target, states:
“With shoppers’ expectations rising, the proliferation of data and new touch points, and increasing competitive pressures, retailers must focus on delivering the most relevant customer experiences possible in order to succeed . . . It is no easy feat to deliver engaging content and powerful personalization at scale without the right tools and technology (but) by incorporating artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, retailers can automate exceptional experiences for each individual consumer across every interaction.”
In layman’s terms, in the age of mobile devices, the future of physical retail lies not only in curating a streamlined, targeted inventory, but also in providing your brick-and-mortar customer with an augmented digital experience customized to them. While shoppers tend to view online transactions as relatively hassle-free (except for making returns), they also still desire the tactile immediacy of physical retail shopping. This means, it’s time for you the retailer to bridge the gap.
Enhancing the Shopping Experience
Envision a brick-and-mortar store in which the moment a customer enters they are digitally greeted on their mobile device with offers tailored specifically to them. This retail store would allow the shopper to easily access product data via the store’s proprietary app as it pertains both to physical and online inventory. This environment would be augmented with AI allowing the staff to know shoppers by name and to assist them (using collected data profiles) in efficiently providing exactly what a patron may desire. Further, the shopper is encouraged to share their purchases on social media platforms in order to receive a store incentive for future purchases, while their online contacts are encouraged to visit the physical or online store to receive a limited-time discount. Savvy retailers have already adopted this “future” store in order to drive sales in both their in-store and online environments.
The tactile experience of shopping in the physical realm shouldn’t be discounted, regardless of the continued rise in ecommerce. Innovations in pairing the two may be the key in not only increasing profit margins for both a company’s brick-and-mortar and online entities, but also in creating an entirely new and engaging shopping experience.
Says Michael Klein, Director of Industry Strategy for Retail at Adobe, “This type of personalization continues to be the Holy Grail in retail – consumers expect highly personalized experiences and brands must address this. Automating personalized experiences, in-store and online, with machine learning and AI will benefit retailers and consumers.”
Nordstrom is already utilizing a similar concept, which combines social data and merges it with its own in-house program, in order to create the discussed omnichannel shopping experience.
While retail is changing, remember that (according to the U.S. Census Bureau) only 7.8 percent of the total retail sales in the first quarter of 2016 were attributed to e-commerce – meaning that 92.2 percent of total retail came from brick-and-mortar stores. The percentage of online sales has continued to grow, but brick-and-mortar retail still remains vital and is nowhere near death. In fact, with the application of intelligent downsizing, customized product curation and a tailored omnichannel shopping experience, savvy retailers can look forward to a new and healthy lease on life for years to come.
In the past decade, a steadily increasing number of retailers both large and small have adopted mobile point of sale systems. Their decision to evolve in this way is based on the fact that mPOS systems can benefit merchants in several ways. Because of the flexibility of mPOS solutions, payments can be accepted anywhere – on the road, at flea markets, or even at pop-up stores in malls or at events. In a traditional store, an mPOS can make long, frustrating lines a thing of the past, and at restaurants, patrons can pay at the table. Being allowed to pay via mPOS can lead to happier and more dedicated customers. Further, today’s mPOS solutions enable business owners to easily build databases and otherwise access valuable customer information. The upsides are seemingly endless.
Merchant Benefits of Using MPOS Payment Processing
- Save time and decrease checkout lines. Time is a precious commodity, and your customers value every second. Have you ever contemplated buying something from a particular store, only to see the long line for checkout and immediately change your mind? Your mPOS can eliminate lines from your customers’ shopping experience. With this technology, your sales associates can complete purchases anywhere in the store, freeing up your cashier and utterly transforming the shopping experience.
- Sell anywhere, anytime. Your mPOS can open up the world to you and your staff. Sure, selling products in your store provides customers with a centralized place to which they can come to make their purchases. However, you can now use your mPOS to take your wares on the road. Whether you showcase your goods at a farmer’s market or a trade show across town or on another continent, you can take your portable payment solution with you. As a result, you can drastically diversify your customer base and make stimulating contacts that can inspire you in amazing ways. What’s more, most mPOS systems come with a virtual terminal, meaning you can also accept payments by phone and online.
- Go green and reduce paper usage. Receipts provide a valuable way to track purchases, but who said they need to be made out of paper? Your mPOS solution can save trees by emailing the information securely to your customer, eliminating the need to store piles of paper snippets.
- Easily access additional information. Your mPOS might be small, but it is a data and information dynamo that can integrate many of your integral business functions under one roof. Many mPOS systems enable you to manage and order inventory, generate sales reports that examine the past and prognosticate the future, keep track of employee time and payrolls, create and manage databases and customer loyalty programs, and look at the analytics of your customers to help boost sales by matching what you sell to what people want. With an mPOS, you basically gain a reliable and innovative partner that can help you grow your business and please your customers.
- Create a customer database. Information about the people who buy from you truly can be a gold mine for your company. With the help of your mPOS, you can easily make a database that contains everyone’s contact information. Once it is set up, sending email blasts about sales and promotions is a breeze. So is sending personalized messages to lure customers back to your store if you have not seen them for awhile. Most people like to be rewarded and treated as special members of an exclusive club. Your mPOS database function makes this not only possible but easy to accomplish.
- Have fewer compliance requirements. Whenever you take payments using credit or debit cards, you need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). In recent years, mobile solutions have gained acceptance as viable and secure ways for customers to complete their purchases. If you pair your mPOS with an online virtual terminal as opposed to a hardware credit card machine, you will reduce the number of physical devices that must meet these standards. Instead, you can turn over the responsibility of compliance to the vendor who runs your virtual terminal.
- Lower costs. MPOS solutions are not just packed with features and easy to use; they can be incredibly cost-effective. The setup charges are generally quite manageable for most businesses, and the per-transaction fees are low. Add to that all of the back-office features that come standard with many packages, and you will probably find that your mPOS system is remarkably economical to initiate and use every day.
- Improve your customer experience. When buyers get the products they want because inventory management software has ensured that they are in stock; when they don’t need to stand in long lines to pay; when they feel unique and cared about thanks to targeted loyalty programs and promotions; and when they have an overall cool and tech-savvy experience at your store, that translates into satisfied customers. As you know, happy customers return again and again, and they bring their friends. What more could a business owner want?
MPOS Usage Data
It’s no wonder that 62 percent of business owners who were surveyed said that having mPOS in their arsenal made their jobs easier. After all, over one-third of their customers revealed that having this one solution was directly related to their buying more products. Some entrepreneurs, a full 32 percent, are so happy with the difference mPOS has made that they now use it exclusively. Almost half of the business owners surveyed expressed a definite preference for mPOS even though they still supplement it with other payment options.
Some trends burn bright and die just as quickly, but this fate does not appear to be on the radar for mPOS. In fact, a full one-third of the world’s point-of sale terminals will be mobile ones by 2021, and they are projected to process 45 percent of all payments. Considering that this is projected to amount to a staggering $5.6 billion in just three years, mobile payment processing seems to be an unstoppable train. When you think about all of the benefits it brings to businesses around the globe, isn’t it time to jump onboard?
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There are plenty of good reasons to want to entice Millennial shoppers into your physical store. Perhaps the most compelling of these is that this demographic represents the future for continued spending, which is of great importance to you as a business owner. The issue is how to get these busy, tech-savvy potential customers to walk into your physical store and later recommend it to their friends.
Make Guests Feel Welcome with WiFi
Younger shoppers are virtually guaranteed to have their mobile devices close at hand, so use this trend to your advantage. Set up a guest WiFi network that does not require a lot of time and effort for login. Shoppers will appreciate the fact that they don’t need to use data to research products, read peer reviews or show pictures of your items to friends on social media. Just be sure to keep this WiFi network separate from your own secure setup that you and your staff use.
Streamline the Checkout Process
Millennial shoppers are adept at multi-tasking, and time is of the essence for them. As a retailer, it’s your job to make the shopping and checkout experience as fast and seamless as possible. Instead of making people stand in long lines for the cash register, equip each of your staff members with a portable mobile payment device that accepts contactless payments from the sales floor. Virtually all modern point-of-sale systems also give you the capability of emailing receipts to customers instead of printing them out, a feature that adds convenience, saves on paper and shows customers how cutting-edge you are.
Stay on Your Toes
While today’s younger customers certainly are adept as a group in researching products and inventory, the pressure is still on for you and your staff. When someone does ask a question about something you sell, you and your workers should have a comprehensive knowledge not only of your products and where they are located on the floor but also of how to do research for similar items if you don’t carry what the shopper is seeking. This personal interaction is one of the key advantages that your physical store has over the internet, and it behooves you to utilize it to its full potential.
Reward Loyal Customers
Everyone loves promotions and rewards, and Millennials are no exception. Take advantage of their ubiquitous mobile phones by initiating a digital loyalty program that removes the need for customers to carry keychain or paper cards. Customers love the convenience of carrying all of their vital wallet and loyalty information on their phones and tablets.
Integrate Social Media into Your Marketing Strategy
Millennials aren’t the only ones checking Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Harness the power of social media by encouraging your customers to take pictures of your products and review their shopping experience in your store. Stay attuned to what’s hot on Pinterest and other sites, and find ways to bring these products into your physical store. When brick-and-mortar meets digital, positive things can happen.
Attracting and keeping today’s Millennial shoppers is one of the best ways to plan for your future. These customers are beginning to buy homes and have families of their own, which will significantly increase their spending. There is nothing better than being situated in just the right place at the right time to anticipate this growth over the coming years.