As an entrepreneur, there are times when virtually every penny counts. When your credit card processor puts a hold on your funds, it can shake your company to its very foundations. What are some of the reasons why processing companies may do this?
Processing companies act in the middle between you and your bank. When your customer makes a credit card payment, their bank is extending a line of credit to make it happen. By the same token, your processor is paying you on the customer’s behalf long before they receive the money. If anything goes wrong in this procedure, it is the credit card processor that is on the hook for the money.
Let’s say that, despite your best efforts to stay afloat, your company goes out of business. One of the unintended casualties might be your credit card processor. If you terminate your account while you still owe merchant fees, it is the processing company that suffers the hit.
As a business owner, chargebacks may be one of your most time-consuming nightmares. They occur when a customer disputes a charge and requests to reverse it. Believe it or not, these chargebacks are even more damaging to merchant companies.
Let’s say that one of the purchases made before your business went under was a very large one. For whatever reason, the customer chooses to dispute the purchase, basically refusing to pay the charge. If your company is no longer a business entity by the time the chargeback becomes official – they can sometimes take as long as 180 days – the processing company is again left owing the money to the bank.
Credit card fraud is one of the biggest reasons for chargebacks. Merchant processing companies are often put in the unenviable position of owing many thousands of dollars when a transaction or merchant company is found to be bogus.
To sum it up, your funds are probably on hold because your processing company is attempting to protect itself from the risk of fraud, chargebacks and fees that cannot be recovered due to a merchant closing. For an entrepreneur, this situation can be frustrating in the short run. However, it’s safe to say that it is an inevitable part of doing business with credit card processing companies.
In today’s digital world, E-wallets are quickly gaining prominence and becoming customers’ preferred method of payment. That’s because they are cutting-edge, secure and easy to use. Incorporating E-wallets into your business model may well be one of the best things you could do to enhance your company and make your customers happy.
Advantages of E-Wallets
It’s no wonder that these digital payment devices are taking the retail world by storm. They offer a wide variety of attractive qualities for customers and merchants alike.
- Security. For one thing, cash is notoriously easy to lose not only due to carelessness but also from theft. By contrast, the data and funds stored in an E-wallet are encrypted. Even if a person’s cellphone is stolen, the information remains safe. During payment transactions, no personal information is leaked to the merchant or to potentially unscrupulous staff members, drastically lowering the chances of theft and fraud.
- Acceptable from a smartphone. These days, most people rarely go anywhere without their cellphones. That makes having an E-wallet particularly convenient and allows people to buy items on impulse even when they don’t have any actual cash on hand.
- Convenience. Many people are recognizing the freedom that comes with having an E-wallet. Gone are the days of cumbersome, heavy wallets stuffed with a disorganized mess of coins, bills and cards. Today’s digital payment mechanisms allow all information to be securely and neatly stored on a device that people are already carrying as a matter of course.
- Streamlining of the purchase process. Today, buying something digitally can be as fast as positioning one’s phone near the merchant’s card reader, placing a finger on the phone for verification, grabbing the product and walking out of the store. Gone are the days of fumbling for exact change, writing checks or even waiting seemingly forever for a credit card to be verified.
- E-wallets are simple to manage. Transferring funds into a digital wallet can be accomplished virtually anywhere. Whether a customer is at home on their PC, at work with their laptop or on the go with just their mobile phone, it’s a breeze to keep track of and modify information.
- Flexibility with currency. Especially for merchants who do business internationally, digital transactions can make everyday commerce much easier. That’s because merchants who accept payments from E-wallets can choose a wide variety of currencies that they can accept.
How Do E-Wallets Work?
1. The initial setup of an E-wallet requires a leap of faith for customers. They must trust that their information will remain secure not only on their smartphone but also in the archives of the E-wallet provider. In order to get started with the technology, customers must input their bank account and credit card information since these are the places from which their funds will be drawn when the time comes to make a payment.
2. The E-wallet does not necessarily contain any funds. It is up to the customer to decide when or if they wish to place monies there.
3. A payment transaction can be described as an encrypted conversation that takes place between two banks: the customer’s and the retailer’s. E-wallet payments are beneficial to buyers and sellers alike because of their heightened security protocols and the fact that a customer’s credit card information never becomes known to a merchant in the same way it once did when people used magnetic stripe cards.
4. The transaction proceeds quickly and securely, with the funds drawn from the customer’s E-wallet or bank balance and sent within seconds to the merchant.
5. Once the process is complete, both parties receive what they expect; the customer gets a product or service, and the merchant is paid appropriately for what has been purchased.
6. Thorough records are kept by the seller’s merchant services provider as well as the sponsor of the customer’s e-wallet, enabling everyone to have accountability should any questions or disputes arise.
In general, an E-wallet is a prepaid account that is used to store money and make online and mobile payment transactions quickly and securely. Before it can be activated, the user must input all of their account information, which is then stored and used when the time comes to make payments. When utilized with a smartphone, an E-wallet can also be the repository for transit and airline tickets, gift cards and customer loyalty rewards. Ultimately, the E-wallet benefits customers by giving them a fast and secure way to pay as well as a convenient place to keep all manner of valuable information. When merchants accept funds from E-wallets, they are more protected against fraud and can process payments seamlessly.
There are three types of E-wallets:
- Open wallets. This type of E-wallet can only be issued by banks or their partner institutions. It can be used to transfer funds from one account to another and to withdraw cash from ATMs. In fact, open wallets work much like credit and debit cards.
- Closed wallets. As the name implies, this type of payment instrument is restricted. It is provided by a specific company such as Amazon, and it can only be used to make purchases to the entity that sponsors it. At any time, the user can transfer any remaining balance in this type of wallet back to their own bank account.
- Semi-closed wallets. As is the case with their closed counterparts, these are sponsored by a particular company. Customers can purchase from several vendors and can also transfer funds to other users in the same network. However, they cannot withdraw cash and place it into their own accounts.
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Anyone who has worked behind a cash register knows that many customers paying by credit card do not give much attention to the signature they write on the screen or receipt slip; sometimes it isn’t even legible. You may have thought that the whole process of signing after a card purchase should be a thing of the past. Finally, all of the major credit card companies agree with you.
It started in October, when MasterCard announced that signatures were no longer required for purchases made with their plastic. After positive feedback from major retailers, Discover and American Express followed suit in December. Not long after in January, Visa became the last of the four major credit card companies to ditch the long-criticized customer signature. Although merchants still have the option to require that customers sign, this is no longer a rule of the credit card companies themselves.
Business owners who have merchant accounts and use point-of-sale systems to complete payment transactions often viewed the signature as a way to maximize customer security. However, the reality was that retailers hardly ever checked the scribbled names against the signature on the back of the customer’s card. Even if they did, they denied the transaction even more rarely.
Fortunately, today’s technology allows for much more advanced security measures. For one thing, modern EMV or chip cards enable each transaction to be encrypted. What’s more, the card never physically leaves the customer’s hand, drastically reducing the likelihood of theft or cloning. In the years to come, the use of fingerprint, voice and facial recognition capabilities will enhance the safety of the payment process even more.
Ultimately, the decision to nix the signature looks to be a win-win for both customers and business owners. For shoppers attempting to make their purchases as quickly and seamlessly as possible, taking away one step in the payment procedure saves time and aggravation. Concurrently, the retailer ends up not only with happy consumers but also does not compromise on payment security. Satisfied customers and entrepreneurs are the end result and are definitely the recipe for success.
Whether you own a business, work at one or simply buy things, you will soon be signing your name a lot less. Never fear though, the transition looks to be a smooth one, and you probably won’t miss the extra step.
In an era when convenience is king, it’s no wonder that third-party delivery services such as Grubhub and UberEats have gained such popularity. For consumers, they provide an ever-broadening range of eating choices delivered right to their door. However, restaurant owners should carefully look at the pros and cons of these services since they can be a mixed blessing.
Third-party services stand out because they are seen by many customers as cool and cutting-edge. Including your eatery on the list of one of these services can make you seem up with the times and the modern trends, particularly with your millennial customers. You don’t even need to employ your point of sale software in order to use one of these services; most do not integrate with POS systems and require you to process the transactions manually.
What’s more, third-party services can actually do some of your marketing for you. Potential customers who may never have heard of you will see your name and menu on the service’s app or website. If the customer has already had a positive experience with the company, they may attach it to your restaurant as well. That adds up to free advertising and quite a few potential loyal customers for you.
Finally, allying yourself with one of these companies can take some of the hassle off your shoulders. While you may have had to hire delivery staff in the past, you can now delegate the job to people whose salaries you don’t even pay. You will also save on gas, insurance and the cost of a vehicle. All you will need to do is to pay the service company a fee for each order they handle for you.
Before you jump on the third-party delivery service bandwagon, however, there are some negative points to consider. First of all, the fees that you will be charged can be quite hefty. Depending on your location, the popularity of your restaurant and whether you pay for a sponsored listing, you might be asked to fork over as much as a whopping 30 percent of the cost of an order.
In addition, you don’t have all that much control over the drivers the company sends to deliver your food. Should the food arrive two hours late or cold, for instance, chances are good that it will not be the third-party meal deliverer that the customer will blame. In the end, your brand might take the hit.
Another consideration is that there is room for a variety of brand-damaging errors when you work with a third-party company. You might not be open or you may have stopped taking delivery orders, yet a customer is still able to order from you on the third-party company’s website or app. Or maybe your menu changed in-house but not on the company’s platform. What do you do then? These difficulties can lead to aggravation for you and disenchantment for your customers.
When faced with the question of whether to pay for a third-party delivery company or not, you should think about your business’s unique features. If you believe that every delivery order will increase your profits and add to your customer base, this may be a terrific option for your establishment. Take the time to select the third-party vendor that best meets your needs. Once you do, you can enhance your customers’ experiences and pad your profit margin in the process.
Often, businesses focus their customer experience to either online or in-store shopping. These days, you can set yourself up for success by giving your customers the ability to get the products they want both at your brick-and-mortar facility and online.
The Advantages of On-Site and Online Shopping
Traditionally, shoppers have enjoyed the experience of seeing and touching a selection of products. Having that direct, personal experience is one of the best ways for an undecided customer to learn exactly what they want.
From a business perspective, interacting face-to-face with potential buyers provides you with the unparalleled ability to establish and cultivate a relationship that could prove to be both profitable and emotionally satisfying.
That being said, the so-called virtual buying experience has its upsides as well. Customers can peruse your website day or night, reading product reviews and looking for bargains at their leisure. Best of all, the items can be delivered right to their door in a matter of days, a convenience that many shoppers value.
From the merchant point of view, website analytics of online shopper behavior allow you to learn a great deal about your customers. The more you know, the better able you are to customize what you sell to meet the needs of the demographic you serve.
Every positive has its drawbacks, and shopping is no different. Taking the time to shop in-store can be impractical in today’s busy world. Worse still, customers can get to your store with a specific product in mind only to find that it isn’t currently in stock. Furthermore, long lines and difficulties during the checkout process can make people irritable and less inclined to come back.
Virtual shopping has its share of negatives as well. Potential buyers lose out on the personal touch. What’s more, they cannot see and touch a product before they buy it. It can also be inconvenient if items need to be returned.
The Evolution of Modern Retail
In recent years, online retail has begun to eclipse its brick-and-mortar counterparts. However, don’t look for physical stores to fade into oblivion. Instead, the path for true success involves integrating both online and in-store strategies to give customers all of the advantages of each method.
The omni-channel retailer of the future will give customers the personalization and convenience of the virtual experience in tandem with the face-to-face benefits of physical stores. How will this happen? A good deal of the solution lies in mobile technology. These days, even smaller retailers are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon. Doing so enables them to set up customer loyalty programs that entice and reward people for shopping in-store.
In addition, location-based technologies can be used to alert customers to sales and other promotions when they get physically close to your store. You can use the tools you have available through your POS gateway to learn what specific items your customer wants. When they are in close proximity to your location, you can send a customized message that invites them to come in and make the purchase.
New innovations are also making it much easier for customers to have the ease of online shopping married to the ability to see, feel and get what they want immediately. One of the most promising of these is digital light fixtures, which act as Bluetooth beacons and pair with the mapping technology and loyalty app in the customer’s phone. Thanks to this invention, potential buyers can be guided effortlessly right to the item they are looking for just as quickly as they would if they were conducting an online search – but with the added benefit of instant gratification. In addition, they have the ability to ask questions and possibly even augment their purchase with accessories. That’s a win-win for retailers and customers alike.
There is another benefit of modern in-store technology. It can actually track how long someone stands in front of a product display. In real time, the retailer can recognize that the customer may have questions and send an associate to assist them. If a patron wants help from you or one of your staff, they can also use their app to summon assistance, thus saving time and improving the overall shopping experience.
What You Can Do to Embrace Multi-Channel Retailing
Does it make sense that integrating your enterprise to incorporate the advantages of both online and in-store shopping is one of the smartest steps you can take to enhance sales and make your customers happy? If so, there are steps you can take today to begin your journey towards more effective sales.
- Make sure your technology is up-to-date. That includes your POS system. Contact your service provider to ensure that your system allows you to do effective inventory and customer care management. If you have fallen behind the times, the moment to upgrade has arrived.
- Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly. If that means contracting with a vendor, the work will probably pay for itself in short order. You can’t afford to miss out on customers’ increasing tendency to shop via their phones.
- Consider adopting modern beacon technologies into your store. They will help to guide buyers to the products they want quickly and efficiently.
Modern technology has expanded horizons in a myriad of ways. For you as an entrepreneur, it can enable you to harness the power of multiple methods of shopping. By doing so, your customers will have a satisfyingly efficient buying experience while still being able to interact with you and your products. In the end, everyone wins.
Pop-up shops: They cost relatively little to start, and they can be the ideal vehicle for spreading the word about your brand. Whether you’re looking for a new revenue stream, want to give your online customers a way to see and touch your wares, or wish to test the viability of a product before you fully invest in it, a pop-up shop is an excellent option.
With the help of a virtual point-of-sale solution, your new endeavor can take your business to a higher level.
Understand the Benefits
As with any new project, getting your pop-up off the ground is a multi-step process. Before you make the commitment, it might help to understand why it may be worthwhile. For one thing, it’s cost-effective. Today’s realtors have come to understand how lucrative these temporary selling spaces can be, and they’re often willing to give you a good deal. What’s more, pop-up stores afford you the perfect, low-commitment way to introduce customers to new items or capitalize on a particular event or time of year.
For instance, many pop-ups focus on holidays such as Halloween and Christmas. Finally, the pop-up is the perfect place to create urgency. When people know that your store will only be there for a limited time, they are often motivated to take advantage of your presence immediately.
Take Advantage of the Low Cost
Your pop-up costs a lot less than a permanent brick-and-mortar location, but that doesn’t mean its benefits don’t shine. Thanks to the flexibility it affords, you can take some added risks. Field-test items to see how well they sell. Get customer feedback face-to-face, all the while using your virtual POS system to sync and track your inventory, monitor and evaluate trends and market to your most loyal customers.
Make the Most of Your Staff
Especially during busy times, it is your employees who will be on the front line with your customers. This is especially true with pop-up stores. Thanks to your virtual POS system, your associates can help people find items quickly and efficiently, whether you currently have them in your pop-up store or in a warehouse. Inventory management and sales trending capabilities in your POS can help you keep the most popular items in stock and on hand. What’s more, you can use your mobile system to take customer payments from anywhere, leading to more sales and happier customers.
Setting up a pop-up shop involves a great deal of time and forethought. Determining your goals, finding and setting up your location, understanding who your customers are as well as the products they want are just the beginning steps. As you customize your space and make it uniquely yours, your virtual POS system can be an invaluable ally, helping you provide the product exposure and customer experience that will lead to your success.
You have probably heard of skimming, a nefarious technology that criminals employed to obtain sensitive credit card information for the purpose of making illegal purchases. Although financial institutions and merchants have found ways to thwart these activities, evil-doers seem to always find another way to wreak havoc. Enter shimming, the new and even more disturbing way to steal users’ information.
How Does Shimming Work?
With old-school skimming, criminals usually affixed a false front to an ATM or a credit card reader commonly attached to a gas pump. This piece contained technology that cloned the magnetic stripe on a credit card without the victim having any knowledge that it had happened. Over time, however, consumers learned to look for loose ATM front plates or any other irregularity that might signal skimming.
Today’s shimming is even more sinister. It uses a paper-thin device inserted into the card reader that intercepts and stores the information embedded in a consumer’s EMV chip card. Although today’s EMV cards should be more secure, they still contain a magnetic stripe that the shimmer can hijack. The card might not be cloned in exactly the same way, but a customer’s data can still be used if a financial institution’s security protocols are lax.
The Added Dangers
Because shimmers are so small, they can be inserted in virtually any terminal or wireless credit card reader. Worse still, criminals can easily remove the device without being detected; the procedure looks no different than it would if the person was making an ordinary payment.
Protect Yourself Against Shimming
In spite of its insidiousness, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your business from shimming.
- Whenever possible, pay using contactless, tap-and-go technology with platforms such as Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. Encourage your customers to do the same.
- Withdraw cash at indoor ATMs. Better still, do so at the teller window with an actual human being.
- If you or a customer experience a feeling of resistance when dipping an EMV card, do not complete the transaction. Have the reader checked and replaced if necessary.
- If you haven’t done so already, upgrade your POS to accept EMV cards. Once you do, your system will be able to detect if a mag stripe card has been counterfeited.
- All consumers should regularly monitor their bank and credit card accounts to ensure that no unauthorized purchases have been made.
It’s inevitable: As soon as one method of fraud or thievery is squashed, criminals will come up with a new and improved scheme. That doesn’t mean you need to be a victim. Whether you’re a consumer or a business owner, understanding what shimming is and how to protect yourself against it can markedly minimize your chances of becoming the prey of a shimmer.
Your business relies on merchant processing services to conduct credit and debit card transactions. Losing your account could mean the end of your business, especially if you make most of your sales online.
How can you ensure your account stays active and viable? Avoid these four common issues, all of which can lead merchant providers to terminate relationships with businesses.
Your Industry Counts as “High Risk”
Your company may count as a high-risk operation if you deal in:
- Gaming or gambling
- Life coaching
- Long-term memberships
- Real estate
- Travel services
- Vitamins and supplements
Certain online stores, such as those operating through Amazon or eBay, are also classified as high-risk businesses. Some providers won’t take on any company with a high level of risk, so you have to find a service willing to give you an account. Some providers, such as Humboldt Merchant Services, specialize in credit card processing for high-risk merchants.
While being in a high-risk industry isn’t something you can control, you can take steps to ensure your business doesn’t attract unwanted attention from your merchant provider.
You Have a High Chargeback Ratio
A chargeback occurs when a customer requests a refund in response to a fraudulent charge. This may occur after unauthorized use of a card or when an unintentional payment is made, such as a teenager using his or her parent’s card without permission. The acceptable maximum ratio for chargebacks in the industry is generally considered to be 1 percent. Too high of a ratio may indicate suspicious activity or poor attention to customer satisfaction. Work to avoid chargebacks by providing ample alternate means for customers to request refunds or settle disputes.
Your Customers Are Victims of Fraud
If you log a high number of fraudulent transactions, your merchant account provider will take notice. The shift to EMV or “chip” cards, the upsurge in use of electronic payment methods, and the continuing popularity of online shopping have all increased the likelihood of credit card fraud, and merchant services providers expect businesses to take every possible precaution against the theft of customer information.
You’re Engaged in Questionable Activities
It’s important to read the terms of service before signing up for a merchant account so that you understand what activities the provider considers to be “suspicious.” For example, most providers don’t want their clients using multiple merchant accounts at the same time or using a single account for multiple businesses. Committing deliberate fraud by misusing customer information, using deceptive advertising, overcharging customers or not making good on sales will also put your account in jeopardy
The closure of your merchant account could land your business in the Terminated Merchant File (TMF), also known as the MATCH list. This makes it next to impossible to open a new merchant account with another provider, so being diligent about activities on your current account is critical.
Take steps to improve security and minimize fraud, and focus on excellent customer service to reduce the number of chargebacks. By maintaining a good track record and keeping lines of communication open between your business and your customers, you can ensure a positive relationship with your merchant account provider.
One of the most under-appreciated jobs in a retail establishment is that of the cashier. Contrary to popular belief, this position is one of the most pivotal for businesses both small and large. A highly competent cashier can ensure that the books remain balanced at the end of the day by keeping mistakes to a minimum and by making security a priority. Perhaps even more important, they can help customers to have a positive shopping experience that will increase the likelihood that they will return, perhaps even spreading the good news about the business to their friends. Integrating these training tips into your business model can help you to minimize cashier mistakes and maximize their potential to add value to your establishment.
You can invest in the most cutting-edge point of sale solution on the market, but it will be a total waste if your cashiers don’t know how to use it and take advantage of its features. High-quality systems have intuitive screen or keyboard layouts that are easy for most people to learn. Take the time to teach staff how to ring up a sale from customers using all types of payments, including debit, credit and gift cards as well as cash and checks. Now that mobile payments are becoming increasingly popular, be sure that everyone knows how to accept them as well as how to help customers navigate the process. Finally, teach your cashiers how to quickly process returns. Nothing can aggravate a customer more than a protracted wait when taking back a product with which they were not satisfied.
Train Staff in Security Matters
The most effective security measures often occur even before a purchase is made. That’s why it is essential to train your staff to recognize the red flags that point to potential fraud. Encourage them to listen to their intuition. If a customer looks shady, train them to ask for proper ID and to consult you or another supervisor if something doesn’t seem right. If they believe a bill might be counterfeit, instruct them to come to you immediately. Then contact the police right away. Although the likelihood of encountering a criminal is low, be prepared by coming up with a simple system that your cashiers can use to alert you to their suspicions. Protecting the money that is in your cash drawer should be one of your most important goals. In addition, guard against credit card fraud by instructing your staff to ask for ID before accepting a customer’s payment.
Another misconception about cashiers is that they do not need to deal with customers. On the contrary, the cashier is often the only person with whom a buyer directly converses while in the store. In the best-case scenario, the cashier can be your goodwill ambassador. For that reason, it is crucial that you take the time to train cashiers in the details of customer care. Your staff should have a clear understanding of how to help a customer who was unable to find a product. That means that cashiers should know the layout of your store as well as the general location of most products. When in doubt, they should be able to readily access other team members who can supply the customer with the information they are requesting. In cases where the product they are searching for is not available, show your staff how to suggest alternative options.
Although it may seem time-consuming, both you and your staff will benefit if you make the effort to create a written handbook of protocols. These rules can be invaluable to staff members when difficult situations arise, giving them tried-and-true solutions instead of forcing them to think on their feet. Outline how customer complaints should be addressed, and take time in training to do role-playing exercises to reinforce what is in your manual. Use your manual to also cover what staff should do when they are not serving customers in order to enhance your efficiency and keep them engaged. Finally, be sure that your document clearly defines what your cashiers are and are not allowed to do. For example, specify if they can issue refunds without consulting a supervisor.
As an entrepreneur, you are probably already well aware of the essential role your cashiers play in the success of your business. If you implement some of the above tips, you can ensure that your staff thoroughly understands what is expected of them. What’s more, you can rest easy knowing that security is a top priority and that your valued customers are receiving the excellent service they deserve.
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The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to take stock of the past and project into the future. Whether you want to get your company off the ground, go in a new direction or become more profitable, setting goals is essential.
There are several things you can do with the help of your merchant card services provider to establish the blueprint that will help make 2018 the year you want it to be.
Invest in New Equipment
If your infrastructure is weak, you can’t run efficiently. Therefore, think about what needs to be repaired, replaced or upgraded. Check with your merchant provider to be sure that you are using the point of sale (POS) system that is up-to-date, economical and meets your business needs. Technology is changing constantly, meaning that what has worked for you in the past might need a facelift.
Evaluate Your Customer Base
With the help of your POS system and the account provider that sold it to you, it is possible to track sales trends and inventory as well as to reward existing customers and court new ones. An updated POS is capable of helping you build and store a database of customers that can be a marketing gold mine. If your system has mobile capabilities, you can also entice people via smartphone alerts when they get close to your location. It’s a great way to make flash sales and other promotions work for you.
Write a 5-Year Plan
You might be saying that annual goals are hard enough and that writing one that extends half a decade into the future is a silly waste of time. However, once you have a big plan, it becomes easier to divide it into yearly pieces that are more easily accomplished.
One part of this goal should involve your merchant card services provider. Take a look at any existing contracts that may be binding you to see if you should renew when the time comes. The financial landscape changes quickly, so try to avoid making commitments that could lock you in over the next five years.
Watch Your Finances
With your thumb on the pulse of your income and outflow, you can stay in control of your business. Doing so will allow you to regulate and minimize costs and determine appropriate salaries, including your own. To that end, track all of your business expenses. Set up a budget after reviewing the past three months of profits and losses. Never mix your company’s accounts with your personal ones. Perhaps most importantly, don’t wait until the last minute to prepare for taxes.
Your POS solution can be an invaluable tool to keep you financially healthy. Ask your merchant account provider to show you the tools that you probably already have in place.
What do all winning teams have in common? Among other things, they all have an excellent coach, so why shouldn’t you? Consider hiring someone to help you set goals and to hold you accountable as you attempt to achieve them. Never forget that your merchant account provider can assist both you and your coach with information about the capabilities of your POS system in helping you to move forward.
After a careful financial assessment, you might come to the conclusion that you need additional capital if you are to move your company to the best level. There are numerous potential sources for monies: state and government resources, banks, other lenders and even your merchant account provider. Move carefully and deliberately through the process of obtaining loans, being sure that you can pay them back and that the lender is reputable. Only accept what is realistically manageable no matter how tempting the offer may be.
Taking the time to sit down and make plans for the future of your business is one of the best investments you can make in your future. Creating a clear roadmap helps you to forge your own path to success. Make the effort to chart your 2018 course today. When this time next year rolls around, you’ll be glad you did.
Making the decision to expand your e-commerce business internationally is both exciting and daunting. However, before you take the leap, it’s a smart idea to have a complete grasp of what you will encounter after you make the move, especially when it comes to accepting payments from international customers. After all, knowledge is power, and power can translate into profits.
Planning Is Key
Remember when you were starting your enterprise years ago? Back then, making meticulous plans and conducting research were the methods you used to determine what, where and how much you were going to sell and to whom. Now that you are expanding, you can expect to conduct a similar process. After all, you need to know who your customers will be, what they want to buy and how they prefer to shop.
Fortunately, agencies like the U.S. Small Business Administration and Export.gov offer extremely useful templates and tools that can help you to gauge your markets and develop pricing strategies. Furthermore, PayPal’s Passport site is loaded with information about specific countries and their particular global buying trends.
Payment Methods Are Not the Same as in the U.S.
Whether a customer is right around the corner or across the globe from you, one fact holds true: They want to pay using their preferred method and will often abandon their shopping cart if it is not available to them. They also feel more comfortable using their own currency. Fortunately, many global payment providers allow you to list several currencies or, at the very least, offer a conversion tool that lets the customer know exactly how much they will be paying.
As an entrepreneur, you need to know which countries you will be marketing to as well as the particular payment preferences of their residents. For instance, 60 percent of Dutch buyers use direct debit while Germans make 46 percent of their payments via online bank transfer. The more you can cater to these preferences, the lower your shopping cart abandonment rate will be.
Your Website May Need to Change
Up until now, you may have been doing fine with a no-frills website and your mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) equipment to handle local and national payment transactions. However, now that you are expanding your horizons, you need to attract your international customers. You can start by taking advantage of established marketplaces such as eBay, but sooner or later, you will probably need to make modifications to your website.
Don’t panic; the changes don’t need to be radical. In the beginning, all you really need to do is to advertise to your visitors that purchases from international buyers are welcome. In time, you might also want to add a currency converter and a language toggle to make the shopping and purchasing processes as seamless as possible. If your efforts are fruitful, you might eventually want to construct a specific website for a certain niche of your overseas customers with its own local domain.
Selling to customers from abroad can transform the very nature and scope of your business. It will expose you to new cultures, challenges and opportunities. When you know what to expect and carefully plan ahead, many of the obstacles can be significantly reduced, leaving you time to learn and grow with your expanding enterprise.
Whether you sell clothes or flowers, mobile phones or comic books, your inventory is the beating heart of your business. Especially before and during the busy holiday season, it is vital that you have a handle on what you need and what is already in stock. By so doing, you can manage holiday sales to your advantage.
Harness the Power of Existing Data
The best predictor of future results is past behavior, and that maxim certainly applies to your business. Therefore, it makes sense to spend some time looking at trends from previous years.
If you have recently upgraded your point-of-sale system, it probably contains built-in tools to help you compile and analyze sales reports from past months or years. Using these reports, projecting what you should buy more of and what products you may want to reduce or totally drop will become much easier. Your POS likely also includes specific inventory management software tools to assist you.
Update Your Ecommerce Site
With every passing year, online sales are rising. If you have allowed your web page to go stagnant, take some time before the Christmas rush to give it a makeover. At the same time, ramp up your social media presence, and consider launching some promotions that will get your loyal customers to your website or through your door.
Make Streamlining a Priority
Things can quickly get crazy once the holiday rush starts. For that reason, it is in your best interest to maximize your efficiency when it comes to packing, shipping and tracking your products. Fortunately, there are online integrated solutions that will enable you to accomplish all of these tasks with ease. While they are not free, it is definitely an investment worth making.
Avoid Out of Stock Products
One of the crowning benefits of your POS’ inventory management software is its ability to track the items you are selling. Be sure to set it up so that it alerts you when items are running low. You don’t want customers to leave your store empty-handed or to click away from your website in favor of a more prepared competitor.
For many businesses, the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas represent a huge percentage of their annual overall sales. This is a time when you gain new patrons and cement your relationship with existing ones. Do everything you can to ensure that you are selling what the customers want and that the products are readily available in-store and on your website. Gather the resources you need, utilize the tools that are available, and you are sure to maximize your chances for success during this busiest season.
Your customers rarely go anywhere without their mobile devices. In fact, a mobile screen is probably the last thing they see before they go to bed and the first thing they look at when they wake up. If you want to capture this growing market, you need a mobile-friendly business website.
Users Favor Mobile
Today’s consumers spend 69 percent of their media time on smartphones. When they want to find products or information, 48 percent start with a mobile search. Another 33 percent go straight to a specific website. If either option brings them to a site not optimized for the mobile experience, they’ll move rather than waste time trying to navigate a desktop layout on a small screen.
Better Search Rankings
Google makes it easier for the large percentage of mobile users relying on search by prioritizing mobile-friendly sites in the results it delivers. Competitors with sites designed for mobile will appear ahead of your business unless you update your layout. Since 25 percent of all web searches around the world are conducted on mobile devices, taking the time to redesign your site has the potential to bring in a large wave of new customers.
Projections for mobile commerce in 2018 indicate total sales will surpass $626 billion. Each mobile consumer spends about $575 per year, and simply shopping on a mobile device instead of a computer seems to drive this number up. Mobile shoppers’ cart sizes are 35 to 50 percent bigger than those of desktop shoppers. Although it’s unclear whether or not mobile use increases the tendency to make impulse purchases, not having a mobile-friendly site limits the profits you can make through e-commerce.
More Page Time
One possible reason why mobile shoppers are less restrained with their credit cards is the effect a well-designed mobile site has on the amount of time they spend browsing. When navigation is easy, product pages display well and card processing is simple, the entire experience is more enjoyable. Consumers spending more time on your site are also exposed to your brand for longer, and this has the potential to boost brand loyalty. The more positive their impressions, the more likely they are to come back for future purchases.
Capture Audiences Across Devices
Ninety percent of consumers report “multi-screening” when they shop. This practice involves starting a transaction on one device and finishing it later on another. If your desktop site is flawless but the experience doesn’t translate well to mobile, you could be losing a significant chunk of your audience. Good mobile design ensures shoppers can easily follow through with orders on their own terms.
Whether you create a dedicated mobile presence separate from your main site or use a responsive design, having a mobile site is critical in today’s market. Start focusing on mobile now to capture leads from this lucrative sector, and continue to monitor the mobile performance of your site to ensure every visitor gets a seamless online shopping experience.
Technology is extending its tentacles into every aspect of our lives, and that includes how we eat out at restaurants. If you own a dining establishment, you have probably begun to ask yourself whether you should jump on the automation bandwagon. There’s a lot to think about as you struggle to balance factors such as equipment costs, labor savings and customer reactions.
What Could You Automate?
Here are just a few ways that technology could change the way you and your customers interact at your restaurant:
- At-table ordering and self-ordering kiosks make it possible for your customers to input exactly what they want without extensive interaction with servers. In some cases, customers can not only order their food via a tablet payment processing system at the table, but they also can play games, provide feedback and even pay their bill.
- Mobile ordering. Thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, most customers can use this technology to pick what they want before they even arrive at the restaurant. Then it is simply a matter of bypassing the long line of patrons waiting to be seated and getting the food they already ordered and, in many cases, paid for in advance.
- Drink automation. Modern beverage machines allow customers to choose from as many as 100 beverage options just by selecting what they want on a touch screen. This elevates a drink from a boring necessity to a glamorous attraction.
Is Automation Right for Your Restaurant?
Today, only a small fraction of eating establishments have embraced automated technologies such as ordering kiosks and iPad payment processing at customers’ tables. However, a much larger number have upgraded their point-of-sale systems, enabling them to automate and streamline vital facets of the business including inventory and payroll management, customer loyalty databases and data reporting. It’s a safe bet that many of the other glitzy automated features will gain footing in the next few years.
Before you jump on the automation bandwagon, honestly assess the scope of your business. Would the price you would need to pay to become more automated be recouped over time through lower labor costs and a faster customer turnover rate? What is the mood of your establishment: Is your restaurant small and cozy with an emphasis on personal relationships, or is it cool, sleek and modern with a more transient, fast-moving clientele? In this example, the latter type of restaurant would benefit more from automation than would the former.
If you’re still not sure if these ultra-modern, time-saving systems are right for you, consider getting opinions from your most important asset: your customers. Obviously, the final decision is yours; however, input from your loyal patrons might give you a new perspective on what is most important. Ultimately, if your customers are in sync with your approach, your restaurant will come out ahead.
The importance of a fast, secure and streamlined checkout process cannot be overstated for any business. For that reason, many entrepreneurs are looking quite favorably at payment technology that allows customers to use their mobile phones and even specific cards to make contactless payments. It’s important to understand both the pros and the cons of these innovations.
How the Technology Works
In the past, customers needed to physically swipe or insert their credit or debit cards into the merchant’s point-of-sale terminal. The older magnetic stripe cards were easy for criminals to copy and clone, and even the newer EMV chip cards are sometimes slow to process to the payment gateway.
It is therefore no wonder that people have become excited about contactless payment cards. These use an embedded microcontroller chip that is equipped with radio frequency identification (RFID) to “talk” to a similarly equipped reader. Indeed, it is the same technology that is used in smartphones to allow Apple Pay and Android Pay.
When the time comes for a customer to make their payment, all they need to do is to place the contactless card within a few inches of the RFID reader. In a matter of seconds, the encrypted payment information is transmitted from card to reader to payment gateway. In the end, the whole process is faster than completing a purchase with a standard EMV card.
Advantages of Contactless Payments
Few people were sad to see the end of the notoriously hackable magnetic stripe cards. Several years after most other developed countries adopted them, U.S. financial institutions finally rolled out EMV or “chip” cards in 2015. Over time, most people came to accept the slower processing times for these EMV cards because of their increased security. But today, contactless cards seem to represent the best of both worlds: faster payment experiences combined with the fact that the card never needs to leave the customer’s hand.
Since contactless payments can help checkout lines move faster, a buyers’ payment experience is less stressful. In fact, studies have shown that customers spend 30 to 40 percent less time at the point-of-sale terminal when they are using contactless payments. These types of payments have been found to be 63 percent faster than paying with cash and 53 percent quicker than dipping or swiping traditional credit cards.
As a result, many aspects of your business can improve. Long lines at the checkout area will diminish, cutting down on traffic and enabling customers to move more freely around your retail space. That in turn gives them the chance to have a better look at what you’re selling.
Potentially Disturbing Discoveries
However, contactless cards aren’t without risk. That’s because criminals are figuring out ways to circumvent the security systems of these cards. Accessing the sensitive personal data that is stored on a contactless card is thought by some to be easy. All a hacker needs to do is to get an RFID reader, readily available online, and then encode the purloined information with a card-magnetizing machine.
Another problem that has recently surfaced with contactless cards is what happens after a card is lost or stolen. Even if the owner immediately cancels the card, there have been instances when criminals were able to continue purchasing items long after the card should have stopped working. In many cases, this situation happens when a retailer processes batches of customer payments offline. In the case of some smaller stores, a few days can go by before the merchant communicates the cluster of payments to the bank, giving criminals plenty of time to make fraudulent charges.
Should Your Business Accept Contactless Payments?
Whether people use cash, checks or plastic, no payment mechanism is immune from security leaks. Contactless cards are no different. If you are wary of the small risk for security breaches that they pose, you may want to balance that risk against the probability that an estimated 150 million Americans will be using contactless payments by 2020. Other countries are already leading the charge. One in 10 card transactions in the United Kingdom is contactless, and 75 percent of Canadian retailers are equipped to process these cards. As more tech-savvy young people gain additional buying power, RFID technology is likely to become even more popular.
Furthermore, buyers are coming to expect businesses to provide a full range of payment options. The bottom line is that RFID-equipped credit cards have a certain “coolness factor” that cannot be denied. Like it or not, many of your customers will want to fit themselves into this new milieu.
The key to a successful modern business is flexibility. The more you can change with the times and give customers the buying experience they want, the better off you will be. Accepting contactless payments is one of the ways to make this happen.