Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, a leading provider of personalized pens and other promotional products such as imprinted apparel, mugs and customized calendars. He regularly contributes to Promo & Marketing Wall blog.
Today’s business world is all about speeding up and slimming down. Consumers want their transactions to be faster, and they don’t want to carry cash, coupons, and loyalty cards in order to get the best price. They don’t want to wait in line, and if their experience isn’t quick and simple, they’ll simply go somewhere else. Which makes the endless array of Internet retailers, many of whom have enabled free and inexpensive two-day shipping options to boot, an appealing consumer resource.
So what should a brick-and-mortar business do to compete? Besides a foray into the world of websites, digitizing its point of sale is perhaps one of the easiest technological changes a company can make. Read on to find out the whos, whys, and hows of introducing digital transactions to your registers.
Who’s digitizing and why?
Much of Home Depot’s inventory is too large to ship, so the home improvement giant understands that customers’ in-store experiences must be seamless in order to retain their business. The company recently dialed in 34,000 “First” phones for its associates — the combo phone/walkie-talkie/scanner can be outfitted with a credit card reader and receipt printer when needed (ideal for the outer reaches of the store such as the garden center and Christmas-tree lot). And payment terminals are now equipped with a PayPal Wallet button, allowing customers to pay with funds linked to their PayPal accounts.
Also, beginning this month, some 7,000 Starbucks locations will initiate acceptance of Square transactions, during which participating patrons can essentially open a tab for the café on their smart phones and pay by confirming their name with the barista.
Experts report that some 180 million Americans carry plastic, and roughly two-thirds of in-store transactions are made using credit, debit, or prepaid cards. While many small companies have hesitated to accept card payments because of the high fees (credit card companies raked in about $40 billion last year), long-term contracts, and expensive equipment required, cheaper alternatives such as Google Wallet, PayPal Wallet, and Square are opening the door for businesses of any size to take a swipe at credit and mobile transactions.
How do you digitize?
There are a number of digital transaction solutions, including Google Wallet, PayPal Wallet, LevelUp, Intuit GoPayment, and Square. Decide which of these mobile payment options best suits your business based on your projected transactions, customer base, and industry. Pay attention to any minimum transaction and per transaction charges, merchant service setup fees, restrictions, requirements, and hardware costs.
For simplicity’s sake, let’s take a look at setting up just one of these — Square:
First, if your business doesn’t already have one, you will need a merchant bank account that can process mobile payments (often available through the same bank provider your store’s account is already with). You will then need to download the free Square app to your iOS or Android device and link it to your bank account.
Choose your fee structure — either 2.75% per credit card swipe (beware the increased fee for manually entering card numbers) or a flat $275 monthly fee (if each of your transactions doesn’t exceed $400). Once you’ve signed up for the app, Square will mail you a free reader that fits into your headphone minijack.
The Square app can be customized according to your business’s needs, allowing you to organize products into categories with photographs and prices, as well as review your daily sales numbers and create custom reports. Frequent buyer programs can also be bundled into your Square system so that your customers don’t need to carry a loyalty card.
Then, spread the word! Let your customers know that you are now accepting mobile payments. Not only can they make an encrypted credit card payment on your Square reader, they can also set up their own mobile devices with the Square Wallet, so that all they need to engage in a transaction with you is their smart phone. One great way to share the news is to launch a Facebook campaign offering customers a discount on their first mobile purchase. Their payments to you will typically be deposited into your bank account the very next day.