nontraditional payment processing trends

New payment options for ecommerce and brick and mortar retail businesses seem to emerge weekly. Many of them aim to reduce the friction between a customer’s initial interest in your product or service, and landing the sale with cash in hand.

How many of your customers are mailing you checks or handing you payment in physical dollars and cents? Probably fewer and fewer. In 2019, even the act of swiping a credit card in-store, or typing in your credit card number for an online purchase, are giving way to mobile payment options.

While these mobile payment trends are generally great for customer convenience, there are also some potential wins as far as customer retention and even reduced costs for small businesses and startups. 

As you grow and your sales increase, you’re probably looking for ways to reduce how much you shell out for payment processing. And if you’re like most businesses, you’re always thinking about the most efficient (and cheapest) way to turn a single sale into repeat business. This year’s trends in mobile payment processing suggest you might be in luck.

Let’s take a look at five payment trends that you can use to boost sales and encourage repeat business.

1. More online and in-person mobile payments

Mobile payments are definitely on the rise. In fact, Adobe reports that more than 50 percent of 2018 holiday season sales went through smartphones.

But the term “mobile payments” doesn’t just refer to customers doing their shopping on mobile devices. Mobile payments also include in-store customers paying at the register with their phones through platforms like Google Wallet and Apple Pay. And when you reduce in-store lines by taking customers’ payments on mobile POS stations throughout your store? That’s mobile payment, too.   

“Why are we picking Uber over the taxi stand at the airport [when the taxi stand] is right in front of us and might be less of a wait?” Mobile Payments Today asks. “It’s because of the automated payments experience, the ability to make the payment without physically having to [pull out a card]. Merchants have to start thinking about [those experiences] or they will get left on the curb.”

Mobile payments, when used in conjunction with a loyalty or rewards program, can be even more effective as far as increasing sales and encouraging repeat customers. eMarketer predicts that Starbucks will have more customers using mobile payments than Apple Pay within the next four years. “Because they’ve combined a habitual purchase with a loyalty program,” eMarketer reports. “Giving daily buyers of a cup of coffee a reason to switch over from other payment methods.”

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2. More membership-based payment processing options for retailers

Membership-based pricing provides shoppers who buy a lot of merchandise with a way to save on their day-to-day purchases by opting into an annual or monthly fee.

Retail models that provide this—like Costco—are immensely successful. However, membership-based processing services can also help reduce fees for retailers who process a high volume of transactions, or who sell a lot of high price point goods. You may not have heard of this, since most widely-used payment processing companies are flat rate—meaning they take a percentage of each sale you make in payment for their services.

With membership-based pricing, on the other hand, you pay a set monthly fee for all of your transactions. So, you don’t have to pay out a big chunk of your profits as your business grows.

“Membership-based payment processors don’t markup the processing fees of banks or card networks… nor do they take a large cut out of your sales,” Payment Depot reports. “Instead, merchants are charged with a monthly or annual membership fee in exchange for access to lower wholesale rates.”

3. AI-based payment chatbots

Artificial intelligence is nothing new in retail, but this is the year that chatbots infiltrate the payment sector—enabling retailers to guide customers through every aspect of the shopping process and to offer customers more payments than ever before.

Big box retailers such as Nordstrom are investing in multiple chatbot platforms to provide consumers with a more personalized shopping experience and to reduce cart abandonment.

Digital Transactions reports, “Juniper, a firm based in Hampshire in the United Kingdom, predicts chatbots will proliferate and reach a level of sophistication and presence in financial services that will see them account for 79 percent of ‘successful’ exchanges with customers by 2023.”

Contrary to popular belief, chatbots can also an affordable option for small business owners and startups. Creating a chatbot on Facebook Messenger is actually free, although you may need to hire someone to help you build and implement it.

4. Increased focus on security and data privacy

One of the biggest challenges to getting customers to buy online is convincing them that your website is a safe place for them to enter their credit card information. One of the trends we saw in 2018 was an increase in cyber crime.

34 percent of U.S. consumers experienced compromised personal information last year alone, so it should come as no surprise that security is a concern for most customers when shopping online. The perception of payment security can be the determining factor when customers are choosing where to make a purchase, which is why payment arbiters have become so popular.

Payment arbiters are widely-known financial services companies—such as PayPal and Apple Pay—that allow consumers to purchase products without re-entering their credit card information every time they pay.

Deloitte reports, “Arbiters provide ‘trusted’ services that support the entire ecosystem, enabling more efficient and less risky processing. Their presence in a payments transaction…allows consumers to have greater control over how their identity and data is shared.”

5. Incremental payments increase consumer financing options

Back in the day, QVC was the only major retailer offering customers the option to pay for their purchases in a few easy payments, but incremental payment options have hit the mainstream.

According to retail expert Shelley Kohan, “With buy-now, wear-now, pay-later, the customer takes the product with them at the point of transaction and ecom goods are sent at the transaction point. The big win for retailers is they don’t have to figure out where to store layaway goods, deal with customers who change their minds and handle the mound of abandoned product.”

Partnering with an incremental payment provider such as Klarna, Affirm, or Quadpay can smooth the path to purchase for customers who want to make a higher ticket item now, but don’t have all the funds available at the moment. It’s a good alternative for customers who want to avoid putting a big charge on a credit card. Incremental payment companies also tend to accept consumers with a broader range of credit scores than most traditional banks, making your products accessible to a broader range of consumers.

Another benefit of using incremental payments? Millennials are generally more averse to credit card debt than other consumers. But incremental payment options are often interest-free, so you can give younger customers the opportunity to buy the products they want without taking on dreaded credit card debt.

Bringing it all together

Every dollar in profits can be essential to your business is important when you’re running a startup or small business, so you need to be able to identify and implement payment trends that can help save your business money as they arise.

Read your business’s credit card processing statement regularly and evaluate your payment processing partnerships every six months to make sure that you’re still getting the maximum return on each sale you make as your business grows. Setting aside a few hours to evaluate your payment processing fees can save your business thousands of dollars in the long term.

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Jasmine Glasheen
Jasmine Glasheen

Jasmine Glasheen is recognized as a leading influencer, writer, editor, and brand representative providing both online and video content. She is a frequent contributor to many publications including prominent retail magazines and news sites, tech blogs, and numerous fashion and lifestyle trade shows. She is a contributing editor to RetailWire, content lead at Retail Minded, and is the author of numerous ebooks and whitepapers for private clients. Glasheen also provides fresh thought leadership in the form of live video content, webinars, and podcasts.