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Managing Four essential payment strategies to grow your small business

Despite the expanding array of payment solutions, businesses of all sizes continue to lose out on opportunities to capture customer spending from lagging payment technology

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Advances in payment technologies made headlines last year, from cryptocurrency to the launch of Apple Pay, and payment strategy options for merchants became ever more accessible.

Despite the expanding array of payment solutions, businesses of all sizes continue to lose out on opportunities to capture customer spending from lagging payment technology. A recent Accenture study shows that while 71 per cent of shoppers are interested in paying with their phone, only 9 per cent of retailers have mobile wallet capabilities.

Most innovation in payments is built around the idea of achieving frictionless commerce or removing the pain points of paying for a product or service. A pain point can be a long lineup at a cashier, multiple web forms for online purchases, or a slow point of sale. The fact is that customers don't want to think about parting with their money and that is why the best companies embrace new payment technologies to make the act of purchasing as seamless as possible.

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Whether you're the owner of a small to medium retail business, a professional services or trades company, or a boutique retail shop, it's time to start thinking about how your customer wants to pay and whether your payment system stacks up.

Here are four simple tips that will make payments more pleasurable for your customers and help you boost your bottom line.

1. Go multi-channel. Customers want to pay when, where and how they want, meaning they expect to be able to make payments online, in the store or on-the-go. If you're a traditional brick and mortar retailer, this may mean adding an online store that allows your customer to make their purchases from the comfort of home. If you work in the trades, this may mean outfitting your team with mobile point of sale devices that allow customers to settle their invoice on the spot or adding a terminal to turn your back office computer into a cashier and securely store card information for future services.

Take home message: The math is simple – the more ways you offer your customers to pay, the more revenue streams you open up. Choosing a payment provider that specializes in multi-channel, means you can easily add any solution you need.

2. Take your point of sale mobile. While you may have heard about mobile point of sale, you may not realize that this technology isn't just for food trucks or farmer's market vendors. Mobile POS can be added to an existing payment system such as a traditional cash register. Take a cue from Apple, which sells more per square foot than any other retailer in North America. Apple has eradicated long lineups by turning every salesperson into a roving cashier armed with a smartphone or tablet and empowered to check out customers anywhere in the store at the moment they want to purchase.

Take home message: The less time customers spend waiting to pay, the more time they can spend engaging with you and your brand. Mobile POS also offers a reliable way to accept payments on site, during delivery and at trade shows, eliminating the frustrations associated with invoicing while adding payment options beyond cash and cheque.

3. Streamline your online checkout. Shopping cart abandonment cost retailers approximately $4-trillion worth of merchandise this year, but 63 per cent of that is potentially recoverable, according to Business Insider. Ask yourself what barriers exist to purchase completion on your website. Recent studies show that 75 per cent of people who are forced to register before paying never complete their purchase. Business owners need only look to Amazon for a lesson in the power of seamless checkouts. From its one-click payments option to its hassle free shipping models like Amazon Prime and Amazon Now, this online retailer has frictionless commerce down to a fine art.

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Take home message: Don't give your customer reasons to reconsider a purchase. Remove barriers by offering a guest login or quick-buy option. Your customer will likely remember that buying online was just as easy, if not easier, than buying in-store.

4. Get NFC enabled. Near Field Communication (NFC) is poised to play a pivotal role in payments. Often referred to as "tap and pay," this is the technology that allows a cardholder to tap their credit card on your terminal to make a payment. NFC is far from new, with major credit cards like Visa and MasterCard offering payWave and PayPass respectively, but new entrants to the market like Apple Pay are also using NFC to enable mobile payments. Most Canadian merchants are likely already NFC-enabled, meaning your in-store terminal can read NFC – enabled chip cards or phones. But if you don't have that capacity, the time to upgrade is now.

Take home message: While Apple Pay may not be in Canada yet, existing contactless payments work to shorten checkout lines, putting the focus on customer service instead.

With multi-channel payment capabilities, mobile payments, optimized online checkouts and NFC-enabled payment systems, you'll be well on your way to a frictionless commerce system, and to greater revenue potential. And keeping up with the predicted increase in technology investment by merchants in 2015, will allow you to stay ahead of the curve by ensuring your customer can pay when they want, how they want.

Michael Gokturk (@MichaelGokturk) writes on payments innovation and is the CEO/founder of Payfirma, a cloud-based platform that lets merchants process payments made online, in-store and via mobile device.

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