Purchasing a big-ticket item gives most buyers pause while they consider how it will impact their budget. As a merchant, one of the best ways to address this moment is to offer financing that allows for an affordable monthly payment.
Point of sale (POS) financing was once limited to car dealerships and big-box stores, however, these kinds of technological changes are finally coming to the consumer financing industry. It's now possible for the local furniture store, building contractor, dentist office, or other small business to offer flexible financing and loan with easy-to-use and inexpensive technology.
Since it's relatively new territory for today's small business owners, many are not yet familiar with the best marketing practices associated with implementing consumer financing programs.
Here are five tips to get maximum impact from a financing program this year, while simplifying the process for the buyer:
1. Merchandise the monthly payment. Price is the number one factor in most buying decisions, and financing programs turn large purchases into affordable monthly payments.
Spending $2,500 on living room furniture, for example, or $10,000 on a new roof may seem out of reach at any given time, but what if that lump sum was broken down to payments of $57 or $125 per month? That same purchase suddenly becomes more realistic.
Every customer has a monthly budget to work with, and pricing in terms of a monthly payment is a much easier way for consumers to understand how the cost will affect their day-to-day budget. If you have a showroom or sales floor, make sure all price tags display the lowest monthly payment front and center so customers can see just how affordable financing can be.
2. Build creative marketing programs around financing. Attractive financing incentives, like "no payments for six months" or "zero per cent interest financing" are proven strategies to increase sales.
Consider other packaging options for your financing program as well. Customers may be more likely to splurge on an upgrade or larger ticket item when the zero per cent interest promotion requires a minimum purchase price. In addition, running a limited time program, such as a Valentine's, Winter Blues, or Spring Cleaning Special, creates a sense of urgency.
3. Advertise around your store. Once you roll out a new financing program, make sure your customers are aware of the opportunity. For example, a poster in your window advertising financing options can catch someone's eye before they even walk inside. Prominent signage throughout the sales floor, as well as near the point of sale, is also important to boost awareness.
In addition to the in-store experience, banners on your website show the online visitor just how realistic it can be for them to get that dream kitchen or home theater system they've been thinking about. Several consumer financing companies even allow your customers to get pre-approved through a web portal.
4. Make it as easy as possible for customers to sign-up. Customers and sales associates alike can get overwhelmed and abandon a cumbersome application process involving reams of paperwork. While any financial agreement like a credit card or loan application has to include key customer information, there are ways to help streamline the process.
For example, digital tools like a bar code scanner or point of sale credit card terminal can automate some basic data entry. As a general strategy, it's better to ask for the least amount of customer information as possible and then go back if more details are required for approval.
You should also give customers the option to get pre-qualified for a loan online when they're by themselves since some people will prefer the anonymity of an online application rather than having a sales associate find out if they can be approved or not.
5. Train your sales staff. Sales staff can have a significant impact on the success of your financing program. All sales members should be thoroughly trained on how to position financing to a customer, how your program works, and how to answer customers' top questions and concerns.
Keep in mind that customers will rarely initiate the topic of financing themselves, so sales staff should be ready to lead the discussion. Any customer comment or question about price is an opening to present your financing solutions – and salespeople should always start with the lowest monthly payment available for any purchase.
Flexible, budget-friendly, monthly payment plans are a great way to overcome a customer's apprehension of purchasing big-ticket items. Just make sure that once implemented, you properly package, promote, and communicate your programs. It will be one other way you can compete with the larger chains and jumpstart your sales in 2014.
Michael Garrity is a 15 year veteran of the financial technology industry, and the CEO and co-founder of Financeit, a platform that enables small business to offer consumer-financing anytime, anywhere. You can find him on Twitter @mgarrity