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The Green Sheet Online Edition

January 12, 2009 • Issue 09:01:01

A countertop tonic for recession blues

By Bulent Ozayaz

How do you get merchants to commit to new payment terminals during the worst recession since World War II? Offer them a product that is going to save them money each month while bolstering their ability to increase revenue and maximize profitability.

There's no doubt it's going to be a tough year, but there exists a solid opportunity to jazz up your customers' countertops with General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) wireless solutions that are as easy to set up and use as cell phones.

Yes, you can sell instant, Internet-protocol solutions for the countertop that not only provide good deals for your customers but also give you a new source of recurring monthly revenue.

Now, that's one way to hold a recession at bay.

Changing perceptions

It's unlikely mom-and-pop retailers are going to bang on your door and beg for terminal upgrades in light of current economic trends. So it's up to equipment suppliers and you, as ISOs and merchant level salespeople, to make the case for why merchants should be attracted to these new solutions.

The key message: Time is money. With a cellular broadband solution, merchants can enjoy the benefits of broadband speed for faster transactions without any of the networking hassle associated with Ethernet, digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable broadband services.

They'll also gain the flexibly to place terminals at any location with an available power source. This will enable them to cut back on monthly telecom fees and potentially expand revenue sources.

Today, a second business phone line or a business DSL account runs a merchant somewhere between $40 and $60 a month (none of which is likely to land in your pocket), and it may require wiring installation and a service call to implement.

A GPRS terminal account, on the other hand, costs in the neighborhood of $20 per month. For many merchants, using entry-level, countertop GPRS terminals is a better deal than sticking with traditional dial terminals.

More compelling, from your standpoint, is that wireless service is more accommodating to the resale equation: You can sell this service bundled with the terminal and earn a monthly percentage of the telecom fees.

The economic message

Up to this point, wireless payment has typically been perceived as a solution for specialized business circumstances such as merchants needing payment portability in venues like stadiums. It has also carried a premium price tag. But the reality is changing rapidly - just in time to juice up sales for 2009.

While there is still a small premium for countertop GPRS terminals compared to traditional dial terminals, the cost difference is much smaller than for mobile wireless solutions because countertop versions don't require batteries; they plug into standard electrical outlets.

Also, GPRS device prices are coming down due to economies of scale as more and more mobile devices of all types are sold - telecom carriers report that landlines are declining at rates of 6 to 10 percent per year as more and more consumers and businesses rely on cell phones.

With broadband terminals, merchants are able to take advantage of multitasking memory that supports bank cards and value added applications like loyalty or gift cards. It's also much easier for merchants to offer PIN debit acceptance to customers, which can mean substantial cost-savings on transaction fees.

Even today's value-priced systems incorporate an approved PIN pad, so with a GPRS system located right at the POS, it's easy for consumers to swipe and enter PINs right on the terminal, negating the need for an additional peripheral.

Still, while the case for broadband is compelling, the total cost of ownership is what drives the majority of smaller customers.

Eliminating the expense of a second phone line is a simple, easy-to-communicate message that resonates, particularly in today's business environment.

Security concerns

Once you get merchants' attention with the cost-cutting aspect and the quick return on investment for putting in new terminals, you can layer in additional messages.

Security - while probably not a driving concern for smaller merchants, who are primarily concerned with staying in business - is nonetheless an important issue.

Many merchants are undoubtedly using systems that predate the Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS).

Sooner or later, merchants will have to switch over to PCI-approved payment terminals. If you get their attention with the cost savings of wireless, the security equation is certainly another compelling argument to help close sales.

The beauty of simplicity

Installation of GPRS-based payment systems is simple; networking expertise is not necessary. That means the sales process is simple, too.

Keep it simple is a wise mantra to adopt for 2009. You need to sell simple solutions with simple messages to close sales with small merchants today.

If you can make the case that you can ease a payment burden, you should be able to keep moving terminals to the street even in the face of adversity. end of article

Bulent Ozayaz is General Manager and Vice President, Wireless Solutions North America, at VeriFone. He can be reached at bulent_ozayaz@verifone.com.

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