By Biff Matthews
How do you know where to find new leads, particularly in these difficult economic times? First, realize that consumer demand drives merchants' revenue. Consumer demand is shaped by what individuals and families want or need.
To see your residuals climb, understand consumer demand, and help your current and prospective merchants satisfy it. You don't have to invent products and services; just know what's available and identify what represents the best value for all concerned.
Consumers, irrespective of economic conditions, seek greater convenience. The accelerated pace of modern lifestyles has generated increased demand for shopping experiences that cause minimal disruption to daily routines.
Consumers are willing to pay more, or drive more, for what they perceive as convenience. Make my life easier, or less of a hassle; give me more discretionary time: These are the mantras of today's consumers.
Identify the tools in your arsenal that will allow your clients to free up more time for their customers, and you will uncover a powerful motivator that will help your merchants, your merchants' customers and you.
Not every product or service fits all merchants, so be creative and bold in asking clients and prospective clients what tools would be most effective for them.
Many mobile merchant functions are now being performed within the confines of brick-and-mortar stores. Help your merchants understand the benefits of taking checkout to the point of decision in the sales process.
Wireless processing isn't limited to plumbers, restaurants and other mobile service environments. And wireless devices are smaller, lighter weight and more robust than even a year ago, in addition to being cheaper and more secure. Key point: Ensure that the Wi-Fi networks your merchants link to are also secure.
Contactless cards, which often seem like a solution looking for a problem, may finally have their day given that consumers expect heightened security and faster checkout times.
It's well documented that more payment options at the POS produce higher merchant sales. Consumers want to feel in charge of how and when they pay, so work with merchants to ensure they provide their customers that flexibility.
Consider check imaging at the point of purchase to add convenience and speed to the checkout process - perhaps with a check guarantee feature to ensure merchants receive all funds from every check transaction.
Similarly, PIN-based debit is more secure and less costly than signature debit; it also allows merchants to offer customers numerous payment options. I've mentioned automated clearing house (ACH) at the POS before, and it merits another mention here. Tempo Payments Inc. and Revolution Money Inc. offer consumers an ACH payment option, while changing merchants' transaction processing expenses from an unknown, and therefore unmanageable, cost to one that is known and fixed. This is a huge factor, given the universal squeeze on merchant margins today.
To find new business, an easy approach is to ask family and friends if the stores they patronize offer the payment options and checkout speeds they prefer. The places where you, your family and friends shop may be ideal for the products and services you offer.
Stay aware in your own consumer transactions. Ask yourself: Did my purchases go as smoothly and quickly as they could have? What could have made them better?
One caveat: Don't try to make sales while completing personal purchases. Make a mental note. Then revisit promising locations using your personal shopping experience as your entrée.
One additional, though not final, avenue to explore is the booming market of preteens and teens. They are a critical demographic, even in today's tough economy.
Despite a recent spike in teen unemployment (20.6 percent in October 2008, the highest monthly number since 1992, according to the U.S. Labor Department), teens have an enviable combination of sizeable discretionary income and minimal mandatory expenses. They are also inherently prone to spend in good times or bad.
As today's teens mature into adulthood, they will become the driving economic force. Their buying habits, how they shop and how they prefer to pay, will mold future payment offerings.
If you have a teenager at home, the next time he or she has friends over, ask them how they shop: what they like and don't like, the places where they shop (and want to shop) and how they prefer to pay. You will be surprised at what you learn. This will not be a scientific sample, but it will be local and authentic - and some of the easiest market research you can do.
Show interest in where and how your family and friends shop. Then show similar interest in their preferred retailers by asking those merchants what they need to improve their customers' shopping experience. There is an added return on investment in this approach: Merchants increase their value to consumers by giving them more personal time through a faster, more convenient checkout.
In good times and bad, consumers shop where it's convenient. Seek out consumer demand and follow it to the merchants who will show you the residuals.
Biff Matthews is President of Thirteen Inc, the parent company of CardWare International, Heath, OH. He is one of 12 founding members of the ETA, serving on its board, advisory board and committees. Contact: (740) 522-2150 or email@example.com.
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