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The Green Sheet Online Edition

October 28, 2019 • Issue 19:10:02

Help merchants meet customers' changing payment needs

By Jeff Fortney
TouchSuite LLC

On each call, every independent sales agent hears some form of, what's in it for me? I like to say we all listen to radio station WIIFM. How we answer this question shapes the success of every one of us. Many agents default to the cost savings answer: I can save you money. All successful MLSs would agree this is the least effective approach. It is also likely the wrong answer.

When an agent asks me how I answer the question, I normally respond that no immediate answer is available. Until you identify the merchant's pain and ask questions, there is no way to know how to respond.

Although the approach I just described is still sound, I have come to recognize another answer may have equal – or even greater – impact on a merchant. What if the answer were just two words: increased sales?

Understand today's consumers

Yes, you need to identify the merchant's pain. And yes, cost is a factor in the decision. However, it's all too common to ignore the merchant's true source of success: their customers. Merchants listen to the same radio station. Their customers want to know WIIFM. MLSs who add this component increase the success and profitability of their sales efforts. To address this with a merchant, it's important to understand the merchant's customers. This requires grasping how the general customer base has changed.

The customer today is not the customer of 1995. At that time, card acceptance was common and growing, but it was seen as an alternative to cash. With a few exceptions, terminals were used for processing. Merchant pain was the slowness of transactions. And customers just wanted the ability to pay with a card for sales that exceeded the cash they had on hand.

By 2006, the consumer base had changed. A survey at the time revealed that card acceptance was generational. The younger the consumer, the lower the cash usage. Eighty-one percent of consumers from 18 to 34 years of age carried less than $20 at any given time. This group increased the demand for card acceptance, and even small-ticket merchants had to be able to meet their needs.

Today, with millennials and Generation Z exerting huge influence in the marketplace, card acceptance is the norm, with cash the rare exception. Consumer shopping options and habits have changed as well. Online sellers have captured a share of the market. Transaction speed and the ease of processing are now expected.

Understand, too, that many merchant prospects are in this same demographic. They have the same buying habits and want to satisfy their clientele's preferences. Thus, MLSs must gain a clear working knowledge of how today's technology can address the needs of today's customers.

Offer speed and control

So, what's an appropriate answer when merchants ask what you can give them to increase sales, customer satisfaction and repeat sales? The answer could be: speed and control. Here's why:

  • Speed: Today's consumers demand instant gratification. They were raised on smartphone technology, with the ability to access information almost immediately. Texting has replaced face-to-face conversation. Handing over their card at purchase, or even waiting in line is a nuisance to them. Ultimately, they shop where they find few delays, or delays they can control.
  • Control: Today's consumers fear identity theft. They hear about the huge hacks, but they also hear anecdotes about people having their card information stolen. They would rather keep their cards in view, and (if possible) complete sales without having to hand their cards to anyone. Increased use of Apple Pay and Android Pay is an example of these concerns. Both enable consumers to retain control.

As you and your merchants discuss how to address consumer demands, begin with the needs of today's average consumer. Explain near field communication (NFC) technology uses and consumer-facing order/payment options (don't be surprised if they already understand or even use these some of these options).

Ask merchants if their current systems support NFC. If they are flummoxed by NFC, ask if their systems support Apple Pay and Android Pay. When speaking with quick-service or fast-casual restaurants, ask if they use or have considered a self-order solution.

Include these solutions in your toolbox. A significant number of terminals and semi-integrated solutions have NFC capability. Make sure you have the terminals and the POS solutions that support NFC. It doesn't hurt to also have a solution for consumer-facing POSs or kiosks.

By adding these, and addressing both customers' and merchants' needs, you will you also find out what's in it for you. The answer will be more signings at higher returns. And isn't that what we all want? end of article

Jeff Fortney is senior vice president of business development and partnerships for TouchSuite LLC, a fintech company providing POS systems, payment processing, SEO solutions, working capital and marketing services to small and midsize businesses. A long-time payments industry professional and mentor, Jeff focuses on strengthening and developing corporate partnerships and evaluating new business to drive strategic growth. He can be reached atjfortney@touchsuite.com.

The Green Sheet Inc. is now a proud affiliate of Bankcard Life, a premier community that provides industry-leading training and resources for payment professionals. Click here for more information.

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