Setting up a business has rarely been easier and due to the many payment innovations and methods for collecting payments, getting paid is more straight forward than ever before. However, the difficult part isn’t just selecting the right payment processor for your business, it’s finding the right payment processor for your customers. But how do you achieve that?

Start with the Basics

To begin with, there’s a few fundamental questions that you need to ask yourself:

  • Which payment methods do your customers prefer?
  • Where are your customers based? Are you selling nationally or do you intend to sell overseas to reach global customers too?
  • How can the payment processor make life easier for your customers?
  • And what do your customers want? Are they looking for ease of service, added features like loyalty programs or gift cards or both?

In addition, depending on the nature of your business – and the type of clients you attract – you might require multiple forms of payment collection. As an example, if you own a physical store but also go out to exhibitions to bring in more customers and your profile, you may need both a mobile payment systems and a static terminal for in store use.

Alternatively, you could be looking for a way to make your business easier to run by automating tasks, while making the service more efficient for your customers, in which case a point-of-sale system could be best suited for your store.

However, it’s before you can decide on the right payment system it’s imperative to understand the different demographics of your customers, what they want and how they wish to be served.

Understand Your Customers

If you serve a lot of millennials, a contactless payment system might be best suited to your clientele or if you’re catering for the restaurant trade, a means of collecting payments on the go or from the queue/table so you can offer a better service could suit your customers better.

If you’ve been in business for a while, take the time to analyze the type of payments you collect the most of. Is it largely credit cards? or ACH payments?

Get feedback from your customers as well. Are they looking for swifter ways to pay? More secure ways? Or perhaps you have a retail store that sells via a bricks and mortar and ecommerce. If you own multiple platforms, your customers might be looking for a seamless way to shop that provides them a better shopping experience and meets their expectations.

Most businesses want to offer their customer a great experience, and research shows delivering excellence in the customer experience area can help companies to gain advantage over their rivals, but they can only do this when they know what their customers want to begin with.

If your business is well established, you can do this by speaking to your regulars and viewing data analytics. For those just starting out, market research can help you understand the ‘pain points’ of your customers, especially in the customer service area – and its vital that you get the customer service side right.

A survey by Accenture illustrates how poor customer service can impact negatively on your business. 53 percent of consumers say they have left a service because of the poor level of care received; companies in the retail sector were the worst affected. And that’s not the only research to indicate just how crucial good customer service is to consumers.

Another survey by The Aspect Consumer Experience Index: Millennial Research on Customer Service Expectations indicates that 76 percent of U.S. consumers say good customer service is an indicator of how much they are valued by a company.

Moreover, most millennium consumers say their expectations of the retailer experience have changed. So, what is today’s consumer looking for? Their priorities include:

  • Speed.
  • Ease of use.
  • Personalization.
  • Ability to shop on the go.
  • Access to instore technology.

Access to instore technology is one of the most significant changes consumers want to see. Research by International Council of Shopping Centers  confirms  shoppers are looking towards technology to make their store visit quicker and simpler. Tom McGee, President and CEO of ICSC, whose company conducted the survey said:

“Consumers are the drivers of demand, and they’ve made it clear they want more technology integrated into their shopping experience. Our study shows that consumers are calling for access to more information in stores. The retailers who innovate in this area, making the experience more efficient and the consumer better informed, will win at the register.”

Customer loyalty and personalization shouldn’t be overlooked, either. In a Retail Week/MasterCard survey, 28 percent of consumers said they regard  a loyalty card as more valuable than good  customer service. And throughout 2017, personalization will continue to be vital to the retail experience and for building increased loyalty.

Commenting on the personalization trend, Dave Richards of Accenture Retail says:

“Personalization can be a powerful method for retailers to differentiate from competitors, increase basket size and build customer loyalty,” and according to Richards, personalization requires understanding your customer and treating them as individuals.

“To effectively implement personalization across all channels, retailers would benefit from understanding customers at a broad level as well as individually – determining where personalization strategies can best drive business results, and giving key subsets of customers the choice on how they wish to participate.”

Address Your Customers’ Biggest Fears

The right payment processor can go at least some way to addressing your customers’ fears and ease some of the concerns they might have when it comes to shopping with you, especially where ecommerce is concerned.

According to research, the biggest worries among e-commerce consumers include:

  • Is the merchant genuine?
  • Is the checkout experience straight forward?
  • Is the website safe to buy from?

However, they also have concerns of data/identity theft, lack of privacy and their biggest fear is falling victim to cybercrime, according to Sophos. Consumers have become so worried over cybercrime that they fear it more than physical assault or theft, the survey reveals.

John Shaw, vice president of Enduser Security Group, said:

“People understand how to protect their home or car – they feel they’ve got the physical world covered. Whereas cybercriminals are invisible and the virtual crime world is unpredictable and complicated, especially when it comes to cyber threats like phishing and ransomware.”

You can’t address all your customers’ worries over cybersecurity, or security in general. However, by working with a payment processor who can offer the latest in security you can at least ensure you have access to the latest in technology to make your payment system more secure.

Accommodate Your Overseas Customers

If you want to reach overseas customers, then your website should be tailored for that audience; this means providing currency conversion so your customer knows exactly what they’ll be paying.

Certainly, the global consumer probably isn’t a demographic you’ll want to ignore as international commerce is increasingly steadily; China has already experienced vast growth as have other established markets like Australia and Mexico. However, in the future it is emerging markets such as Indonesia and Saudi Arabia which merchants are set to benefit the most from.

A Credit Suisse Research Institute’s latest Emerging Consumer Survey estimated that the increasing use of ecommerce in the developing world could lead to an additional 1 billion online shoppers as more people gain access to the Internet.

And an increase in global consumers will lead to a greater need for localization on ecommerce sites. Research from the Common Sense Advisory shows clearly that most consumers won’t buy unless a website is in their language, with 55 percent of respondents stating they prefer to buy in websites in their native tongue, and the same goes for pricing: overseas buyers prefer to buy in their own currency to avoid misunderstandings over the amount they are paying, and a lack of localization is a contributor to cart abandonment.

Offering multiple currencies doesn’t need to be complicated; using a payment gateway like Authorize.net will allow you to cater for this audience so you don’t need to miss out on the huge potential of the overseas markets.

Payment Options Suitable for Your Customers

The type of business you own or are establishing will obviously have an influence on the type of payment solution you want to offer your customers:

The main options are:

  • Mobile payments – for collecting contactless, which are often preferred by younger consumers,  magnetic stripe and EMV payments.
  • Ecommerce gateways – when choosing an ecommerce gateway, there’s several aspects that have to be considered, including the fees, whether you can serve overseas customers/sell in multiple currencies, and if there is ongoing support available. There’s more information on what to look for in a ecommerce gateway here.
  • Point of Sales systems – allows data analysis, inventory management and easy invoicing, as well as numerous other features to improve the way your business works; this information can be used for improved marketing, and to increase personalization once you’ve used the data to understand what your customers are looking for.
  • Virtual Terminals – for collecting card and ACH/echeck payments. They also allow the easy collection of recurring payments so they are good for subscription businesses or customers that have regular monthly bills to pay.
  • Or creating an omnichannel presence could be your aim. Omnichannel retailing is becoming increasingly important to the modern business. Omnichannel selling being dubbed ‘the future of retail’ by many sources and allows shoppers to purchase from multiple platforms, which suits the way many consumers shop these days.

How to Find, Check a Payment Processor’s Reputation

If you’ve yet to choose a payment processor or you are looking for a new one then check their reputation online. Your customers will be looking for reliability and security when they shop with you, and if you choose the wrong company, this will reflect badly on your business and the service you offer.

To get a better idea of what the level of service a payment processors offers, read reviews online and see what other merchants are saying on social media and forums. If the opinions are largely positive, you can put them on your short list. However, test them out yourself by asking a few questions to see how quick they are to respond and how knowledgeable their staff are.

The company’s official website will also give you some background on their expertise and allow you to establish if the payment processor is suitable for your business – and for your customer base. While you are on the website, view their areas of expertise; a company that offers services tailored for your industry will be best as they’ll have a clear understanding of the sector you’re working in.

There are other features you’ll want to look for too, like:

  • Customer support – see if the company provides ongoing support and the availability of support. Ideally, you’ll want a payment processor that operates 24/7 and gives weekend support in case a technical problem arises.
  • Flexibility – the services you want to offer your customer might change overtime. Ask about upgrades, or introducing new terminals into your business as it develops. For example, you might be a busy restaurant that has to employ new staff to meet customer demand, and you could need to integrate more terminals/mobile terminals.
  • Rates – get a clear idea of rates. If you find a company with competitive rates you won’t lose so much on transactions.
  • Establish the cards you can accept – don’t just limit yourself to the two major credit card companies – MasterCard and Visa – find a company that allows you to accept all the best-known cards, like American Express, Discover and JCB.

Conclusion

It’s a fact that if you can’t give your customers what they want, they will go somewhere else – and this doesn’t just apply to the goods you sell; it is also relevant to the type of service you can offer them.

By using the right payment processor for your customer, you can improve customer service, address some of your customers’ security concerns, enhance efficiency and offer your customers a wider range of payment options.

You can also improve your company’s own sales potential by catering for consumers overseas and appealing to a broader customer base.

However, before you can do any of that, it all starts with understanding what your customer wants from the service they receive when they visit your store.

 

Founder and CEO of Preferred Payments. Financial guru and advocate for transparency in the merchant provider space.