Mobile payment is a new idea for many small-business owners. From the farm stand to the conference floor, swipe technology that turns smartphones and tablets into virtual cash registers stands to become the new norm, but implementing the apps and making sense of the process still represents a learning curve.
Like small business itself, the tech isn’t standing still, either. Magnetic stripes are on their way out, some say. Chip-and-PIN devices are picking up steam, say others. One thing’s for certain: it’s important to stay current with the latest mobile-pay possibilities and the best practices that go with them.
With some expert help, we take a look at the now, how, and future of mobile payment — a tip-sheet to help put your SMB on the cutting edge.
Mobile Payment: Getting Started (and Getting It Right)
“The U.S. is a great market for mobile payments,” said Dan Wagner, founder and chief executive officer of Powa.
Wagner offered the following ideas for implementing and refining the technology within the small-business environment, from day one to the point that even more sophisticated choices come into play.
- Get out there. First, embrace the mobile payment idea as a strategy for growth. Mobile-payment technology is revolutionising the way small businesses can approach their clientele. “The idea is to mobilize your sales team and do business where your customers are, not where your registers have always been,” Wagner said. That is, mobile payments shouldn’t be a reactive addition to your business — something you implement just to keep up. It needs to drive the way you do business, going forward.
- Trade differently. One example of driving the way you do business is to use mobile phones and tablets to extend your trading capability in-shop. Mobile payment can eliminate daunting line-time for customers during busy periods. They’re easy to bring out as second points-of-sale in an unexpectedly busy afternoon and multiple devices can be deployed by a number of staff over a predictably busy period, whether it’s Valentine’s Day for a florist or Christmas for a toy store.
- Adapt (and Adopt). There are many different options out there, but one deciding factors should be compatibility. Be compatible; as magnetic stripe cards begin a phasing out process, investing in a mobile payments device that only accepts magnetic stripes will mean you could be left with an outdated piece of equipment. Small-business owners should also resist the temptation to invest in technology for the short term. Wagner expects that chip-and-PIN and near-field communication transactions — already common in Europe — are expected to become prevalent in the U.S. by 2015. Choose an interface that stands to stick around for longer than a few quarters.
Lastly, do your homework. The cost of taking transactions is another major issue that will affect your choice, Wagner cautioned. Some mobile payment devices charge considerably higher rates than others, so shop around before putting down your cash.