Leverage NFC payments now and beat the holiday rush
During the summer months, the holiday shopping season can seem light years away—and probably totally off your radar as a busy small merchant operation. However, now is the time to start considering upgrades and improvements that will help you see bigger sales this holiday season. Make sure you are ready to accept the latest preferred payment types, such as NFC and mobile payments, as well as have terminals that accept EMV chip cards. Make sure you have gift card and loyalty programs in place that will help you grow your brand and provide you with increased revenue.
Enable NFC payments to broaden your appeal
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term “NFC payments,” but you’ve almost certainly heard of (closely related) mobile payments. NFC—or near-field communication—allows two devices to communicate and exchange data when they are touching or in very close proximity. In the world of payments, this usually refers to a smartphone or tablet being tapped on a mobile payment reader to provide payment card information.
Perhaps you haven’t had customers at your business request to pay via NFC payments yet—but, chances are, they will soon. An eMarketer study projected that proximity mobile payment transactions will grow by a whopping 210.7 precent from 2015 to 2016. And, that growth isn’t expected to slow down any time soon. In 2015, 9.6 percent of mobile phone users in the U.S. accessed proximity mobile payments; by 2019, eMarketer estimates that 27.3 percent of mobile phone users will do so. You need to be prepared to accept NFC payments so you don’t miss out on sales from the many customers who are increasingly requesting to pay using this payment method.
Get your gift card program in place now
Whether you’re considering a gift card program for the first time this holiday season or you’ve had one in place for years, the late summer months are the perfect time to be sure you’re maximizing its potential. Gift cards are a perennial gift-giving favorite for all types of consumers. They’re particularly popular among millennials, a key segment of the consumer market that is ever increasing in purchasing power. Gift cards also have universal appeal across all income levels. Across givers of all income levels, gift cards were the most popular gift type in 2015; 52 percent of U.S. consumers gave gift cards
And, recipients love gift cards too. According to a National Retail Federation study of the 2015 holiday season, 58.8 percent of U.S. respondents said they most wanted to receive a gift card or gift certificate, of all types of gifts. So, it’s important that you have a robust gift card program in place now that can meet the demands of the busy holiday season. Even the most straightforward approaches can take some time to fully implement, so don’t wait until two weeks before Thanksgiving to decide that the time is right.
One of the main benefits of a gift card program is increasing brand awareness and recognition in your local community. A loyal customer may give a friend a gift card from your business, which exposes a new person to your products and services. Or, a recipient may request a gift card from your business and that, in turn, exposes a giver to your brand for the first time.
Some gift card program features that you may want to consider for your business include:
- Preset or variable gift card denominations
- Custom gift card design that contains your business name or logo
- Virtual gift cards sent via email to recipient
- Require PIN upon redemption for added layer of security
Upgrade your terminals to accept EMV chip cards
If you haven’t taken the time to upgrade your POS terminals to accept EMV chip cards, now is the time to do so. Don’t take a gamble on entering the holiday shopping season with outdated systems that only accept traditional magnetic stripe cards. Many shoppers will come to your store armed with an EMV credit or debit card, and ready to shop using that newer payment card. Prove to your customers that you take data security seriously by having EMV-ready terminals in place.
What’s more, if you don’t upgrade your systems to full EMV compliance, you could be making your business liable to certain types of fraud. While EMV technology does not fully eliminate the chance of fraud occurring at your business (particularly if any part of your sales are done online), EMV does go a long way in preventing card-present fraud. Plus, you could be held legally and financially responsible if certain types of fraud occur at your business that could have been prevented had you had EMV technology in place.
Your payment processor is your best source of information for trusted guidance on making sure you’re ready to accept EMV chip cards.
Start reaping the benefits of a loyalty program
Loyalty programs help your brand stand apart from your competitors and keep more customers coming back again and again. Merchants of all types—from grocery stores and gas stations, to clothing boutiques and frozen yogurt shops—can benefit from a loyalty program.
When asked what features of a restaurant loyalty program are most important:
- 82% said that they receive freebies like free appetizers and buy one get one promotions.
- 76% said they are sent special offers for their birthdays and other personal events.
- 74% said that the card can be used across multiple locations of the same chain.
- 73% said that they receive rewards with points for their purchases.
While the above study was conducted specifically on restaurant loyalty programs, it’s clear how the program characteristics that customers most enjoyed about that industry’s loyalty programs could easily translate to other business types. For example, an effective and appealing “buy one get one” promotion for loyalty card holders could easily translate to a clothing store, bookstore or drugstore.
In the busy holiday shopping season during which most shoppers spend substantially more money than during other times of the year, capturing and keeping loyal customers is more important than ever. That’s why you should have a loyalty program in place that tracks and rewards customer spending at your place of business.