The effect the pandemic is having on consumer behavior likely won’t be completely grasped for some time, but there’s no doubt that it’s changed—a lot. And some business owners don’t realize how much their customers now prefer to make online purchases. As reported by Forbes, during the 2020 holiday shopping season surveys indicated that 59 percent of consumers said they preferred to shop online for their gifts, but only 35 percent of retail executives thought that was true. Yet some studies had even higher numbers, such as 67 percent of consumers saying they planned to buy their gifts online.
What’s more, in their 2021/22 market analysis, Finances Online reports that “In 2021, experts predict that online retail sales will make up 16.3% of total retail sales. It will hit 18.3% in 2023 and 19.9% by 2025.” The bottom line is that Ecommerce is only poised for more growth and business owners need to offer their customers not only the option to pay online but do it in a convenient and easy-to-use way.
Gaining competitive advantage with online payments
Restaurant owners and operators know the power of online payments. During the period between March 2020 and March 2021 restaurant digital orders in the U.S. grew by 124 percent—and for many of them it was a lifeline when their business was in jeopardy. And while people are enjoying the chance to dine-in as more restaurants open back up, the ease and convenience of take-out, delivery and curbside will continue to be in demand.
Also, online payments even when customers are dining in your restaurant also gives you an advantage. Using a QR code and a mobile device, customers can order and pay contactlessly, freeing up your staff to prepare their orders, turn tables more quickly, and improve customer service. And especially during a staffing shortage that can make a big difference.
Related: 6 ways to set your restaurant apart and attract great employees
Other online payment benefits include:
Strengthen your omnichannel experience. Your customers want the option to begin a transaction in one channel, like in your brick-and-mortar, and end it in another (paying online). And the experience they have in each channel needs to be the same and it needs to be seamless. Making your customers go through what now seems like tedious steps in any of your channels won’t be tolerated well.
Increase your revenue. It’s fairly simple, when you accept online payments, you’re opening up a new revenue channel—and the chance for more sales. Online payments bring you more brand visibility and give your customers more options to make purchases.
Offer subscription services. The practice of offering a service or product at a fixed rate (usually monthly) can be advantageous for you and your customers. For you, it’s reoccurring revenue and for them, it’s convenience and fun—receiving a monthly package can be very exciting for many people. And it’s your online payments that make subscription services possible.
Related: Are subscription service the future of digital retail?
Reach customers anytime, anywhere. Have a store in Europe that appeals to consumers in another part of the world? Selling to them with online payments isn’t a problem. And that can lead to delighting, for example, a customer who visits your store while on vacation, falls in love with one of your products and can order it when they’re back home.
Get in on social commerce. Selling your products or services in your customers' social feeds is something that they want, particularly Gen Zers—a whopping 97 percent of them say they get their shopping inspiration from social media.
Gain more customer insights. When your customers pay online, they’re giving you valuable information, like their email addresses, so you can build a much larger marketing campaign. That beats running a credit or debit card and having them walk out the door.
How to accept online payments and what you’ll need
So you’re ready to add online payments, but you’re not sure how? The first thing you’ll need to decide is if you’re going to go with your own in-house solution or have a third-party provider. This may come down to how much each one would cost but it’s important to keep in mind that the user experience is important, including how well you present your brand. So professional, polished, easy to navigate and, above all else, reliable all matter when you’re making this decision.
If you choose to do it in house, here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Set up a secure server and you’ll want Secure Socket Layer technology (SSL)
- Register with a digital authentication service
- Get the software needed to provide virtual shopping carts
- Set up a merchant account
- Gain a secure payment processing system or find a provider who can accept payments for you
When you add online payments to your website, you’ll need to make sure that the host is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. Why is PCI so important? According to Themeisle, “PCI standards exist to ensure that companies collect, store, and process their customers’ credit card information securely. If you transmit payment data on your servers, your web host must be PCI compliant because it is indirectly involved in processing payment data.”
You might decide that going with a third-party provider is the best option for your business. All the concerns about security and compliance won’t be yours, it’ll be theirs—and so will all the installation, support and running it 24/7. The right partner can also make sure your online payments integrate with your existing POS system.
In a digital-first world online payments are expected
How consumers are “online” in today’s world looks a lot different than it did even just a few years ago. Not so long ago, just being able to make online payments seemed like a novelty. But as the pandemic continues to accelerate the digital-first movement, consumers will increasingly expect online payment as the new normal. Consider this: in 2020 during the height of the pandemic, 1 in 5 small businesses didn’t accept online payments and by the end of June 2020 1 in 5 small businesses had to at least temporarily close their business.
So, it’s clear that giving your customers the ability to make online payments is a must—and so is doing it well.