Expectations of easy online payment rising rapidly.
What are online customers expecting companies to handle with online payment?
What businesses need to recognise today is that thanks to the growth and consumer uptake of smart mobile technology, more and more customers are always online.
The traditional view of a customer sitting on their couch at home and making a purchase via a website using their credit card or PayPal is obviously still at the heart of e-commerce. However, consumer expectations are rapidly rising in regard to what they will be able to do on their tablet or smartphone.
Some businesses are already responding by creating dedicated apps or mobile-friendly websites through which customers can process payments. Others take the further smart step of having their own devices handy to allow for online purchasing and payment processing.
If you're a tradesman visiting a home, for example, customers should expect to have flexibility around payment processing on the spot, without writing a cheque or having to deal with an internet banking transaction.
Obviously, as a business you will benefit from being able to receive payments immediately, as it means stronger cashflow and reduced administration effort.
Why do SMEs have trouble offering the most up-to-date methods?
Costs associated with payment processing, such as establishing merchant accounts or direct debit authorities, can be perceived issues that prevent SMEs from moving away from their traditional methods of receiving customer payments.
However, SMEs, perhaps more than others, need to recognise that customers have easier access to their competition than ever before via the web, so priming your business for e-commerce is crucial.
If you create barriers at any point in the purchase process - and a lack of flexibility around payment options is definitely a barrier - your customer will be able to find an alternative with very little effort and you have just lost that sale.
What is the latest technology being used and what kinds of businesses are using it?
There's a lot of hype in the mobile payments space with near field communication (NFC) technology and virtual wallets on the horizon.
Putting the hype to one side, there are plenty of examples of businesses dealing in ad hoc retail and service transactions that are successfully using eftpos/mobile terminals for mobile payment applications.
More businesses are also blending their web-facing services with their in-store experience or their face-to-face sales experience.
If I can buy online with a click or a swipe, why should it be harder when I have a salesperson standing in front of me, why should I have to fill out membership forms or wait in a queue to pay by eftpos?
Debitsuccess does a lot of work with a wide range of membership, subscription and service-based businesses, and has innovated direct debit payment technologies such as the Online Management Gateway (OMG) to assist them.
From processing thousands of memberships for the NZ Warriors, to small startups like Meatmail.co.nz, OMG is scaleable technology that helps businesses quickly and easily sign up new regularly paying customers.
What is the feedback from customers?
Ironically, the measure of success for any payment process is that the less feedback from customers you get the better, because it means your payment processes are frictionless.
Whether it's completion of a real-time payment or establishing a recurring payment arrangement, the customer shouldn't have to think about stepping out of the sale process into a payment process.
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Steven Holmes is chief information officer of payment solutions company Debitsuccess.