The effects of the pandemic can be seen in almost every corner of the retail industry. But one of the most significant changes in consumer behaviour which may not be so apparent upon first glance is the physical way we pay for things post-Covid. Many retailers have gone completely cashless over the past 15 months, with contactless payments preferred in line with our new contact-free culture.
Not only is this a change which small retail businesses in particular must prepare for, but it is one they can benefit from, too.
Consumers are driving change in the payment industry
Jim Magats, SVP of Omni Payments at PayPal has been playing close attention to this shift in payment behaviour. “Consumers are not only moving online and to ecommerce, but they’re also demanding digital payments and commerce experiences in-store with things like QR Codes, that enable secure contactless payment,” Magats says.
The future of retail payments isn’t just online, Magats believes, but a seamless merging of the physical and online retail solutions: “Beyond just moving to digital, consumers now expect seamless omnichannel experiences. They want to be able to buy online and pick up in store, order online and pick up curbside, or try a shirt on in-store and have the right size and color be waiting in their online shopping cart. Consumers are demanding these new experiences and businesses need to quickly adapt to meet these new customer demands – and this is what is driving the need for business and payment systems.”
Small business can prepare for this change now
While many businesses were forced to quickly adapt to the hugely different consumer landscape of the pandemic and pivot their existing strategies almost overnight, now is the time for small businesses to learn from the past year and prepare their companies for where this leaves the retail landscape, as the world begins to open up again.
Roshan Jhunja is Head of Square for Retail, a smart point-of-sale solution for small retailers, and says that while many trends we saw during the pandemic, such as the rise in online selling, local delivery, and contactless payments were already underway, but simply accelerated by the global circumstances. Jhunja explains, “Investing here can generate long-term success for retailers who stay the course.”
“Looking ahead, retailers should explore opportunities to further enhance and future-proof their businesses by redefining what a connected experience can look like for their customers,” he adds, “By doing things like digitizing inventory, so they can sell across multiple channels, and embracing flexibility in back-end operations, retailers can ensure that they are able to reach new customers and serve existing ones, more responsively and efficiently.”
Keeping up with the latest payment technology which makes these operations more efficient is one of the biggest ways in which all retailers, regardless of size, can prepare for their customers’ new wants and needs.
Nina Etienne, Product Marketing Director at British payment company SumUp, agrees: “We have moved past the point where card reader technology is a ‘nice-to-have’ – but instead it has become as essential as your barber’s clippers or cafe’s coffee mugs.”
“The simple advice we would pass on to any small business is to make sure your card reader is always at hand and in your potential customers’ eyeline. Branding in the window can also help to promote your contactless services, as well as having your reader clearly displayed to avoid the question “do you take card?” even coming up,” advises Etienne.
Another small change which can go a long way to future proofing a small business? “Dedicated bank accounts and business cards also help to make balancing the books a far easier task in the long run, too,” says Etienne, “even if you are just beginning your business journey.”
Beyond that, consumers also want a choice in the payments on offer to them. As PayPal’s Jim Magats has found, “They want to be able to pay with debit and credit cards, digital wallets, PayPal and Venmo QR Codes, crypto, and more.”
Digital payments can mean big things for small businesses
Upgrading to the latest payment systems isn’t just about keeping up with consumer trends. With new technology comes the opportunity for huge growth in small businesses.
“Many small businesses have realised that diversifying into delivery services, e-commerce platforms, and mobile payment methods not only help future-proof their business – it also presents opportunities for business expansion from being a local favourite into a brand with a far wider reach across their city, their country, or even globally,” says Nina Etienne of SumUp, “A strong technology infrastructure means you are more than your shop window or an advertisement in the local paper.”
Today’s customers expect the latest payment technology to be available to them, regardless of how small a retail business is. By installing the infrastructure to make payments as seamless as possible for both consumers and businesses, it means that retailers can focus less on payments – and more on making their business a success.