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Practical Business Skills

Digital Payments

If you’re thinking about taking your business digital, you should consider implementing digital payments. These digital methods of getting paid are different from cash or checks, and they are often faster, more secure and convenient in the long run. Many customers expect to be able to pay for your products or services through a variety of digital payment methods, and failing to offer digital payments may result in your company losing out on business.

Types of digital payment technologies
There are many different types of digital payment methods based on a range of technologies. Some, like debit or credit card technologies, might be familiar. Others, like mobile money and QR codes, might be new to you.

Card technologies
Debit, credit and prepaid cards are enabled with several ways to pay for goods or services. To make purchases on your online store, customers can input their name, billing address, card number, expiration date, CVC or security code and zip code. Prepaid cards work very similarly to debit or credit cards, but they are loaded with funds in advance rather than being linked to a bank account. They can be purchased at many stores and activated and reloaded on card providers’ websites.

The oldest, most familiar method is the magnetic strip. This is the stripe on the back of a card that holds your information; this information is sent to a merchant when it is swiped through a card reader.

In recent years, many cards have been updated to include a microchip in addition to the magnetic strip. The microchip can usually be seen on the front of the card, and it is used by inserting the card into the card reader rather than swiping it. This technology was introduced because it is more secure, it saves time (because customers no longer have to sign their receipts) and it reduces the need for merchants to save copies of paper receipts.

Some credit, debit and prepaid cards may also have “tap to pay” functionality that pays through near field communication (NFC). This technology, which is similar to Bluetooth, can also be used in key fobs, mobile phones and smaller cards to enable payments or other exchanges.

Card technologies offer many advantages for payments: from the customer’s perspective, they are easy to use and can be used in many different ways. From the merchant’s perspective, many standard card readers can accept physical card payments and most customers know how to use their card to make a purchase online. But, customers have to remember to bring their cards with them. Online, purchasing with a card can mean inputting long strings of numbers and personal information; customers may be concerned about security or unwilling to take the time to make the purchase. Additionally, card providers sometimes charge transaction fees that can cut into a merchant’s profit.

Digital Payment Options

Payments through digital devices
The same near field communication technology that enables tap to pay for cards can allow customers to pay using their mobile phones or digital watches. You can accept these payments with a card reader or with your own digital device. This can be very convenient for customers because they do not need to have their cards with them. For merchants, tap to pay is both faster and more hygienic than other payment methods that require longer interactions with customers, though it does require a newer card reader.

Another way that customers might use their mobile phone to pay is through mobile money. Mobile money is when money is stored in an account that is linked to a mobile phone number. Often, this is a service provided by the same company that provides phone service. This technology is very convenient for customers because mobile money can be accessed, sent, or received anywhere there is a phone signal. To receive mobile money payments, you will also need a mobile money account. See if your phone service provider has a mobile money service. If they do, be careful not to confuse your business funds with any personal funds.

QR codes are another digital payment technology. You can use an online service to create a QR code (like a barcode) that can be printed or distributed digitally. When your customers want to pay, they can use their mobile phones to scan the QR code, which will take them to a webpage where they can input their payment information. QR codes are easy to implement and can enable a no-contact payment process. But, they might take more time and effort for the customer than paying at a card reader.

Finally, P2P (peer to peer) payment solutions are typically used for non-business transactions (payment among friends, family, etc), however they can be an option for accepting payments for businesses. This can be convenient for customers who are familiar with these payment solutions, however they may be less secure than business payment solutions, charge transaction fees and present delays in receiving your money.

Reputation management

In addition to creating a website to represent your company online, you should register your company on online review sites. Your company might also receive reviews via marketplaces, search engines or other aggregators. Many people look up a company on these sites before deciding whether or not they will make a purchase, or even if they will visit your store or website. In fact, 86% of customers say they are influenced by online reviews.1 It is possible that your company already has a profile on review sites, made by a past customer. If the site allows it, you should claim the existing profile as yours.

Asking for reviews
After a customer makes a purchase, follow up with them. This might happen in the form of an email or a message on your final invoice. Remind them of their purchase, give them a little background on your company and ask them to leave an online review. You can even provide a link to the review site that matters most for your business. If you ask kindly and give them a reason to leave a review, they may leave a positive one.

Managing reviews
Many review sites can notify you when someone leaves a new review of your business. You should be sure to receive these notifications and respond right away when someone does leave a review. Thank customers for positive reviews and try to acknowledge and make up for negative reviews. You can offer customers a solution to the problem or give them another free benefit or perk. If possible, try to respond privately so that other potential customers do not see the exchange.

Disclaimer: No Legal Advice Intended
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The contents of this site have been developed for a U.S. audience.