cashier at the counter

Being able to accept a wide range of payment options can help you to attract a wider range of customers. This is particularly the case in physical retail and e-commerce where customers are often looking for a quick and simply payment process.

There are however cons to accepting different forms of payment such as extra charges or extra admin. These are things that you need to factor in when deciding which payment options to accept. Below are just some of the different forms of payment that stores offer – and whether you should start accepting them. 

Cash

Cash is the most traditional payment option. While less people carry around cash nowadays, most physical stores can still benefit from accepting it – especially for small purchases, which many people still pay for with change. Not accepting cash as a physical store could potentially result in you losing customers when it comes to small purchases. Cash is also always a reliable backup option if there’s a power cut or internet problems (which could cause other payment options to not work). 

There are a lot of drawbacks to accepting cash. It’s fiddly and can easily be miscounted, which can result in costly errors. Giving out change can also be time-consuming – which can make it less desirable when you have to serve lots of customers fast. Carrying cash can also make you a target for thieves, so you need to be able to store it somewhere secure. To get around all of these weaknesses, some companies may set caps on cash payment or only accept notes for certain payments. 

Most online stores don’t accept cash. Delivering cash is expensive, slow and can carry security risks. That said, some online merchants have started to open up to the idea of accepting cash – especially in cash-reliant countries where card is still not widely used. 

Debit card

Every store can benefit from accepting debit card payments. Debit cards allow fast and convenient electronic payments and are the favoured form of payment for ecommerce transactions. Card reader machine technology has come on in leaps and bounds – portable card readers can allow shop assistants to accept payment from anywhere on the shop floor. Most modern cards are also contactless, which allows for even easier payment.

Debit card payments do carry a processing fee. For this reason, some stores will set a minimum card payment limit so that small purchases are worthwhile. Looking into ATM machines for sale could encourage more customers to use cash for small payments.

It’s worth noting that card payments require a good internet connection in order to process. In remote areas, cash may sometimes be preferred for this reason. 

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Credit card

Credit cards allow customers to borrow money to pay for items. When it comes to larger purchases, accepting credit card payments can therefore be useful for encouraging more sales. Many people also see credit card payments as a secure option as they can usually be refunded if there is a fault with the product.

In order to accept credit card payments, you need to set up a merchant account and be prepared to pay a charge on each transaction. This charge is much larger than that of debit card payments, which makes credit card payments less ideal for small purchases. All stores can still benefit from accepting credit card payments, however it’s worth setting a minimum credit card spending limit if you deal with small purchases so that you don’t lose profit on sales.

Mobile payment

Smartphones now allow customers to pay via their phone. This works much like a contactless card payment. Mobile payment apps can also be used for online purchases.

A lot less people use mobile payment in comparison to cash, debit card and credit card. However, the number of customers using this form of payment is growing so it makes sense for most physical retail outlets to invest in a card reader that accepts mobile payments to ready themselves for the future.

Coupons

Coupons are small tokens that customers can use to gain discounts on purchases. Many companies give out coupons as an incentive to encourage extra sales – they may be given out to loyal customers, unhappy customers or may be given out with magazines and subscriptions. They can be both physical or online (the latter usually takes the form of voucher codes). 

When creating coupons you may want to set parameters as to what they can be spent on. Most coupons have an expiry date too in order to encourage customers to use them quickly. You can set up coupon discounts using most modern forms of payment software.

Loyalty points

Loyalty points are points that are accumulated by an individual customer every time they shop at your store. These points can eventually be used to access discounts. They are a great way of encouraging and rewarding return customers.

Many online stores allow customers to start building loyalty points in exchange for creating an account. Physical stores tend to use a loyalty card that is swiped every time a customer makes a purchase. Loyalty card apps are sometimes also used in physical stores and can be accepted using a mobile payment reader. 

Any company that attracts return customers can benefit from offering loyalty points. If you tend to specialize in one-off payments (such as an engagement ring or wedding dress vendor) then loyalty points may not be so practical. 

Gift cards

Gift cards allow customers to preload a certain amount of money onto a card that can then be used in your store. This is usually gifted to someone else. Gift cards can take the form of card or online gift codes (if you’re an online store). 

If you’re the type of store that sells gifts, then it may be worth exploring the idea of offering gift cards. A huge benefit of gift cards is that you can make money even if the gift card is never spent (in fact, if it never gets spent, you’re more likely to make a profit). 

Instalment plans

If your store sells big-ticket items such as furniture, cars or expensive gadgets, you could consider offering installment plans to customers. This allows customers to place a deposit down and then pay off the purchase in installments. Unlike loan repayments, these installments generally don’t carry interest charges and are usually paid over a shorter period.

Instalment plans can make your product more affordable and could help you to generate more sales. However, there are risks to offering these plans – if a customer does not pay future installments, you could lose a lot of money. If you do decide to offer an instalment plan, credit check customers first and make sure they set up a direct debit. You should also be prepared to chase up customers if necessary

Finance

Finance is also a popular option for big-ticket items. This involves giving customers access to a range of loans, so that they only have to place down a deposit. Unlike an installment plan, the customer pays the lender in installments and the lender pays you the full amount upfront. You also don’t have to chase up customers as the lender does this for you.

Offering finance schemes involves finding good lenders to work with that aren’t going to rip off your customers. In some cases, a lender will charge commission in exchange for offering customers better interest rates. 

By Erica Buteau

Change Agent. Daydream Believer. Maker. Creative. Likes love, peace and Jeeping. Dislikes winter, paper cuts and war. She/Her/Hers.

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