Getting the Most out of Your Merchant Solutions Provider

by Julie Pukas 0

Merchant Shopping

Rapid changes to the workforce and new innovations in point of sale (POS) technology are having a big impact on how small businesses run, and thus, how merchant solutions providers interact with their clients. Now more than ever, small business merchants need a trusted partner to guide them through the ever-changing business and payments ecosystem.

With the increasing prevalence of the gig economy and e-commerce marketplaces like Etsy, small business owners can now be found through more channels than just brick and mortar stores. More and more small businesses are operating from homes or on-the-go. In fact, a recent study from Intuit and Emergent Research found that the number of gig economy workers is expected to jump from 3.8 million in 2016 to 9.2 million by 2021.

As the gig economy continues to flourish, merchant solutions providers must help small business owners in new and innovative ways. They are identifying the right POS system that can serve as a one-stop shop for small business owners, offering a full suite of products and tools to help businesses run more efficiently. In today’s fast-paced work environment, an efficient and multi-faceted POS system is essential for success.

In fact, many small business owners (SBOs) are moving away from traditional terminal hardware devices and instead turning to cloud-based POS systems that not only allow remote access, but also offer ongoing software updates, extensive storage capabilities and comprehensive analytics at competitive rates. In fact, according to a recent survey by TD Bank at the NY Business Expo, a quarter of SBOs utilize a cloud-based POS system, which may be a more cost effective and convenient option than a traditional POS system.

But many may be unaware of everything their POS system can do. Small business owners across industries may be missing out an opportunity to use their POS systems to do more than process payments. POS systems aren’t just a glorified cash register; these devices can clock in employees, monitor inventory, track data and analytics, and organize loyalty programs.

While previously used only by large corporations, new technology has made these features more accessible to small businesses. For example, when it comes to loyalty programs for small businesses, many think of simple punch cards. But when competing with comprehensive digital loyalty programs offered by big retailers and restaurants, it’s important to make an impact. Chain stores and conglomerates do not appear to deter people from starting their own business. According to The Small Business Administration, there are 29.6 million small business in the United States, which means the competition is high and creating a loyal customer base is more important than ever.

Despite steep competition, TD’s survey found that only 5% of small business owners reported loyalty program offerings as the most important capability when searching for a merchant solutions provider. Many who are used to traditional POS systems might not even be aware that this is an option. It’s particularly important for merchants to get on board with loyalty programs because customers are demanding it. According to Accenture, 77 percent of consumers participate in a retail loyalty program, 46 percent have joined a hotel program, and 40 percent are part of an airline program – showing how brand loyal consumers are today. Digital loyalty programs that were once only available to large corporations have now been made accessible for even small mom and pop shops thanks to merchant solutions providers. Small businesses should be looking for a provider who can do it all – from high-quality customer service to innovative technology and loyalty capabilities.

The notion that small businesses need the same technologies as large organizations, simply on a smaller and financially approachable scale, is an emerging realization for the industry. Small businesses still need to manage their books, calculate data and analytics, market their company and manage their personnel, but may have difficulty finding affordable resources to do so. Many merchant solutions providers, like TD Bank, offer affordable POS systems that provide analytics that can help track sales trends, identify business opportunities and customer spending patterns and segment your customers for marketing approaches.

As more and more businesses begin to employ this digital technology, small business owners are even more pressured to adapt in order to stay relevant and encourage customers to come back for more. Using a bank as a merchant solutions provider not only offers a one-stop-shop with access to products and services like book managing abilities, POS systems, and savings accounts, but also gives small business owners a knowledgeable partner. Working with a bank presents unparalleled accessibility; a customer has the option to call, email, or even by visit their provider at one of their branch locations. This guidance and accessibility can be vital to the success of a new business; your merchant solutions provider will be your ally in keeping you updated on the trends and technologies that can help take your business to the next level. Merchant solutions providers want to give you what your business needs right now, while still providing what it will need to grow in the future.

Regardless of the benefits of working with a merchant solutions provider, nearly half (45 percent) of respondents surveyed expressed they do not have a merchant solutions provider and are not planning on finding one. This reveals a large need for education around exactly how a merchant solutions provider can benefit small businesses in ways outside of payment processing. Accessibility is essential when determining the right merchant solutions provider for your small business. For example, TD’s survey found that almost one-in-four (24 percent) of small business owners rank accessible, high-quality customer service and support as the most important offering when selecting a provider.  Product efficiency and cost may seem paramount, but SBOs should have the confidence that they can contact their provider to discuss how to grow their business or deal with obstacles.

Selecting a merchant services provider and POS system that both meets the needs of a small business owner and offers a true partnership will allow small businesses to flourish in this taxing and competitive landscape. SBOs don’t just need a vendor who thinks one size fits all. A partnership that discusses goals, growth, finances, customer loyalty and technology, is vital for all business owners, particularly for first-time small business owners that need guidance just as much as they need a POS system that will function effectively and reliably.