Mobile technology is changing where and how businesses transact, as fast as consumers’ thumbs can keep up.
Now you can swipe your card from a department store’s dressing room to buy clothes, or purchase lumber without dragging it to a cash register and those mobile payments are projected to reach more than $1 trillion by 2017.
“You’re seeing growth in mobile payments primarily because of the saturation of smartphones in the hands of consumers,” says Scott Fortenberry, senior director of business development for payment processing at Elavon Inc., which developed the Merchant Services mobile platform used by Regions Bank. “By 2014, it is predicted that smartphones are going to outnumber bank accounts. The level of comfort that people have with smartphone technology — whether they are business owners accepting payments or consumers swiping — is driving curiosity in transacting through that device.”
Comfort and ease of use, paired with a low cost of entry, explain why businesses are buzzing about mobile processing. And while mobile perks are just as accessible to start-ups as they are to established businesses wanting to expand, mobile isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution.
Benefits of going mobile
With the advancements in technology, mobile payment processing is now a viable alternative to many small business owners. At a fraction of the cost, a handheld device can potentially replace or expand your cash register, taking transactions anywhere a smartphone can go.
“The major benefit is that it keeps you from being tied to the cash register or the front counter,” says Beau Partee, vice president of merchant services for Regions Financial Corp. “If you ever have to see a customer outside the office, you can walk out the door, slide the device on your smartphone and you’re ready to start processing.”
But excitement at the prospect can set up anxious adopters for failure if they start before asking the right questions.
“It would do your business justice to really vet out all the solutions that you may be considering,” says Fortenberry. “There are a lot of things to weigh to make sure it’s as enhancing to your business as possible and that is it as undisruptive as possible.”
Consider Existing Solutions
Before diving into any mobile payment system, evaluate your current payment process and what role mobile would play. Will mobile be a single solution or an extension of your system?
“You have a risk of just signing up with the flashiest app but not thinking through your existing solutions,” Fortenberry says. “You really need to understand the purpose of going down the mobile payment route because some solutions tie into existing processes and others are standalone.”
Planning paves the way for seamless integration, and saves you the headache of reconciling mobile deposits against terminal transactions later.
Here are some areas to consider:
- Off-screen plan. When businesses become consumed in details about payment processing schedules and reporting structures, they can forget to integrate mobile beyond the app. “If you’re not a one-person show, you’re going to have other employees accepting mobile payments on your behalf,” Fortenberry says. “You’ll need to develop procedures for your employees’ use of mobile payment processing.”
Many mobile apps, including Regions VirtualMerchant Mobile, offer user control as a standard feature, such as restricting employees’ mobile access.
- Backup plan. Mobile doesn’t have to be part of your everyday business plan to add value. With such a low cost of entry, it’s worth going mobile, if only as a backup for power outages. “Because a lot of people don’t carry cash these days, and disaster happens, most people are left being very reliant on their credit card,” Fortenberry says. “Mobile would be very beneficial for those times when businesses could be crippled by not being able to accept payments. That could be a lifesaver.”
This information is general in nature, is provided for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal or tax advice or relied on for any decisions you may make. Regions encourages you to consult a professional for advice applicable to your specific situation.