Mobile payments are the logical extension of online shopping, a way for customers to buy what you have while they're on the go. But the technology has some added perks that make it a powerful purchasing tool for small businesses.
There are a lot of resources and articles out there telling businesses to pay attention to location-based networking or to maximize their social media presences, but there is a lack of information on the monetary benefits of these investments. Mobile payments, however, are a great way for businesses to make money.
It should be noted that there are two related fields of mobile payment: First, using your phone as a credit care in-store, and second, paying while on the go. We'll be focusing largely on the latter.
Below is a selection of reasons that small businesses should care about mobile payments. Add your voice to the comments below: Is this just another fad? Are mobile payments still years away? Why has North America been so slow to adopt?
It's Going to be Everywhere
We already use our phones for everything: Calling, texting, surfing the web, video chats (thank you, iPhone), and updating our social networks. Society, by and large, has grown accustomed to using phones for daily activities. Why shouldn't instant purchasing be added to that list?
Total worldwide mobile payments stood at USD $68.7 billion in 2009, according to a study from Telecoms Market Research. That number is predicted to rise by more than 800 percent in the next four years. Simple, DIY credit card processing solutions, like the Complete Credit Card Solution and Square, have already hit the iPhone market, and more services are expected in the future for all platforms.
Phones are inherently social, and advanced functions like geo-location are making it easier for users to connect with others in their networks to share consumption habits and recommendations. Location-based services, for example, enable users to recommend their favorite restaurants, shops and others venues. And group buying sites like Groupon have expanded the possibilities for quick, social purchases.
By adding a mobile payment option, small businesses can capitalize on these peer recommendations with a purchase. Rather than direct your customers to an online shop site or have them note it down for later, they can instantly buy your product.
Mobile payments take advantage of impulse purchases; essentially when you buy something based on spur-of-the-moment decision making. Impulse buys are usually associated with emotional reactions to a product. They are partly why ringtone sales have been so successful. Like a tone? You can often download it instantly with just a couple clicks, no secondary sites necessary. Make sure your customers are able to buy your product the instant they want it.
The real heart of small business mobile payments is the micro-transaction. Paying less is generally better than paying more. People are also more willing to pay frequent small payments rather than throw down a lump sum. Using ringtones as an example, more people would pay $1 for several ringtones than shell out $5 in one go for five ringtones.
Small business can follow this trend by selling less-expensive goods online, as smaller goods could be a real hit for the mobile payment crowd. Customers can more easily rationalize those smaller purchases and drive more sales to your business.
Another perk for biz owners is that mobile transaction fees are usually less than credit card fees. Sales through mobile could save you a small amount on every purchase.
Mobile payments enable merchants to collect data in much the same way as your everyday credit card purchases. Adding mobile payments to your business can help keep track of customer phone numbers, buying histories and any other necessary information. Having this extra source of data about customers and their purchasing habits will enable you to offer more targeted and relevant deals, discounts and products to specific purchasers.
Collecting data can be a bit tricky, since it gets into privacy rights and issues (e.g., Facebook privacy concerns), so make sure your business is aware of how you can and cannot use customer information.
Regardless of your purposes, whether it be data, profit, or social loyalty, mobile payments are definitely an area for small businesses to watch.
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