The last year has seen the financial sector and the economy change dramatically as businesses across the globe shift to a digital-first approach. The payments landscape, which for centuries was dictated by cash, is no exception.
It’s been an interesting journey to watch payments transform. When you consider that our primary methods of accessing funds used to be visiting a bank or ATM, and today it takes less than a few clicks, it’s clear the transformation has been considerable.
While technology has been one of the 21st century’s greatest disruptors to the financial services sector, the pandemic has resulted in the next wave of change. Here are a few tips and insights to help you to pandemic-proof your business:
Post-pandemic payments are online
Since the emergence of the pandemic, consumer behaviours have drastically shifted from the physical to digital. While businesses that relied on more traditional sales methods experienced some hesitation, most of the world has adapted to digital as the new normal in just over a year.
In fact, since the pandemic, Australia has become the tenth largest e-commerce market globally, with a revenue of $US27 billion in 2020. This indicates a shift in behaviour that is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic figures. Consumers are now more inclined to pay for services and items digitally for reasons like convenience, greater choice and increased transparency regarding their finances. But while consumers have quickly adapted to e-commerce and online payments, businesses are still lagging.
Businesses must embrace digital
Despite the demand and increase in online customers, businesses have not transformed as quickly or easily as their consumers. While there are exceptions, of those who’ve gone digital-first and kept strategies that have revolutionised their output, a large portion still align their digital practices and presence with the announcement of lockdowns.
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 72 per cent of businesses had less income due to COVID-19, and 870,000 people lost their jobs. So, why are businesses still tying their online practices to COVID-19 restrictions?
With the wealth of digital knowledge now at our fingertips and ever-growing software options, there are many ways businesses can incorporate digital planning into everyday business. While larger organisations have the staff and resources to do this, small businesses have the advantage of being agile when implementing changes.
Business-friendly options for online payments
The pandemic has increased the use of online payments among businesses looking for faster, easier and more efficient means of accepting funds. Contactless cash, paperless systems, digital wallets, and smartphone applications have now been adopted by everyday consumers, who in turn expect this level of technological sophistication in their business interactions.
Many people still consider PayPal or banks as the only online payments option available, but many home-grown options have business-friendly payment features for Australian businesses.
Some payment providers offer virtual terminals to accept payments. A virtual terminal turns your computer, smartphone or tablet into a payment terminal. It accepts cards, records any type of payment, including cash and gift cards and, depending on the payment provider, allows you to request payments from your customers securely via a payment link. The benefit for some businesses is you don’t need to make any significant investment to start taking funds, so there are very few barriers to getting started.
Point of Sale on the go (mPOS) devices
An mPOS or mobile POS is a card reader that can be used alongside your smartphone to quickly take card payments from anywhere, replacing functions like a register or cash. mPOS tech is great for high volume card transactions for trade shows, hospitality businesses or market stalls. Most mPOS require you to purchase the hardware first. For businesses requiring occasional use of a POS for their business, look for web-based POS that can be used from your existing smartphone or device.
Selling on social media
Many social media platforms now permit businesses to open an online store via an e-commerce platform. In fact, you can build just one storefront and use it across all your social accounts to accept payments. There’s an alternative approach for businesses not wanting the hassle or expense of using an e-commerce platform. It involves people using their existing social channels to highlight their products and requesting payments via a payment link. This has the advantage of being quick to implement without requiring an online store.
Digital is here to stay
Businesses must understand that digital, including online sales, marketing, and online payments, is here to stay. That means implementing long term strategies, expertise, and tools to safeguard your business against any COVID-19 related physical restrictions or measures.
This doesn’t mean that businesses can’t also have a physical presence when the world opens up,. But we may see a greater amalgamation of the two, with businesses having a broader presence, more efficient processes and stronger expertise.
While the pandemic has resulted in many stresses for businesses and individuals, it has also brought opportunity. Businesses must embrace the digital world fully to not only survive but thrive.