Since the start of the pandemic, many small business owners noticed more customers were asking for contactless or digital payment options. Depending on the type of business you do, you may have begun to update your payment systems to account for this preference. Wherever you are in the process, though, there may be an opportunity to do more.
Contactless payments are still gaining in popularity, and soon customers may be expecting a variety of contactless options everywhere they go.
Look for your type of business below and see what might be a good move for you.
For traditionally cash-only businesses
Consider a food truck, small convenience store, or barber shop — small businesses that deal primarily in cash.
Customers began carrying less cash during COVID-19; they wanted to pay in a safer way using contactless payments. Now many people are out of the habit of carrying cash or they may not have as much cash on hand as they once did.
Business owners can adapt to this shift by making an effort to accept digital payments as well as debit and credit cards.
Digital payment options include platforms that allow customers to pay you directly, from their bank account to yours. One example is Zelle®, which allows you to receive payments typically within minutes,1 using your business (or personal) email address or U.S. mobile number.
You can also consider accepting debit and credit cards, either in plastic form or from a customer’s digital wallet via a platform like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay. If fees were an impediment in the past, keep in mind that accepting cards may expand your customer base, which can help offset those fees.
Action tip: Research digital payment options as well as point-of-sale (POS) payment systems that can help you move away from cash and toward contactless payments.
For businesses that accept cards in person
The COVID-19 crisis is prompting some businesses to think beyond accepting debit and credit cards in store.
Some businesses are allowing customers to pay by phone, while some are setting up e-commerce, so customers can buy online, then get their goods via in-store pickup, at curbside, or from a shipping or delivery service. While accepting card payments by phone or online may carry different fees than using a point-of-sale device, allowing customers to shop and pay however they’re most comfortable may help boost business.
Businesses with brick-and-mortar locations might also go contactless in-store by using a POS system with near-field communication (NFC) technology. This means devices can communicate from a few inches apart so customers can place their smartphone, credit or debit card near your POS device to complete a transaction. There’s no contact required, and the process is encrypted for security.
Your POS equipment may already have contactless technology that you’re not using. Look for the Contactless Symbol to check. According to the International Card Manufacturer’s Association, 60 to 70% of U.S. terminals are equipped with the functionality but don’t have it activated.
If you don’t see the symbol, you may need to upgrade your device. Doing so won’t limit your customers to only use tap-and-go; they can still insert or swipe their cards.
Action tip: Look for POS systems that enable contactless payments in addition to swipe and dip, since tap-and-go may help your business in this environment even as COVID-19 fears wane. You can generally use these same systems to accept online payments, too.
For service-based businesses that use billing
Consider a law firm, accounting firm, or any business that invoices its clients.
Going digital can help these firms move away from asking customers to mail checks to pay bills, which can help businesses better manage their money.
One lawyer based in upstate New York told the ABA Journal that she added contact-free digital payment during the pandemic so clients could pay by credit card as well as checks. She did this in the hopes that giving clients new payment options might make it easier for them to pay on time.
Plus, online payments generally sync with your accounting software automatically so you can send e-invoices and streamline accounts receivable.
Action tip: Research online payment systems, or you can talk to your banker about options. Some systems may require specialized software.
For businesses that use billing and accept cards in person
Many healthcare practices, professional services firms, and other companies that primarily accept payments from other businesses need ways to accept payments in person, using POS systems. But they may also need to be set up for billing or invoicing patients, clients, and customers.
To reduce in-person contact, these businesses have a few options.
One option is to switch to a contactless POS system to help minimize contact at checkout. Another would be offering clients the option of paying online or by phone.
Or you might want to invoice for everything, billing clients for transactions that you normally do in person. (If you need help updating your billing software to be more efficient, and to reduce contact even further, see For service-based businesses that use billing.)
Action tip: Upgrade your billing system to accept online payments and add a contact-free payment option to your physical location.
The COVID-19 crisis has changed how people want to pay. Adjusting the way you accept payments can help improve the customer experience, and it can help your business continue to drive sales. And with payments moving in the direction of digital and contactless around the globe, any changes you make now may continue to pay off in the future.
1 Enrollment with Zelle® through Wells Fargo Online® or Wells Fargo Business Online® is required. Terms and conditions apply. Transactions typically occur in minutes when the recipient’s email address or U.S. mobile number is already enrolled with Zelle®. Available to almost anyone with a U.S.-based bank account. For your protection, Zelle® should only be used for sending money to friends, family, or others you trust. The Request feature within Zelle® is only available through Wells Fargo using a smartphone, and may not be available for use with all small business accounts at this time. In order to send payment requests to a U.S. mobile number, the mobile number must already be enrolled with Zelle®. Neither Wells Fargo nor Zelle® offers a protection program for authorized payments made with Zelle®. To send money to or receive money from an eligible small business, a consumer must be enrolled with Zelle® through their financial institution. Small businesses are not able to enroll in the Zelle® app, and cannot receive payments from consumers enrolled in the Zelle® app. For more information, view the Zelle® Transfer Service Addendum to the Wells Fargo Online Access Agreement. Your mobile carrier’s message and data rates may apply.
Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.
The Contactless Symbol and Contactless Indicator are trademarks owned by and used with permission of EMVCo, LLC.