20 Sep

Five Ways Your Small Business Can Benefit From Back to School Promotions

From kindergarten to college, class will soon be in session for another year, if it isn’t already. Students aren’t the only ones who should prepare. As a business owner, put yourself in an advantageous position by capitalizing on products and services that cater to everyone going back to school.


Put Social Media to Work for You

You can harness the power of social media sites, including Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest, to engage students of all ages. These ubiquitous platforms offer you countless ways to spread the word about your business.

For instance, spark customer interest by sponsoring a “selfie” contest featuring some of your products, with the winner receiving a gift card or shopping spree. Offer coupons to customers who provide you with their contact information. Make the most of your website and social media pages to get people chatting and tweeting about everything you have to offer, and encourage your loyal customers to write reviews. The more buzz you generate, the higher the likelihood of attracting new patrons.

Making your pitch on local social media pages can be particularly lucrative. Post coupon ad discount information, being sure to tag area schools. Once you do, parents will tend to share the news with their friends. Before long, the buzz about your promotions might even go viral in your community.

Tap into the Benefits of User Generated Content

If there is any one group of customers who are savvy about social media, it’s students. Let them show off their online prowess while simultaneously boosting social media interest in the products and services you are offering. Encourage buyers to take videos of themselves choosing and using your products or services. Set up a commerce gallery that allows your customers’ friends to easily click on and purchase what they see. Set up a customer poll to see what products they like best. The hashtags they use will lead to more social media sharing. From your perspective, more is almost always better.

Help Your Customer Save Money on the Products They Want
Most parents – and even students themselves – are reconciled to the idea of making a significant financial investment in products related to a return to the classroom. If you carry basic supplies such as pens, pencils, notebooks and calculators, offer sales and promotions. Even retailers of household décor products can capitalize on young consumers’ desires to make a fresh start and up their study game, whether in the dorm or even in their own bedrooms. Whatever you are selling, consider creating combination packs at discount prices. For instance, bundle a notebook, calculator and protractor together for the young geometry student.
If you own a salon or spa, provide a discount on a haircut and manicure package that will ensure your customers are looking their best for the first day of classes. If you’re not sure what products to highlight, take some time to check out Pinterest and other websites that cater to younger customers. It won’t be long before you know what styles and products are trending for the new back-to-school season.

Now that you have an idea of what products you plan to feature in your promotion, it’s crucial that your target customers receive the word of your upcoming sale. Use social media, email blasts and good old-fashioned marketing techniques such as signage and notices on bulletin boards to create interest and excitement.

Host Events
If your goal is to sell products and increase your base of student customers, one of the best vehicles is to invite them to your shop or restaurant for a specific event. Of course, the nature of the celebration depends on the focus of your business, but examples are back-to-school open houses where door prizes are offered, movie screenings or concerts held in coffee shops or restaurants, or celebrity meet-and-greets in clothing retail shops.

Although young people will come into your place of business ostensibly to take part in the specific back to school event you are sponsoring, they will also automatically be exposed to the products and services you offer. If you combine your party with product discounts good only for that particular day or evening, you are even more likely to gain sales.

Reward Customer Loyalty
As a business owner, one of your chief goals is to encourage patrons to keep coming back long after back to school time. One of the best ways is through a customer loyalty program. Chances are good that your existing payment processing system might even be equipped with the tools to help you get started. With the influx of potential customers available to you during the back-to-school season, there’s no time like the present to get your program off the ground.
People love to earn points and rewards. If you own a restaurant or coffee shop, you can initiate a punch card system that gives students a free latte after 10 visits or results in a discount on their next purchase after they spend a certain amount of money. These types of incentives are great ways to encourage repeat visits. While customer loyalty programs furnish benefits to your patrons, they also give you an ever-growing list of customers and their contact information. As you enhance the scope of your marketing strategy, this gold mine of data can be the foundation of social media and email campaigns as well as providing potential subscribers to your newsletter.

As the doors of elementary, middle, high schools and colleges swing open for another academic year, use this time to reward existing customers, attract new ones and have a little fun. Giving people the chance to enjoy a time of year that can be expensive and stressful will ultimately boost your ongoing popularity with your patrons and keep them coming back long after the novelty has worn off of the new school year.

18 Aug

Keeping Your Restaurant or Retail Business Safe from Hackers

When hackers plunder a business’ internal payment processing systems, the consequences can be catastrophic. The casualties often include the private credit card data of numerous customers, sensitive employee information, and the hacked company’s reputation and bottom line.

While no measures can provide foolproof protection against data breaches, fraud and other criminal behavior, there are definitive steps you can take to safeguard your retail store or restaurant against cyber-attacks.

Take Time to Maintain Strong Passwords

The temptation to make passwords as easy and memorable as possible is undeniable, especially when time is of the essence for busy entrepreneurs and their staff. Unfortunately, taking shortcuts when it comes to passwords is a hacker’s dream, providing criminals with an easy gateway into your system.

As annoying as it may be, it is essential that you take time to create strong sequences of random symbols, case-sensitive characters and multiple numbers. Make sure that you and all of your staff change their user names and passwords at least on a monthly basis, and insist that no passwords are written down near the computer.

Carefully Choose Your Internet Service Provider

Sometimes you get exactly what you pay for. That’s why it isn’t a good idea to simply sign on the dotted line with the cheapest internet service provider you can find. Reputable vendors may charge more, but part of the price is reflected in the more robust security features of the system as well as the availability of customer support representatives who can assist you in the event that a hack has occurred.

Once you have ascertained that your provider has the security features that will help to safeguard your business, you can then make sure you get the connection speeds and affordable price that will help you seal the deal.

Protect Yourself Against Viruses and Spyware

No doubt, you have heard the horror stories. Entire systems can be taken over by bots or spyware and turned into slaves that do the bidding of criminals while simultaneously preventing businesses from accessing their own data. Furthermore, with a single click, an employee can open an email attachment and subject the entire cyber-infrastructure to the onslaught of a vicious and destructive virus.

By installing cutting-edge anti-virus and anti-spyware software, you can minimize your chances of becoming a victim to one of these frightening and debilitating electronic attacks. Furthermore, even the smallest of retailers should invest in a solid network firewall system that monitors and controls all of the incoming and outgoing traffic. Once you have installed this feature, you can receive up-to-the-minute reports of any suspicious activity occurring within your system.

Take Steps to Encrypt Customers’ Data

The less contact that you, the merchant, have with your customers’ credit card numbers, CRVs and expiration dates, the lower your chances of being hacked. That’s because criminals are seeking this valuable information in order to make purchases themselves or sell it on the black market at immense profits.

Thanks to the recent adoption of credit cards equipped with EMV chips, retailers are much less likely to need to store sensitive data. With EMV transactions as well as mobile payments, tokenization technology enables the data to be encrypted and kept secure from customers and merchants throughout the payment transaction process. In fact, only the end company, entities such as MasterCard, Visa and American Express, have the keys to unlock these secure tokens. If you don’t already have a modern point-of-sale system that contains these features, talk to Aperture Payment Solutions about upgrading.

Secure Your Hardware

In addition to sneaking their way into your electronic systems via spyware or viruses, criminals often go for the most obvious pillaging by stealing your electronic property including cellphones, servers, PCs and laptops. In addition to investing in an excellent security system for your property, physically lock down your equipment by securing it to your desk. Just feed a cable through your computer’s Kensington lock port, the metal loop that is found on most PCs and laptops.

While a determined thief can circumvent this precaution, it takes extra time and is often enough to deter the criminal. If you use laptops in the field, there is tracking software available that will allow you to remotely locate your equipment and password protect it from afar.

Keep Your Employees Informed

The more sets of trusted eyes you have monitoring your systems, the better your chances of intercepting criminals before they can do a lot of damage. Periodically update your employees on the latest security threats, and take a few minutes on a regular basis to explain why security precautions are so important not only for the business but also for them personally.

One of your best uses of time will occur if you write out a comprehensive internet usage policy that details what online activities are acceptable and which are prohibited. By ensuring that everyone is on board with this document, you have obtained buy-in from the people who can best be counted on to be your security partners.

Understand Your Merchant Accounts Provider’s Role

While much of the burden of protecting your company’s security from hackers falls on you, your merchant account provider also bears some of the responsibility. Be sure that this vendor complies with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) requirements. If they fail to do so, you could be left holding the financial bag if you are hacked.

Fraud, data breaches and other forms of hacking can quickly bring the business you have worked tirelessly to build to its knees. Don’t allow yourself to be vulnerable to these evil raids that can cost you your well-being, your customers, and even your company itself. Doing all you can to bolster your security fortress is one of the most proactive investments of time and resources you can give to your retail establishment.

14 Jul

The Illusion of Flat-Rate Pricing for Merchant Processing

Pricing

Both Stripe and PayPal/Braintree charge flat-rate pricing, an increasingly popular cost structure for processors. And it’s easy to see why – simplicity is attractive. Flat rate pricing is easy to understand and it saves merchants from the annoyance of sifting through complex credit card processing statements. There’s no risk of missing some fine print and — at least on the surface – it appears to be totally transparent.
 

The flat rate pricing illusion

Flat rate pricing is simple. Credit card processing is not. In fact, flat rate pricing isn’t designed to be competitive at all–the attraction comes from the ease in which merchants can understand the structure. It’s a marketing tactic. With all the intricacies involved in credit card processing, it’s all but impossible for processors to charge a flat rate that is competitive while still remaining profitable as a company. Here’s why.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, every transaction a merchant processes incurs three fees:

1. A fee to the issuing bank, e.g., Chase (interchange)
2. A fee to the card brand, e.g., MasterCard or Visa (assessment)
3. A fee to the credit card processor

While assessments are fixed costs, the interchange rate is not. This rate can vary from as low as 0.05% to over 3%. Processors that charge a flat rate need to account for every possible interchange rate. The good thing about flat rate pricing is that there’s no guesswork and it’s easy for a merchant to figure out how much it’s going to cost them to process their payments. Unfortunately this convenience comes at a cost of spending about 20% more than they have to on processing costs.

Stripe and PayPal/Braintree use a fixed percentage of volume pricing structure of 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. This is on the higher end in comparison to interchange rates, and for merchants with low-ticket transactions that extra $0.30 can be a real burden.
 
“Interchange Plus” pricing optimizes costs
Quite simply, “interchange plus” pricing means the merchant pays the interchange rate plus a fee to their credit card processor. That fee is usually measured in basis points. Each basis point is 1/100th of a percent.
For example, let’s say you’re a retail business working with a processor that charges 70 basis points for a fee of 0.70%. If you ran a card-present transaction of $50 with an exempt Visa check card, the interchange fee would be 0.80% + $0.15 for a combined rate of 1.5%. That gives you an interchange rate of $0.75 + $0.15 for a grand total of $0.90 for the transaction. That same transaction through Stripe or PayPal would cost $1.75!
 

Funding

Another cost of processing with many flat rate processors is the funding timeline. Since companies like Stripe are technically payment aggregators, it’s not cost-effective for them to maintain the reserve required to fund their clients in a timely manner.

Through PayPal/Braintree, it takes 48 hours to receive your money. With Stripe, it takes eight business days. That’s seven days between purchase and funding, which can become a huge burden for many merchants, and can complicate accounting long-term.

Another thing–aggregators may process payments under one large merchant account rather than having separate accounts for each of their merchants. In this scenario, the money your customers pay through these services does not belong to you. Since the aggregator is the one with the merchant account, it technically owns the money being processed. The service provider then issues a payment to you for the amount of the transaction.

Other payment processors, like Aperture Payment Solutions, will always have you open and own your merchant account, a process that can be as quick as a few hours. For this reason, any money that your customers pay only ever belongs to you, and you’ll receive your money in as little as one day.
 
With a little education on pricing, business owners don’t have to settle for a flat-rate structure. Even smaller, low-volume businesses and startups should expect transparency, access to their money when they need it, and a full suite of developer tools. Expect more from your processor – you deserve it.

Main menu