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The consumer’s shopping journey has evolved in a way that challenges retailers big and small. Shoppers demand frictionless experiences in-store and online. But for small to medium-size business, competing against larger retail brands can be challenging. Which is why payments solution provider, Verifone, created a “Wellness Plan for SMBs.” Here, Joe Mach, president of North America at Verifone, shares how the plan works and why SMBs can benefit from it.

WWD: What’s driving the need for SMBs to change and why is a “wellness plan” needed?

Joe Mach: Building and growing a small business is both rewarding and daunting, particularly when pitted against big businesses with larger footprints, bigger budgets and more assets overall. It’s a classic David versus Goliath scenario, which is why we want to help them thrive and better serve their customers through the checkout experience.

And that includes helping SMBs accept emerging payment apps and methods since a growing number of consumers demand the option to use these features in-store. Our “Verifone Wellness Plan for SMBs” includes awareness and the ability to accept all types of payment and the flexibility to embrace change. This is critical to merchants’ well-being. It’s also important to note that about 25 percent of consumers pay by Samsung Pay and Apple Pay while 64 percent plan to use mobile wallet by 2020. And half of consumers want to use mobile payment apps for faster in-store purchases. And there are already more than 520 million people using Alipay in 30 countries, including the U.S.

WWD: What role do “exercise” and “relationships” play in the plan?

J.M.: Evidence suggests that there is a correlation between healthy relationships and merchant life expectancy. Reciprocating with relevant and easily redeemable offers helps SMBs build and maintain long-lasting relationships with their customers, and fulfill on the mutual need for appreciation and understanding. Research has shown that 66 percent of consumers want to redeem rewards while 79 percent want brands to show personal understanding and care.

At Verifone, we’re also enabling SMBs to engage their customers and conduct transactions throughout the store. This allows SMBs to foster healthy activities in the customer’s journey and reverse any merchant atrophy — and even elevate feelings of happiness. Success of this is evident from industry data revealing that underperforming retailers that deployed mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) saw 100 percent sales increase for 2017.

WWD: Does a wellness plan for SMBs include “supplements” to help them be mindful and focused?

J.M.: Yes. Strains of viruses, malware and other infections spread by cybercriminals’ unsavory behavior are increasingly resistant to payment system defenses. Total immunity is impossible; however, supplementing PCI compliance with a strong regimen of end-to-end encryption, tokenization and secure/semi-integrated architecture can effectively protect merchants from infection — not to mention embarrassing phone calls to inform customers they may be infected.

Payroll, inventory management, reporting and other tasks can induce anxiety and distract SMBs; however, groundbreaking payment technology advancements can support a range of business apps that alleviate such distractions. With the right tools, SMBs can adopt any number of apps, which they can use as coping mechanisms — anytime, anywhere — to reduce distractions and regain focus on what’s most important — growth and relationships.

WWD: What’s important to consider when choosing the right “wellness provider?”

J.M.: All these changes may be impossible for small merchants to make on their own, which is why the merchant service provider is critical to the wellness journey. That’s not to say that any service provider will do. Reliable “wellness coaches,” or merchant service providers, must be able to efficiently manage ongoing complexity and fast-paced change on behalf of merchants, along with trained staff available 24/7 for monitoring, support and triage — if something goes wrong.

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