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Small businesses – Get with the times!

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This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to hear my friend (and fab newsletter creator) Karen Haller speak at the Grand Designs LIVE show at London’s Excel. Grand Designs LIVE is a huge show with lots of stuff going on and lots of things to buy.

Some of the items on sale were big (e.g. whole conservatories, hot tubs, or furniture sets), and some of them were small (e.g. food and drink, kitchen gadgets, jewellery cleaner). As is my normal habit, I bought foodie things to take home to my husband, and would have bought a whole bunch of other stuff if I’d had the chance. However, 4 out of 5 of the stalls I wanted to buy from didn’t take credit cards. This isn’t the first time this has happened to me and it’s starting to get annoying.

Why bother with card payments?

Before we get into the how of taking credit card payments, let’s look at why a small business, like those who take stalls at shows and fairs all over the country, should do so. There are two BIG reasons:

1. No cash – No sale.

I pretty much don’t carry cash any more. I’m too scared of losing it, and I don’t like schlepping a lot of small change around in my over-stuffed purse. I normally have about £10 in cash on me tops, and I’m not unusual in that.

I also live in a town and work in a city. Most of the places I spend money (cafe, supermarket, newsagent, hairdresser, train station, etc.) take cards, so I’m used to paying that way. It’s my default to whip out my debit card for daily purchases. Again, I’m not alone – and with the use of contact-less payments on the rise in big cities, that’s not going to reduce.

So, if you want me to buy from you, let me pay you buy card. Before you ask, yes there are a couple of cash machines at Excel, however they are out of the hall, down the corridor, down the stairs, and right by the exit to the car park. Not the best place to grab some money before going back to buy more! This meant that the lovely cheese and the amazing jewellery cleaner did not come home with me yesterday. I probably would have spent about £30 on those things.

2. Big sales beat small sales.

Even if by some miracle I have some cash on me, what I can buy from you is limited by what’s in my purse. So, when I went to the yummy olives, baklava and nuts stall, I could only buy £10-worth of deliciousness, rather than the £20-ish that I wanted. They literally halved the amount I could spend with them.

However, on the funky kitchen slicer thingy stall, I bought two for £10 instead of just one at £7 because they took cards!

You won’t like it when I’m angry…

I mentioned earlier that this really annoyed me. I want to clarify that.

I’m not annoyed because small businesses’ not taking cards cramps my shopping style (that’s just an irritation). What really annoys me is that small business owners are HARMING THEMSELVES because they don’t make it easy for customers to pay them.

It makes me want to cry when I see a small business turning away good custom because they don’t have their act together. I really care about small businesses, and the people that run them, and I want them to thrive – but to do so they (and that means you!) have to get with the times.

So how do you do it?

Traditionally, in order to take credit card payments, a company would have to get a merchant account with a credit card payments provider. However, that could often be difficult and pricey.

However, now there are other ways to take card payments – whether you’re at your premises, or out and about, and one of those is by using a device called PayPal Here.

Very simply, it allows you to use the Here machine and your mobile phone to take on the spot payments from credit cards. If you have a PayPal account, you can use it. Simples!

…but payments aren’t the only issue.

Taking the payment methods that people want to use is only one example of how small businesses can keep up to date with what their customers are looking for. Here are a few other things that you should look at for your business:

  • Enabling customers to contact you via social media
  • Having up-to-date information on your website
  • Taking online orders/bookings
  • Offering a choice of delivery options for products
  • Being findable on mobile devices

…there are many more, so let me know in the comments what you think small businesses today should be doing.

Tamsin Fox-Davies

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I am the Senior Development Manager here at Constant Contact UK. My time is spent zooming around the UK delivering the free marketing education that Constant Contact loves to provide to small businesses. I like cakes and shoes (and shoe cakes).

For more business tips and advice please visit the Constant Contact blogsite at http://blog.constantcontact.co.uk/

 

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