Should Small Businesses Care About Mobile Payments?

It wasn’t that long ago that the sole fact of having a website was a good-enough attempt at keeping up with the 21st century. So is it really necessary for small businesses to handle the difficulties of going mobile to expand their online presence?

One of the recent reports published by the Business Insider indicates that 2013 is going to be the first year when more people will access the web from mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) than from PCs (desktop PCs and notebooks).

This means that, indeed, the marketplace is changing and that it’s about time for every small business to start thinking about going mobile.

The website

There are a couple of things worth discussing when it comes to the website itself. First of all, these days, making a website mobile-friendly is not that difficult as it might seem.

In short, what you have to do in order to make your site in-tune with the mobile web is to simply use a free mobile site builder, or – the other approach – get yourself a shiny new WordPress plugin (free) called WPtouch.

Also, focus on improving your site speed by getting rid of all unused plugins and other tools that are only slowing you down. While site speed is not the biggest issue for people accessing the web from their desktop computers, it is absolutely crucial for mobile. No one will wait more than 8 seconds (more or less) for a site to load if they’re on a mobile phone. Site speed may actually be the main success factor for your business’s mobile success.

Once you have your website handled, you can look into the possible monetization technologies.

Every small business blog or website exists for one specific purpose – to make money. If there’s no revenue, the website (and, sadly, usually the business too) will go down.

Since 2013 is the year of big mobile activity, what this means is that people will not only browse the web on the go, but also try to make purchases, and this is where mobile payments come into play.

There are two main scenarios when it comes to mobile payments for small business:

  • When you (the business owner) have a website, and your customer tries to make a purchase from a mobile device.
  • When both you and your customer meet in person and the only transaction tools you have to use are smartphones and credit cards.

Mobile payments on the web

Let’s start with the first scenario as it’s the more common one. These days, you can enable mobile payments on your website in a variety of ways.

The first solution that comes to mind is PayPal, which delivers an easy to use method for business owners to collect all kinds of payments (donations, one-time payments, recurring payments, etc.). The plugins and services that connect PayPal to your website make the whole thing very straightforward. PayPal itself is 100% mobile-friendly and allows every customer to make a purchase from any smartphone or tablet.

The only downside to PayPal are the fees that you have to pay when you want to actually get the money out to your bank account.

Luckily, there are some more cost-effective solutions where the fees are not that brutal because the actual payment processing happens directly via your website. Companies like ACH payments and provide such solutions. They always come with great customer support and additional tools to make the integration process quick and painless, so you can start collecting mobile payments right away.

Mobile payments on the go

One of the surprisingly common situations in business is when two people can’t carry out a transaction just because they are both on their smartphones (e.g. when they meet in person) and don’t have any additional tools at their disposal.

Even if most of your business is done online, it’s a well-known fact that meeting your customer or client in person to discuss the deal makes it much easier to finalize. However, if you don’t have the tools to make it happen, following up with the client later on is often hard and unfruitful.

And it’s not just me talking. Major payment processing companies and credit card operators realize this too, that’s why they’re releasing new services and products as we speak. For instance, PayPal with their new mobile payments system, or Visa with their new mobile payments and NFC partner program. This really is the direction that the market is following right now.

For small business owners, one of the more user-friendly apps that handle payments in a similar manner is SwitchPay. The system features an iOs app and an additional credit card scanner. Whenever some business needs to be done, so to speak, the payment can be handled just using a standard smartphone.

One more interesting development in this space is something called NFC-based payments (NFC – Near Field Communication). NFC is a popular technology on modern Android devices (like Nexus 4, or Samsung Galaxy S3).

The payment itself is very similar to a standard PayPass payment. The only difference is that instead of a credit card, the customer can use their NFC-enabled smartphone. On the business owner’s side, a standard PayPass terminal will make the transaction possible.

What’s next?

The best thing about all these new solutions is that they rarely require any difficult setup process, and every small business owner only needs a website and a smartphone, and they are basically ready to handle any transaction that might cross their path, so to speak.

What’s your take on mobile payments? Is it something that’s on your radar right now?