5 vital payment features merchant agents can provide this holiday shopping season.

Written by Jereme on

Retailers are reimagining holiday shopping for their customers, adding new and expanded payment capabilities.

As a merchant agent, you typically don't make many changes to your clients' accounts as part of preparations for the holiday shopping season. However, 2020 has been far from typical. The retail industry is wrapping up a year of economic shutdowns, social distancing, and continual disinfecting to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Businesses have also adapted their operations to align with changing consumer behaviors. This has all set the stage for a holiday season that will be different from any we’ve seen in the past. 

The merchant agent's role.

You have the opportunity to help your clients overcome many of the challenges that they're facing by expanding their payment acceptance capabilities. Here are five things retailers need most heading into the holidays:

  1. Online payments: Ecommerce has grown steadily to represent an even bigger part of sales during the holiday shopping season. eMarketer reported that online sales totaled $137.6 billion in 2019, an increase of 13.2 percent over 2018. Deloitte predicts, however, that ecommerce sales in the 2020 holiday shopping season will grow 25 percent to 35 percent year over year, even though McKinsey's research shows a 25 percent decrease in holiday spending intent. Some small and medium-sized (SMB) businesses that have operated primarily as brick-and-mortar retailers are just now establishing an online presence. By providing them with the tools they need to create easy and secure online payment experiences for their customers, they can maximize holiday sales.  
  2. Omnichannel management: Even though analysts are predicting massive growth in ecommerce this holiday shopping season, some transactions will still take place in person. After all, certain gifts require consumers to see and try them before they can purchase with confidence. Consumers will also likely continue to take advantage of "buy online, pickup in store" and curbside pickup services that enable them to do their browsing on their computer or smartphone and then go to the store to retrieve their items. They can even return their purchases immediately if they aren't exactly what they were looking for. Your clients will benefit from using an integrated omnichannel payments platform that enables them to manage payments and refunds from all channels via one solution. Their back office will also appreciate a consolidated report that saves time during reconciliation. 
  3. Gift cards: For more than a decade, gift cards have been the most popular item on people's holiday wish lists. Your clients are probably preparing for a higher volume of gift card sales, but you can help them create better customer experiences with a fully integrated solution featuring e-gift cards, the ability to offer gift cards as a part of their loyalty program, and gift card payments that are fast and easy. 
  4. Unattended payments: Research for a CFI Group and Radial report found that 83 percent of consumers will use self-service options when they're available. This is a 7 percent increase from 2019, with growth driven by health concerns related to the pandemic. Make sure your merchants can accept unattended payments by establishing self-service payment kiosks (and self-checkouts) to meet this consumer demand. 
  5. Touchless payments: In-store shoppers may be hesitant to use a PIN pad or other payment device that other people have touched, even if store employees disinfect surfaces between customers. In fact, a survey by the NRF and Forrester found that the pandemic is a driver for contactless payments adoption, with one in five consumers using contactless payments for the first time during the pandemic. The technology is here to stay however, as 57 percent of consumers surveyed stated they'll continue to use contactless payments after there is less risk of contracting coronavirus. 

If a client isn't prepared to upgrade technology to accept contactless payments, you can also suggest QR code payments or text-to-pay solutions. These options take customers to a payment page similar to what ecommerce customers use for touchless transactions. 

Help your clients make the most of the holiday shopping season.

When you're discussing new payment features that your clients need to maximize sales during this holiday shopping season, listen carefully to retailers' pain points. You may be able to add value to the services you provide by suggesting solutions, such as a cash discount program or same day funding. You can also confirm your role as a trusted advisor by sharing ideas and processes that work with other businesses in your network that your clients may be able to apply to their businesses.

This holiday shopping season will be one for the ages, ultimately showing how businesses with creativity and agility rose to success during a time of unprecedented challenges and change. Merchant agents can seize this opportunity to provide the payment solutions their clients need to be successful while strengthening relationships with your clients.