Guest Contribution by Tom Buckland
Over the past decade, we have seen incredible advances in science and technology, perhaps more than any decade in history. AI, cloud-based computing and other areas have evolved at break-neck speed. These developments have had an incredible impact, from artificial neurons that cure chronic diseases to artificial cartilage that repairs itself.
For businesses, one of the biggest developments has been advances in payment technology. New tools have emerged meaning that businesses can now accept payments remotely, online, and using mobile and remote devices. This has opened up a world of opportunities for even the smallest of businesses and individual contractors, meaning they can more easily accept funds, widen their customer base and grow their business.
As we enter a new decade, let’s take a look at the payment technology that has revolutionized small business over the past ten years.
Why is Payment Technology Important to Small Businesses?
Until recently, many small businesses dealt exclusively in cash. For very small stores, individual contractors, mobile businesses and tradespeople, accepting card payments was unheard of. However, the business sector has seen a huge shift toward credit and debit card payments across the past decade. Research(1) shows that around 70% of consumers prefer to pay by credit or debit card.
This means that in order to be competitive and be able to grow (or even maintain) their business, just about every type of business these days needs to accept card payments.
Card payment systems can also have a range of other benefits for small businesses, being more efficient, more reliable, and facilitating better cash flow. Therefore the advances in payment technology and the emergence of new ways of accepting card payments have been hugely important to small businesses in recent years, opening up these payment methods to kinds of businesses that did not previously have access to them.
New Types of Payment Technology
Online and email payments
Probably the biggest advance in payments over the past decade has been the emergence of technology that allows businesses to take payments(2) online. Online payment portals have existed for some time now, but in recent years a range of service providers have emerged which means just about any small business, contractor or entrepreneur can set up a payment system on their website. This means that at the click of a mouse, customers can directly pay for any product or service, and the business will receive this payment essentially instantly.
These payment tools have further developed to include other features that are very conducive to great business, such as payment by link. This allows particularly online-based businesses to simply send their customers an email with a link to easy payment. These tools have become even more useful for businesses in recent years as consumer trust in online payments has grown(3), meaning more and more customers feel comfortable paying online.
Mobile and wireless card readers
Also significant has been the development of new types of card readers, especially mobile card reader machines. These technology works use a data connection to connect to the network, meaning businesses can process card payments from literally anywhere. This is literally a game-changer for mobile businesses and contractors such as food trucks, taxi drivers, mobile hairdressers, and tradespeople.
Wireless card readers are also an incredibly useful piece of technology, most notably for businesses in the hospitality sector. This technology allows cafes, bars, and similar businesses to bring the card reader to the customer’s table for fast and easy payment.
What These Developments Have Meant For Small Businesses
Primarily, the advances in payment technology in recent years have meant that many types of businesses that would previously have been limited to cash-only or very limited payment systems can now easily and effectively accept credit and debit cards from all of their customers. Furthermore, they can process these payments instantly and be assured that they will receive the funds.
Being able to accept credit or debit card payments is critical for any business operating in the modern consumer landscape. Because of consumers’ overwhelming preference for paying by cash any business that is not able to accept this kind of payment risks losing business. Additionally, this is a secure and reliable method of payment, and because the business has access to the funds almost instantly this is much better for cash flow compared to waiting weeks for invoices to be paid, and risking them never being paid at all.
Finally, dealing in cash involves a number of logistical issues as well as security risks, making card payments much more preferable for small businesses. There are also some businesses, notably online businesses, that simply could not function at all without accepting remote card payments.
In many ways, this has been a great equalizer within the business community. These advances have meant that small businesses are no longer disadvantaged compared to larger companies in terms of the payments they can accept. Small businesses now have equal access to accepting payments compared to their large competitors. Online entrepreneurs can also launch and grow their business by accepting credit card payments online, allowing them to establish their business even with very little startup investment or infrastructure.
Tom Buckland is an SEO consultant and the owner of Ghost Marketing, the #1 link building agency in the United Kingdom. He also owns the SEO blog, SEO Oasis and is an entrepreneur at heart. Connect with him on Twitter(4).