I was trapped. I knew it. There was nothing I could do. The rows of brightly colored candy, tabloids and magazines were closing in on me. The family of four behind me had no idea. Customers in other checkout lines were oblivious. But there I was, trapped as soon as I saw it: my nemesis, the checkbook.
My nemesis doesn’t look threatening when it’s hiding in a purse or pocket, but when it rears its worn blue cover in front of me in the grocery line, all bets are off. For the next five minutes I waited as the wonderful shopper ahead of me double-confirmed the amount, discussed the weather, slowly filled out the check in lovely cursive, handed it to the cashier for verification and then recorded the entire multistep process in a miniature check registry balanced to the cent. Oh, how I longed to be in a line where checks were not accepted! Let me make a cashless payment by scanning my phone, entering a secret code or with my mom’s credit card. I would even scrounge for the most elusive payment type of all: cash.
While this store hasn’t fully caught on to the modern way people want to buy, its competitors have. The Starbucks next door lets me pay and receive coupons using my phone. The food truck one block down lets me sign my name on a tablet and instantly texts me a receipt—all before I take my first yummy bite of a homemade taco. These are changing times, my friend!
How to pivot toward a cashless payment system
The starting place is to recognize the new consumer mindset. Consumers are more informed and marketed to than ever. They have myriad options to choose from. The final hurdle to closing a deal is the transfer of payment from them to you. Anything sellers do to make it more difficult to receive or process payment can lead to lost sales in a time of unprecedented competition and shrinking margins.
Your goal is to make it so easy for customers to pay that they stop comparison-shopping on their smartphones while waiting in your checkout line. Here are the three steps to make the leap from checks and counting pennies to mobile payments and serious dollars:
1. Ask your customers how they want to pay for your services.
You may be surprised. I certainly was when my team and I discovered many of our customers wanted to pay for my speaking services via credit card, which was easier for them than issuing a purchase order.
2. Integrate mobile into your cashless payment experience—even if it’s purely to show you’re hip to the latest trends.
With services such as Square and GoPayment, it’s easier and cheaper to take orders anywhere, anytime. In fact, we’ve sold items simply because customers wanted to try signing their names on our iPad. Seriously. How can you not love a service that literally pays for itself?
3. If you’re going to offer coupons, accept digital versions.
Three reasons: First, they get forwarded online, which increases your potential market. Second, you can ask for customers’ email addresses when they use the e-coupon, allowing you to market to them via email and potentially make future sales. Third, an entire generation has never—and likely will never—see your coupons in the newspaper, making digital coupons the best option for reaching younger consumers.
The bottom line: Cash is not king if your customers don’t carry it. Cashless payments are becoming more popular. Make it easy for customers to pay how they want, and they will. Best of all, if you move away from accepting checks, no one can steal your favorite pen!
This article was published in February 2013 and has been updated. Photo by Jacob Lund/Shutterstock