The basic concept behind brick-and-mortar retail is almost as old as commerce itself, with buyers and sellers historically meeting in centralized marketplaces to conduct business.
The advent of mail ordering (in the 19th century) and phone-based ordering (in the 20th century) altered this dynamic, allowing merchants to sell goods without meeting customers in person.
Still, the vast majority of exchanges happened face to face. From Blockbuster to Barnes & Noble to Tower Records, businesses that invested heavily in physical real estate enjoyed a decisive advantage in the retail world.
That is, until the Internet came along.
How E-Commerce Altered the Retail Landscape Forever
The emergence of e-commerce changed everything. No longer did buyers and sellers have to meet face to face. Instead, consumers could shop from the comfort of home, enjoying:
- Wider selections
- Lower prices
- 24/7 access
Against this backdrop, physical real estate was no longer a competitive advantage for retailers. In fact, it quickly became a liability given all the associated costs of maintaining a brick-and-mortar location (e.g., rent, insurance, and utilities).
Face-to-face interactions are still a mainstay of modern commerce. But if you’d prefer to not be tied to a single location, it’s now possible to easily and securely accept payments away from your store.
Here are some strategies to help you get started.
1. Mobile credit card processing
Rather than rely on stationary card terminals at the checkout counter, mobile credit card processing allows you to convert smartphones or tablets into portable readers.
All you need is a headphone jack attachment or Bluetooth® capability designed for an Android, iPad or iPhone device, and you can dip or swipe whatever plastic customers are carrying. If you want to leverage EMV chip-reading technology or near field communication (NFC) payments for even greater security, Clover Go is another portable solution that can liberate your POS terminal.
The beauty of mobile credit card processing is you can accept payments anywhere you have access to a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. Some merchants use their smart devices on-site, while others choose to process payments in the field at trade shows, fairs, and other off-site events.
2. Virtual terminals
Whether you work at home, in the field, or at a brick-and-mortar store, virtual terminals allow you to accept payments without touching customer debit/credit cards. Instead, you capture card information via phone, email, or snail mail — and key the user’s details into a secure, online browser. Since that browser can be accessed via a smart device, virtual terminals offer the same freedom and flexibility of mobile credit card processing.
3. E-commerce store
Mobile credit card processing and virtual terminals allow you to test the waters, giving you a taste of what it feels like to no longer be tied to a single location. But as a merchant, you still need to actively get credit card information into your system.
E-commerce represents the next step up, with users doing all the heavy lifting. Customers key in their payment information, and all you have to do is:
- Publish an online catalog of whatever goods and services you sell
- Add a secure payment gateway that can process transactions
Many merchants prefer to use hosted payment pages for the checkout process. Hosted payment pages are easy to set up and can help reduce your PCI scope.
Which Off-Site Payment Solution Is Right for You?
If you’re not sure which of the aforementioned off-site payment solutions is best for your business, we recommend trying all of them. Here’s why.
The startup cost for each option is minimal, with the only requirements being:
- Hardware. Most of which you already have if you own a computer, smartphone, or tablet.
- An Internet connection or cellular data plan. Again, you likely already have both for your business.
- A PCI-compliant payment provider that can securely process all transactions, regardless of where they originate.
If you’re ready to liberate yourself and celebrate “independence” from your brick-and-mortar location, we’re here to help. To get started, schedule a free consultation with our merchant services team today.