What do merchants want? Knowledge. Specifically as it pertains to new products in the payments industry.
That’s what Neil Randel, CEO of First American Payment Systems, has found to be the case. His company works with merchants who have questions about a number of topics – from mobile payments, to point-of-sale systems, to Apple Pay and Android Pay.
One of the most important issues facing merchants today, according to Randel, is the upcoming liability shift to EMV in the fall.
“There are a lot of questions around EMV,” he said, “and how merchants need to be prepared so that they do not run into unexpected business costs.”
Merchants need to keep pace with the desires of their consumers. These days, consumers want options for payment methods – credit, debit, cash, and mobile. As a result, happy customers become loyal customers, and merchants who want their businesses to grow are willing to do what it takes to meet their customers’ needs. In the ever-evolving world of payments, this calls for the people on the receiving end of those payments to get educated.
Says Randel: “It’s critical that merchants understand how things like EMV or Apple Pay will impact them, their staff and their daily operations.”
Of course, mobile payments, although they are very much on the rise, have a long way to go before they overtake the use of physical credit or debit cards. Randel points to his company’s own research data indicating that “credit cards will continue to be a popular method of payment and that EMV is incredibly important for a merchant.”
He recommends that merchants outfit themselves to toe the line and be able to accept both mobile payments and EMV transactions – because, again, consumers want options.
The only merchants that should currently be picking a side are those who are not yet in shape to accept either form. In those cases, Randel suggests focusing on EMV, because that method’s got a ticking clock on it. Come October, any merchant who isn’t prepared to accept EMV liability might be in for a financial rude awakening.
Another reason that unprepared merchants ought to focus on EMV over mobile is that most EMV-capable terminals also accept mobile. Therefore, says Randel, merchants that educate themselves on the former will be able to fall right in step with the latter.
According to a recent survey, 30 percent of small to medium-sized businesses are not willing to get on board with EMV. Randel warns that these SMBs could put themselves at risk.
“EMV payments are a part of the payment ecosystem whether a merchant is prepared or not,” he states plainly. “By not preparing and upgrading equipment now, merchants are simply postponing something they’re going to have to do in the future and are potentially putting themselves at a greater liability risk.”
Not only will non-EMV-compliant merchants take the brunt of the financial responsibility in any instances of fraud, adds Randel, they might also position themselves as easy targets for future fraud.
“In today’s world, consumers are very aware of data breaches and issues with fraudulent transactions. They will want to avoid businesses that do not have the most up-to-date payment security,” noted Randel.
The flipside to that coin is that SMBs by definition lack the infrastructure of their larger counterparts to devote to the implementation of EMV.
To this point, Randel says that “it is important for small businesses to partner with a payment processor who can educate them on the best way to migrate to EMV.”
Here, again, is where merchant education plays a role, and why First American touts that service as one of its benefits.
“Our clients need to know what EMV means to them and we want to help them find a payment solution that meets their needs and prepares them for the EMV liability shift in October,” said Randel.
While being outfitted with the proper hardware is a critical component for merchants, Randel attests that knowing how to process EMV transactions and being able to share that knowledge with staff and consumers is just as crucial.
By the time the EMV shift has occurred, Randel advises that merchants should be well versed in the physical characteristics of the transaction (a.k.a. “dipping”) and the environment in which it will take place – an aspect that includes details such as payment device location, consumer accessibility to it, and the number of checkout locations.
“There is more to consider,” Randel says, “but thinking through the whole EMV process with a knowledgeable payments provider will save the merchant and their consumers a significant amount of time, money and frustration.”
If there’s one factor that can get EMV-resistant merchants on board with the technology, Randel believes that it is dissolving the misguiding notion that upgrading equipment for EMV is cost-prohibitive.
“There are many options for small and medium-sized businesses that will not break the bank when it comes to EMV acceptance,” said Randel. Adding a single investment in hardware can bring the merchant “multiple secure payment options, including cash, credit, EMV and mobile.”
Knowledge is power for merchants — and, come October, that power will be very useful for accepting EMV transactions.