How to optimise your in-person payment experience

Last updated on May 16, 2024

In an increasingly online world, brick-and-mortar businesses have a unique opportunity to meet with customers in person, connect with them on a deeper level, and offer a sales experience that leaves a longer-lasting impact. 

Face-to-face sales help foster a sense of loyalty and community that is hard to replicate online, turning every transaction into a chance to build a relationship. By optimising the in-person payment experience for your customers, you increase the likelihood that they’ll become repeat customers and, even better, spread the word about their positive experience to others. 

What do customers want from an in-person payment experience?

  • Speed - Although customers may enjoy taking their time to peruse products as they shop, this leisurely approach doesn’t extend to the checkout process. After making their purchase decisions, the last thing customers want is a lengthy payment process. By the time they get to the till, they’re looking to make a quick and seamless transaction. Accepting modern payment methods like contactless cards and digital wallets will give them the fast, frictionless experience they want.
  • Choice - In the current retail landscape customers want and expect to pay for goods and services using their preferred payment method and device. Failing to offer a variety of payment methods—for example, being a cash-only business—can stop customers from following through with their purchases altogether. Offering a range of payment methods empowers your customers to shop the way they like. Similarly, technology like self-checkout kiosks and QR-code ordering affords customers even greater choice and autonomy over the payment process, creating a more personalised and satisfactory overall experience.
  • Security - Your customers want to feel assured that their payment details are being processed securely according to industry standards. There are several ways that you can signal to your customers that your payment system is secure, most notably by maintaining up-to-date card terminals and following best practices for in-person payments (e.g. ensuring that no payment information is ever written down manually or stored insecurely).
  • Clarity - Nobody likes feeling blindsided at the checkout till due to unexpected fees or miscommunications. Creating a transparent payment process, where all charges are made clear upfront, helps establish a trustworthy atmosphere where customers can feel confident they’re not being taken advantage of.
  • Convenience - Anything you as the merchant can do to make the payment process more convenient for your customers, the more likely it is they will return to your business again. From integrated rewards programs to auto-filling tax-free shopping forms for tourists, leveraging technology to offer value-added services helps transform a routine transaction into a positive, memorable customer experience.

6 Simple ways to optimise your in-person payments

1. Offer multiple ways to pay

Give your customers the freedom of choice! Make it easy for them to make quick, efficient payments using their preferred payment method. Think about the nature of your business and the types of customers you serve when integrating different payment methods into your system. This may mean integrating some or all of the following.

- Cash

Despite the rise of digital payment methods, many customers still prefer to pay in cash, particularly in certain settings. For example, customers from older generations who are more accustomed to cash may prefer it over more modern payment methods, and tourists who wish to avoid additional card fees may take out cash to pay for items while on holiday.

- Debit and credit cards

Currently, the most popular payment method for most consumers across Europe and the United States, debit and credit cards are the standard payment method used by consumers across nearly every industry and sector. Over the last two decades, card technology has evolved from magstripe to chip and PIN to contactless, making card transactions more secure and convenient for users.

- Digital wallets

Digital wallets like ApplePay, GooglePay, and SamsungPay give consumers the ability to pay by hovering their mobile phone screens over the card terminal using near-field communication (NFC) technology. An increasingly popular payment method, particularly among younger generations, digital wallets eliminate the need for carrying plastic cards, offering consumers greater convenience and security.

Top tip: 
Does your business cater to tourists? Consider integrating digital wallets from your customers’ home countries to offer an even more convenient payment option. For example, accepting AliPay and WeChat Pay—the prominent digital wallets used in China—is a fantastic way to ingratiate your business with your Chinese clientele. 

- Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL)

Integrating a Buy Now Pay Later service, like Klarna, into your payment systems offers customers the flexibility to defer or split payments, increasing their purchasing power. BNPL is particularly valuable in high-cost sectors like fashion and electronics, encouraging higher average order values. Klarna maintains a streamlined shopping experience, making it an ideal choice for businesses looking to modernise their payment options and attract a financially savvy consumer base.

2. Be transparent about prices

Not only does transparency help build trust between your business and your customers, but it also helps you avoid disputes during checkout. There are several ways you can ensure transparency for your customers, including:

- Clearly labelled pricing 

Clearly labelling the cost of your goods and services will ensure that your customers understand how much they will be charged. Consider integrating dynamic currency conversion into your point-of-sale devices so that customers from other countries can view the cost in their home currency. The more transparent you can make the process for all customers, the better.

- Notice of additional fees

If purchases are subject to any additional fees, such as sales tax, a mandatory service charge, or an environmental surcharge, communicate this to customers upfront so that they aren’t surprised when it’s time to pay.

- Detailed receipts

Provide itemised receipts so that your customers can easily review a breakdown of how their money was spent. Consider integrating the option for customers to receive digital receipts sent via email, which many people find more useful than paper receipts that are easily lost and discarded.

3. Use the latest payment technology

Give your customers the quick, seamless in-person payment experience they want and expect by keeping your payment system up to date with the latest payment technology, including:

- Next-generation electronic POS hardware

Upgrading to next-generation electronic POS hardware can significantly enhance the speed and reliability of your payment system. Newer machines also support a wider range of payment methods, including contactless and digital wallet payments, making for a more secure and efficient overall payment experience. Modern POS systems also allow you to integrate customer relationship management (CRM) tools, such as loyalty programs and targeted marketing, to create a more personalised shopping experience for your customers.

- End-to-end payment processing

By using an end-to-end payment processor, rather than a fractional system involving multiple third parties, you establish a faster, more reliable payment experience for your customers. End-to-end payment processing is associated with much higher transaction success rates, greater payment security, and better access to transaction reports. This makes it easier for you to continually analyse and improve your system based on the evolving needs of your customers.

4. Safeguard customer payment data

Essential to enhancing the in-person payment experience is giving your customers the peace of mind that their payment details are transmitted securely according to industry standards. Although customers may not be aware of the complexities of payment processing and what happens “behind the scenes” of a transaction, be prepared to explain your security protocols and reassure them if asked. Essential security safeguards include:

- POS software updates and security patches

Always keep your point-of-sale software up to date to ensure your customers are protected against new vulnerabilities and threats. Work with your payment services provider to set up automated updating so that essential security patches are applied as soon as they become available.

- Secure Wi-Fi networks

Ensure your POS system is connected to a secure Wi-Fi network that’s encrypted and hidden from public view. This helps minimise the risk that bad actors will access sensitive customer payment data.

- PCI DSS compliance

Perform the required audits and protocols laid out in the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). This not only helps protect your customers from the latest payment security threats, but it also protects your business against fines and penalties from the card networks. 

5. Offer value-added services 

As technology has advanced, modern payment systems are now capable of doing much more than processing retail transactions. Merchants can integrate several related services into their in-person payment process to further enhance the payment experience. These include:

- Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC)

A POS system with Dynamic Currency Conversation detects the customers’ home country based on their card data. It automatically converts the transaction amount into their local currency based on the current exchange rate. This allows customers travelling from abroad to have a more accurate understanding of how much they’re spending and make the payment in their preferred currency. This is a much-appreciated feature for businesses in the tourism and hospitality industries, such as hotels, restaurants, local attractions, and retail shops in tourist-heavy areas.

- Integrated Tax Free shopping

Another useful feature for tourism and hospitality businesses, payment processing with integrated Tax Free shopping solutions makes it easy for customers to take advantage of a country’s tax refund scheme. Integrating tax-free shopping solutions into your point-of-sale (POS) system will automate, digitise, and issue Tax Free forms to your international customers, making it easier for them to claim their tax back after their holiday.
 6. Streamline the checkout process

Think beyond the technical components of your payment processing system to carefully consider the broader customer experience during checkout. Do customers often need to wait in queues before paying? How does the system cope during busy periods? What implications does the current checkout setup have on staff resources?

Consider whether the following technology-driven solutions might help you streamline the checkout process and free up staff for more important tasks.

- Mobile point-of-sale systems

Avoid checkout queues altogether by going to your customers for payment, rather than making them come to you. Equipping staff with mobile POS machines allows them to walk around your premises and take payments as soon as the customer is ready. Although portable card machines have been the standard at restaurants for decades, they’re increasingly used in retail stores (e.g. shoe shops, electronics stores, etc.) and service businesses (e.g. salons, spas, etc.), eliminating the need for a fixed checkout counter entirely.

- Self-checkout tills

Many modern consumers prefer a self-checkout till over waiting in a lengthy checkout queue. Self-checkout machines are a highly effective way of streamlining the in-person payment process, particularly during peak times. Customers are empowered to manage the checkout process themselves, using intuitive touch-screen and voice-guided technology, with a single staff member on hand to assist if needed. Already commonplace in supermarkets, self-checkout kiosks are increasingly used in other retail settings, including clothing stores, hotels, fast food restaurants, and even pharmacies. 

In-person payments: the final touchpoint 

The payment process is a customer’s final interaction with your business, making it a critical component of their overall experience. It’s much more than a routine procedure; it’s an opportunity to lock in customer satisfaction before they walk out the door. By taking the time to consider and customise this final step of the sales journey, you can ensure it reflects the quality and care your business strives for.

Keep in mind that optimising the in-person payment experience is an ongoing process. As customer behaviours and needs evolve, so must your business evolve to meet these new expectations. An in-person payment system that has worked well in the past can quickly become outdated if not regularly assessed and updated. Staying ahead of industry trends and implementing new payment technologies that drive customer satisfaction will allow your business to thrive across generations. 

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