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Today’s payment options for small businesses

Read this article to learn which payment systems, for in-person and online transactions, best fit your business' and customers' needs.

The payments landscape is always changing, and the evolution, along with choosing a payment system for small businesses, may seem overwhelming to some small business owners. In fact, you may still be relying on traditional point-of-sale (POS) systems for handling customer transactions.

Today’s technological environment has opened up many additional online payment system options for small businesses beyond legacy POS systems, but it’s up to every company’s leadership to determine which payment system is right for them.

Doing that starts with understanding what options are available, and how they meet small businesses’ needs both in-person and online. Here are some ways to think about making decisions about today’s payment systems for small businesses.


Determining the best payment option for small businesses

The ideal payments solution varies depending on both the business’ individual needs and the expectations of its customers.

A small business owner who’s launching an online store, for example, may require online payment system capabilities that complement or expand on those necessary for in-person, point-of-sale (cash and/or card-present) transactions. Even business owners operating only brick-and-mortar locations may find online payment capabilities – such as online order-ahead for pick-up, or digital coupon-code redemption – to be useful or highly valuable to their current or future business plans.

Across both in-person and online environments, business owners also need to ensure they can accept payment in all the ways and forms through which their customers want to pay (or as many of them as are typically expected in the business’ industry or environment). These can include cash, checks, and credit/debit and card-not-present transactions – i.e., for phone-, fax-, or invoice-based orders – as well as more digital methods like PayPal, mobile tap-and-pay/contactless/QR card acceptance, and other emerging tools.

When it comes to payment acceptance, almost all POS systems – even the less featured models/platforms – can handle all payment methods shy of more digital and mobile options. However, what traditional systems can’t do is support all-online or hybrid online-offline operations by linking a business’ in-person and online store sales, promotions, and reporting. Nor can they offer features like digital gift cards and email receipts that elevate customers’ sales experience, helping drive engagement and build stronger customer relationships across the business.

Meeting a small businesses’ unique payment needs

That’s why the degree to which company operates online – or intends to operate online in the future – makes a difference to which payment solution is ideal. As touched on earlier, understanding and evaluating current and future business plans can help small business owners determine what payment solution is right for their company and their customers.

Determining the best payment system for any small business requires two prongs of thinking: one focused on what’s inadequate about the business’ existing approach to payments; and one looking at how to improve the business’ payments model.

This two-pronged outlook can help small business owners avoid getting overwhelmed when evaluating solutions, since it will help them overlook features being sold that their companies don’t need. By first considering where the company’s needs are not being met (i.e., in-person experience, reporting issues or lack of integration with the online store) and then looking ahead to new areas (i.e., online marketing, new payment methods or advanced security), small business owners can streamline what they seek out from a new solution.

In addition to making basic lists of current payment-system inadequacies and future needs, streamlining also requires asking questions. Once small business owners understand their gaps and opportunities, they can get specific with the questions they have of a potential new solution.

Those questions will vary just as much as companies’ needs, but may include inquiries like:

  • How does the online payment system help me engage my top customers?

  • What support is provided for my back-end finances?

  • What’s the issue resolution process for denials (or other challenges)?

  • What sets your solution apart from the competition?

  • How are software updates handled, and how often do they happen?

  • What unique fraud protections and other security measures are included?

  • How frequently are fraud and security provisions reviewed and revised?

  • What devices and payment systems is the system compatible with?

  • How can the system be adapted if I change my inventory, location, or target market? 

  • What are my costs, and how are billing and fees handled? Am I ever subject to annual fees?


Depending on the type of small business seeking a new payment solution, further asks may cover topics related to more specific industry- or environment-related concerns. A few examples include:

  • How does this system help me manage returns and exchanges?

  • Does this have role-based permissioning for orders? (This may be important to cover concerns like server-age and alcohol orders in a restaurant, or the sale of sensitive or expensive items.)

  • Will this integrate with my existing rewards or loyalty program for customers? 

  • Does this solution help my customers take control of their own data? How so?

Any payment-solution provider should be able to not only answer such questions, but also provide case studies and referrals to other small businesses who have had similar concerns addressed.


Moving small business payments into the future

With so many considerations in play, payment systems for small business are an area where many leaders benefit from seeking the help of experts. It’s far less overwhelming to evaluate options – and learn new answers to their tough questions about payments needs both today and tomorrow – with the assistance of a trusted banking professional. In fact, many payment solutions collaborate with financial institutions to offer suites of products that can be customized for a small business’s own requirements.

Pursuing a merchant services and payments solution that operates in partnership with a trusted financial institution – and that’s adaptable to a small business’ unique security and customer-engagement needs – is a smart way to move forward for the benefit of both a company and its customers.

Santander Bank does not make any claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained in this article. Readers should consult their own attorneys or other tax advisors regarding any financial or tax strategies mentioned in this article. These materials are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily reflect the views or endorsement of Santander Bank.


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This content was written by the advertiser and edited by Studio/B to uphold The Boston Globe's content standards. The news and editorial departments of The Boston Globe had no role in its writing, production, or display.