Consumers can use a variety of payment methods for purchases at small, medium, and large businesses across the United States and globally across the world. Among the options are the more traditional or conventional payment methods, as well as what’s known as alternative payment methods. Offering more payment methods to your customers might translate into more sales for you, so it might be worthwhile to consider which options appeal most to your customer base.
I’ve defined an alternative payment as a payment method that’s outside of the traditional or conventional payment method marketplace. I consider the traditional/conventional payment methods to be the most popular and most used forms of payment methods today across the United States and global markets. This includes: cash or checks at point of sale or sent through the mail; credit or debit cards processed through landline, wireless, computer, or internet terminals; and ACH and wire transfers.
If you’re wondering whether other payment options would work for your business, here are some options you might want to incorporate to provide your customers the ultimate experience in point-of-sale convenience.
Consumer Installment Programs
This is a payment method where, as a merchant, you can set up partnerships with various consumer lending platforms which can help you close bigger sales with customers. You sign up with one or multiple consumer lending platforms, which requires approval, then when customers seek to make a purchase for let’s say $2,000, they would fill out a very short online loan application while at the point-of-sale at your location.
Approval (or decline) comes from one or more consumer lending platforms within seconds. Once approved, the terms would be provided and the customer can decide to accept or decline the terms, including how much interest they’ll pay. The loan would then be used to pay for the related $2,000 product or service from your location. This program helps you close larger ticket items as well as provides additional convenience to customers, allowing them to spread out payments for your products or services over six-, nine-, 12-, or 24-month terms.
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Cash On Delivery
For this payment method, a customer orders a product, but payment for said product does not occur until a mail carrier delivers the items to the customer. The customer would pay at delivery instead of providing payment upfront. This provides additional convenience to customers who might want to inspect items before making purchase.
Some customers might prefer this type of transaction over credit or debit cards. However, keep in mind that accepting c.o.d. payments means your payment is delayed. You should also consider the costs of paying for a courier service that collects c.o.d., and the possibility of a higher rate of returns or cancelled orders. However, you might find that the benefits outweigh the risks if this model is popular with, and makes sense for, your customers.
Mobile payments include a diverse category of methods, but the most central categories are Near Field Communication (NFC) as well as digital wallets.
With NFC, you’ll have a contactless terminal that allows a customer to wave their Apple or Android phone or device in front of the equipment to process transactions. For in-person transactions, the business should set up a contactless payment terminal through their payment provider.
The customer’s credit card information is already stored in their device, so the transaction can be processed without the customer having to hand over their card, or having to carry their cards around in a physical wallet or purse.
Digital wallets are programs such as Google Wallet, which are online programs that allow customers to register using their telephone number or email. Once registered, the customer receives a PIN code and is allowed to input their credit card information into the online program for storage.
While at various merchant websites or in person, the customer would be able to make payments using the digital wallet by verifying said payments with their unique PIN code.
A cryptocurrency is an alternative digital currency that operates on a decentralized transaction database, which is a much different type of operation than traditional money, which operates on centralized banking systems. Accepting cryptocurrency payments provides additional convenience to customers who might carry around these types of currencies. Bitcoin (created in 2009) is the most popular type of cryptocurrency, with a market cap in the $12 billion dollar range. Besides Bitcoin, there are a number of other types of cryptocurrencies including, but not limited to, the following:
Accepting cryptocurrencies can potentially increase your sales, especially if your customers, or potential customers, prefer this payment method. The cryptocurrency market comes with its own special set of risks—particularly in terms of security and the volatility of the exchange rate. It’s important to become well versed in how to manage those risks before you make this an option for your customers.