Integrated Payment Systems – finding the right digital solution

A guest blog by: Card Industry Professionals.

In a recent blog, Integrated Payment Systems, digital solutions where size no longer matters, we discussed the benefits of joined up systems for companies of all sizes. In this blog we consider why businesses simply stop at a standalone card accepting system when there are many other options available.

Integrating systems yields many more benefits – so how can this be accessed and where do you start? The theory is all very well but with many other pressures how does a small business without a dedicated IT department determine which system is best and how do they access and implement it?

As a case study we are looking at an independent coffee house which has been trading for just over ten years. Like many businesses, systems have been added over the years as new technology became available – and no doubt like many businesses this now means disconnected systems which have been subject to bolt on after bolt on with much of the processes pre-dating the current technology available. If starting from scratch, a new business wouldn’t start from here!

The history of the technology and systems in place is as follows:

When the coffee shop was first opened an EPOS system was installed. However, it ran on Microsoft XP and didn’t keep up with technology changes without expensive IT upgrades and died suddenly just before Christmas a few years ago.

The till had to be replaced quickly as trading with pen and paper for a till wasn’t ideal – this was before much of the current iPad-based technology was available at an affordable cost – so a new standalone till was installed. It works brilliantly as a till – and can produce reports – but they print on the till roll. It is possible to export data and set upreports – but that would require bespoke reports and the expense cannot be justified for ‘nice to have’ information.

The original EPOS system did produce all sorts of sales reports but didn’t connect to the payment system so there is a separate point of sale terminal – one of the original mainstream providers.

Such a mainstream provider can provide mobile technology – but there was a last minute need to set up quickly for a pop-up café with only a couple of days’ notice – so one of the new providers was chosen and set up in minutes with hardware sent the following day. At the moment this is still separate to the till as connection to the legacy system is not possible.

As a plus point though, having a second option gives a contingency should there be a system failure with either provider. There are no fixed monthly fees with the second option, so this provides an ideal back up.

Finally, during the pandemic online ordering was needed to reduce queues and comply with best Covid-secure practices. After a lot of research, a free APP based solution was chosen – offering a purpose-built website and free support – however this came with a link to a different card acceptance provider and therefore a third provider is nowin place. 

The APP is an integrated ordering solution… and works well – but separate to the main website and the customer face-to-face payment system.

The three systems all work but efficiency could be improved. One thing is obvious though that joining up these separate systems is unlikely to be possible so a switch to one connected system is likely to be the answer – but where to start?

There has been an explosion in the number of card acceptance providers in recent years – and a similar explosion in comparison sites – one site for example offers a comparison of 100+ merchant account providers.          

Research proves that there is no shortage of potential solutions available but, having made several false starts in looking at costs and systems, it was decided that a better first step would be to speak to industry advisors to at least give a starting point – from professionals who can provide expertise and assistance in suggesting appropriate providers for particular industries.

Card Industry Professionals (CIP) is such a company and the introduction on their website is attractive – particularlyfor a small business:

Since the launch of Card Industry Professionals in 2017 there has always been a strong vision to offer independent businessowners transparent pricing and first-class customer service. We want to build long term relationships with our merchants, that is why it is important to deliver an open, honest and ethical solution for each business. We want our merchants to trust that we are delivering the best solution for their businesswith no hidden charges, and the latest tech.

Ciaran Savage, Lyn Savage, John Selby – Card Industry Professionals.

A first conversation with one of their Business Development Managers provided the background to the business – and the realisation that the set up described above is not untypical for many businesses particularly ones that have been trading for several years. It also quickly established, as expected, that the greatest benefits are likely to be obtained from replacing theseparate till and card payment machine.

The solution (integrated tablet based till and card system) suggested would introduce efficiency savings by:

  • Connecting the customer payment to the till thus avoiding re-keying and potential errors
  • Reconciling card payments at the end of the day so reducing ‘cashing up time’ (cashless would reduce it further but there are other considerations there and that is a different subject)
  • Sales information can be exported for uploading into accounting software (necessary for the accounts software in place) – or a direct link where the accounts software would allow this (another review required!)
  • Multiple logins across laptops and iPads for directors and business owners and managers can be allowed to enable access to sales information – tracking product sales etc.

Alternatively, a simple price comparison for a replacement merchant provider could be an option but this would just replace like for like. Cost savings could be possible but would not provide any greater efficiency or provide any additional sales information to support the business.

Simply switching to save money has been the route in the past, but this restricts the benefits available. The intangible benefits associated with the key points outlined above are likely too far outweigh any stand alone cost savings.

Further research is needed and no doubt more conversations will follow as different options are progressed, possibilities to follow up include integrating face-to-face and online sales and linking with accounting systems. 

As a first step this has certainly provided food for thought for the integrated payment journey for this business.

Card Industry Professionals are trusted providers of Card Payment facilities for UK based businesses. With a number of unique benefits, including No PCI Compliance Fees, No Authorisation Fees, No Minimum Monthly Service Charges and Next Day Payments coupled with our experienced 24/7 365 customer support teams, more and more business owners are getting advice and guidance from the CIP Sales Professionals every day.

More: Card Industry Professionals.

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