Paper, Plastic Or Pixels: What’s In Your Wallet?

By Taylor Smithfield

This past October marked the one-year anniversary of the EVM (Europay, MasterCard and Visa) fraud liability shift. While the transition was fraught with frustrations for many (on both sides of the check-out counter), the switch not only ushered in the security of chip-and-pin cards, but it’s also paving the way for technology not even the Jetsons could predict: a future of mobile payments.

Maybe you already carry around your mobile wallet with pride, or you’re still a little fuzzy on the mechanics of “digital dough,” but if you’ve ever spotted a customer in a checkout line mysteriously tapping their phone to the point-of-sale terminal and then collecting their receipt and purchases, you’ve already witnessed the power of the “mobile wallet” or NFC technology (Near Field Communication). If you pull out your phone right now, you’re likely to find a built-in wallet like Apple Pay or Google Wallet already installed. Essentially, a wallet app is a virtual collection of your credit cards, gift cards and loyalty cards.

Many predict the mobile wallet will become the gold standard, eliminating the need for physical cards or cash. While it’s unclear how and when we’ll fully abandon our leather bifolds for digital ones (one source thinks as early as 2020!), many businesses are adopting the technology in preparation. If you’ve upgraded your POS system to be EVM-compliant (word on the street is some small businesses are actually still holding out due to the headache and expense), then you should be able to process mobile payments right now — though you’ll have to contact your current POS provider and/or your credit card processing service to learn about integration.

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Selling and redeeming gift cards is also easier with a digital wallet. Gift cards are only increasing in popularity, especially as consumers place further stock in convenience and accessibility. The plastic currency creates additional avenues for you to make a sale because many customers would rather walk away than take the chance on gifting, say, the wrong brand of 9mm ammo. But if you offer gift cards, customers can snag one at checkout and either slip it inside a birthday card or send it digitally. Either way, they create enhanced choices — and customers like choices.

In addition, shoppers armed with gift cards tend to buy larger ticket or full-price items since it’s not their own money. Psychologically, they’re inclined to “treat themselves” because it’s gift money; if they happen to overspend, a large portion of the purchase is technically covered, so it’s easily justified. First Data’s 2015 Prepaid Consumer Insights Study revealed 69 percent of customers surveyed spent more than value of their gift card in 2015. In fact, consumers spent on average $27.29 beyond their gift card amount (a number that increases every year).

Plastic Still Belongs

Furthermore, First Data learned 64 percent of consumers would store their gift cards in a mobile wallet (a six percent increase from 2014) rather than hold onto plastic cards. Before you trash your gift card display, it’s important to note customers still hold on to their plastic. Twenty-five percent of consumers purchased more physical gift cards in 2015 than they did in 2014, which shows the trend isn’t disappearing just yet. Plastic is still largely relevant as it’s something customers can hold and handle, and it feels more quantitative than an e-certificate with a QR code.

It’s not enough to merely offer gift cards — placement and availability is key. Many small businesses have converted to selling plastic gift cards in-store or digital certificates on their websites, but some holdouts still offer paper certificates since they’re a cheaper investment. However, because these certificates must be locked up to prevent theft and are susceptible to damage or fraud, they offer little in the way of convenience and marketability. If customers can’t lay their eyes on a tangible card at the point-of-sale, they’re less likely to purchase. To maximize your gift card offerings, you ideally would have a mixture of plastic and digital options ready to be purchased at the point-of-sale.

Convenience Meets Security

There are, unfortunately, somewhat limited options for implementing a gift card program at your gun shop, due to your status as a high-risk merchant and your need for ATF-compliant POS software (this eliminates your ability to use mobile platforms like Clover or Square for iPad). However, the easiest solution is to contact your POS provider and/or your credit card processing service. Celerant, Tri-Tech, GiftLogic, Rapid POS, Windward and Bepoz are just a few firearms-friendly POS systems that offer either digital and/or physical gift card solutions.

Not only are customers opting for pixels over plastic because it’s more convenient, it’s more secure — a selling point firearms owners will especially appreciate. Payments via a mobile wallet are encrypted and, depending on the app, are also “tokenized” (tokenization simply means the credit card number is converted to a token ID number that’s unique to each transaction). It’s very difficult for hackers to guess your smartphone’s PIN or skirt your thumbprint identification. In addition, merchants are using payment options like Apple Pay even in their online store’s checkout process. With the tap of a button and your thumbprint, customers can instantly pay without the hassle of credit cards numbers and CVC codes.

More Accessibility, More Customers

Gift cards are more than just point-of-sale items — they’re also excellent marketing tools. Fifty-two percent of consumers from the First Data survey said they were more likely to visit a store because they received a gift card, and 40 percent admitted they wouldn’t have visited had they not received a gift card. Whether it’s plastic or digital, one thing is certain: gift cards encourage accessibility, which can attract a broader customer base. In turn, this means increased sales and ultimately, with time, greater involvement in the shooting sports.

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