Businesses across all industries are feeling the impact of COVID-19 as they adjust operational practices to adhere to new government regulations to keep both their team and their customers safe.
Even businesses that are considered essential services and are allowed to continue operating are looking for new ways to accept payments and serve their customers. The team at Helcim wants to help businesses find new ways to accept payments and keep their businesses operating. We have found the tenacity and determination of the small business community inspiring as they work together to conduct business in new ways using online tools like virtual terminals, hosted payment pages, invoicing, and online stores. Businesses who have never before sold products online have had to pivot their operations and rally their teams to offer delivery, online ordering, and product pickups in order to keep sales flowing.
Guidelines for businesses and classification categories for essential services may vary by jurisdiction. We recommend you check with your local and federal government to ensure you stay up-to-date on the latest guidelines and restrictions as they are updated.
The classification of retail businesses can vary depending on the product or service offered. Some examples of the types of retail businesses that may be considered an essential service in your area are:
- Businesses selling essential products including food, pet food, and householder consumer products
- Liquor and cannabis retail outlets (if legal in your area)
- Gas stations
- Automotive shops and stores
- Hardware stores
- Businesses that sell office products, electronics, and supplies that are required for remote work
- Safety supply stores
When Accepting In-Person Payments
If you're still accepting payments from customers in person, you will want to keep your terminals as clean as possible.
Another way to limit the transfer of germs is to encourage contactless payments which will limit the number of people who need to touch the terminal and the transfer of germs from payment cards to the terminal. Visa and Mastercard have increased the limit on tap to $250 from the previous limit of $100 to encourage more customers to pay using tap and avoid touching the PIN pad.
To adhere to social distancing protocols and to protect their staff and customers from exposure, some businesses have set-up physical barriers like panes of plexiglass or designated queue markings while also only allowing a limited number of customers into a store at any given time. Measures like these not only protect you from potential fines for not adhering to any government guidelines that might be in place, but they also make your customers and staff feel safe. The more you show that you're adhering to everyone's safety, the more confidence you will instill in your business's ability to keep everyone safe. Often, just the sight of simple, hygienic acts like an employee wiping down shopping carts or wearing gloves when handling your products can make a big difference to your customers.
Accept Payments Online or Over the Phone
There are different online tools you can use instead of a traditional payment terminal to help minimize contact and practice social distancing while still serving customers.
Using just your mobile phone, tablet or computer, you can use a virtual terminal to process payments from your customers over the phone. To accept a payment, you would simply key-in the customer's payment information while they are on the phone or waiting in their vehicle.
Sending digital invoices to customers is another way you can easily connect to your customers for payment. Simply email the invoice to the customer and once it's received, the customer will open the invoice and click on the Pay Now button to submit their payment right there. You will be notified as soon as payment is received.
Most virtual terminals and invoicing tools will also give you the option to send email receipts to customers making it easy to give customers a record of their transaction without needing to handle paper receipts.
Finally, if you do not already have an online store or ecommerce option for your business, now is as good a time as any to look at setting one up. Thanks to new technology and tools it is now easier than ever to create an ecommerce shopping experience for your customers. You can find online store options that do not require any programming or development making it easy for you or a team member to get started.
Tips for Protecting Your Business
Here are some of the adjustments we have seen retail businesses adapt. We want to share them in case they can help other businesses who are looking for ways to continue their operations. By working together and sharing ideas, we can find ways to keep commerce flowing and provide essential services to the people who need it.
Some of the adjustments we have seen retailers take include:
- Communicating any changes to store operating hours and policies including:
- Sanitization practices and new cleaning processes
- Special shopping hours for seniors if applicable
- Limits to shoppers allowed in the store at any one specific time
- Guiding arrows or markers added to the floor to help customers observe social distancing
- Focusing on highlighting items and services that can be used at home and that relate to their customer's current situations
- Offering pickup appointments to limit contact while continuing to operate
- Delivery and shipping deals to encourage customers to shop online
- If you're able, try to do what you can to help your community. Everybody is struggling and businesses that are seen to be helping the community as opposed to trying to take advantage of the situation will be recognized
Business will return to normal eventually, but in the meantime, we believe that generosity and collaboration will help us overcome these challenges. At Helcim, we have always been committed to sharing resources and knowledge that empowers business owners. We will continue to share information on how businesses can adapt to new government regulations, accept online payments, and find ways to keep their business operating. If you would like to learn more about any of the tools mentioned in this post or see how your business could accept online or phone payments, our Merchant Experience team is always happy to help.