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How small businesses can bolster their Unified Commerce strategy

5-minute read

Harshna Cayley, Managing Director at Barclaycard Payments, outlines five key ways in which small and medium-sized businesses can enhance their online and digital offerings to drive greater customer engagement and sales.

With so many consumers embracing online and digital channels as a method to shop and pay, an effective Unified Commerce strategy has become essential for merchants. Consumers are expecting seamless shopping experiences with payments becoming integrated into the commerce journey. As a result, businesses have been diversifying their approaches and investing in payments software to not only take payments digitally but also to help run their business. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are increasingly focusing on the need to scale their business through smarter and more cost-efficient ways of operating, and this includes embracing eCommerce as a way to open up more revenue streams.

However, recent research from Barclaycard Payments found that eCommerce is an area where SMEs have some catching up to do, with only 56% of SMEs accepting online payments.

With that in mind, here are five tips on how SMEs can bolster their Unified Commerce strategy:

1. Offer more ways to pay

Consumers expect to be able to pay in the way that suits them. This extends beyond debit and credit cards to other means such as digital wallets like Apple Pay, PayPal or Google Pay. For the consumer, the process is easy, quick and secure – no passwords or PIN involved. Plus, they can use their digital wallets however they shop, in person or online. Our merchant research found that digital wallets have become the single most common method for customers to pay.

So, if you don’t currently accept digital wallet payments, talk to your payment provider about how to enable you to take them. With so many customers now using their smartphones to browse websites and pay, make sure your site is mobile-friendly too.

2. Create an omnichannel experience

Hand-in-hand with offering more ways to pay is enabling customers to do business with you through different channels – an ‘omnichannel’ approach. At its most basic, this means ensuring that the consumer has a consistent and seamless shopping and payments experience whether they’re shopping online from a desktop or mobile device, by telephone or in a brick-and-mortar store. The benefits of this include improved customer engagement, streamlined customer service and personalised customer interactions, at every touch point.

3. Keep an eye on burgeoning trends

In a fast-moving market, you need to keep your eye on trends. One of these is Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) which allows customers to pay for goods in convenient instalments. Our research found that 8 in 10 merchants expect BNPL to become even more popular in the coming year. Think about your customer base and whether it’s likely to appeal to them. BNPL is particularly attractive to millennials,[1] for example. There are risks to consider however – there are concerns that some shoppers are becoming over-extended on credit through BNPL. However, the Government has now announced plans to strengthen regulation around BNPL agreements in a bid to protect consumers.

Other trends include digital loyalty schemes – linking card transactions to a points or rewards scheme. Your payment provider may be able to provide you with insights drawn from transaction data that can help to show you what is likely to be attractive to your customer base. And with the rise of the subscription economy, consider whether you can offer your customers subscription options – these guarantee income, increase repeatable business and improve customer loyalty.


4. Protect against fraud

It goes without saying that it’s essential to protect against fraud. The key is to strike a balance. Effective fraud prevention measures shouldn’t slow down the customer experience when they come to pay. Good payment providers have online solutions with pre-built anti-fraud capabilities that will protect your business. These will also help you meet the Strong Customer Authentication (SCA) requirements that came into full effect in the UK in March 2022, by which customer identities must be confirmed through two-factor authentication (such as a PIN and passcode) unless exemptions are in place.

Our research shows that the primary consideration amongst merchants when choosing a payment provider is trust. Make sure you’re getting the level of fraud protection you’re entitled to expect. It’s too important to leave to chance.

5. Understand the costs

An effective eCommerce approach can increase your sales and help your business grow. But there are costs involved and it’s crucial to understand them. Developing and maintaining your website, dealing with online enquiries, managing returns – all of these have a cost. Different transactions come with different charges too. Digital wallet transactions are usually amongst the cheapest for a merchant, while BNPL tend to be the most expensive. Our research finds that merchants are spending more time looking at this – 75% said they understood the overall costs of eCommerce transactions compared to only 40% in the research we conducted a year previously.

[1], 2022

Find a partner that works well for your business

Your payment provider should be more than someone who just facilitates payments. They should be a partner to your business, giving you timely advice and support. They should be able to bring you insights from the payments data they hold and help you look at ways to grow. This could also extend to offering financing solutions that help you manage cashflow.

Having a payment provider that supports your business is another key element in a successful eCommerce strategy. Is your provider helping you to succeed and grow?

Get the full picture on eCommerce trends

With so much going on in the Unified Commerce and payments space, it’s important to keep up to speed.

Our recent whitepaper Understanding a fast-moving payments landscape gives insights into trends across the market, including the rise of digital wallets, the growth of BNPL, and the latest security trends, and has focus sections on specific findings for SMEs.