The evolution of technology has made steady gains within the last decade, and many retailers find themselves re-evaluating their POS systems to accommodate the latest advancements. Smartphones are everywhere, and the boon of contactless payments has been sky-high ever since the pandemic hit North America. From iPhones to Androids, smartphones and watches equipped with digital wallets have made it easier than ever to complete a purchase in the blink of an eye. We talked about the benefit-s of accepting digital wallets (also known as mobile wallets, contactless payments or tap-and-go payments) with three garden centers, and the processes it took to get there.
Bachman’s Floral, Home & Garden —
Richard McMillian, director enterprise of applications and services at Bachman's Floral, Home & Garden, says they’re always on the lookout for ways to make shopping easier for their customers, and contactless payments were top of mind even before the pandemic struck in March of 2020. They use Epicor Eagle as their management and retail POS system and planned to upgrade in October of 2019 so it could fully support tap-and-go payments.
“We did the upgrade and then we started prioritizing contactless payments because the upgrade came with other features as well. But the onset of COVID actually pushed us to expedite the contactless payments at the end of September of 2020,” he says.
The first thing they had to do was to ensure that their payment terminals and pin pads could support the tactical feature of contactless payment, as the communications technology uses the radio frequency fields to exchange data between the customer’s phone and the pin pad.
“It reads the information, but you have to have the card or the device or a phone pretty close,” he explains. “It’s centimeters away from the reader because it is a ‘near field,’ so you have to be near it, but you don’t have to touch it.”
He recommends that other retailers check with their vendors to make sure they have the retail-based applications (RBA) firmware to support that function if they are going to go contactless.
Upon activation, their sales metrics report 16,000 contactless transactions so far, a number that is only expected to increase, he says.
Signage icons at the register with Google Pay and Apple Pay symbols alert customers that mobile payments are accepted, which is especially appealing to the younger generation. McMillian believes the millennial generation is driving the push toward digital wallets, so businesses must consider the expectations of this demographic.
He also notes that most mobile wallets adhere to official PCI (Payment Card Industry) security guidelines, which is important since the garden center is responsible for protecting credit card data. With the near-field communication/tap-and-go process, payment data is sent to the payment terminal via the radio frequencies. The payment data — whether it’s from a chip reader or a digital wallet — is encrypted, and it isn’t decrypted until it reaches the bank, which makes it just as safe as chip card payments, he says.
McMillian looks at it this way: If customers always have their phones on them, blending the convenience and security of the digital wallet will only ensure continued customer satisfaction.
“Most merchants want to future-proof their process as much as possible. It’s not to say that there’s going to be a cashless society, but at the end of the day, the use of the digital wallet is only expected to grow,” he says.
Coppola’s Garden Center
SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NEW JERSEY
Tony Ambrose, marketing director at Coppola's Garden Center, says the move to contactless payments has been a “godsend” for the IGC since the pandemic hit. The timing was a lucky factor, considering Coppola’s upgraded its POS system, Clover, just a year before. The new terminals accepted not only chip cards, but mobile wallet payments too.
“The upgrade handles Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, you name it. It does everything, from your watch to your phone. It’s just great,” he says.
For IGCs looking to upgrade or switch their POS system, Ambrose advises IGCs to do their research on the machine and get to know the program’s ins and outs.
“It was more or less like a complete swap out. It was the same company, so they kept our store name, and they gave us a new merchant ID number and all that. But as far as user interface for the workers and employees using the system, it was like starting over,” he says.
They worked closely with their bank before upgrading their system, and advises other garden centers to take a close look at the tutorials and instruction manuals offered by the vendor.
“There’s a lot of things that the machine can do that I know a lot of small businesses wouldn’t even use, but it’s good to know that your machine can handle it,” he says.
Clover automatically accepts any type of transaction, so whether the customer chooses to tap, chip or swipe, the customer has full control of the payment process. According to Ambrose, this makes it easier and faster for the staff when it comes to checkout time.
The Clover system provides a breakdown of which credit or debit cards are used each day, as well as the number of contactless payments. They’ve been equipped with contactless pay for about two years, but only fully promoted it for about a year. The uptick of contactless payment methods has been steady, he says.
“With COVID of course it’s gaining more popularity. We do an outdoor checkout at our garden center, so a lot of people are scanning their phones through the plexiglass and everything,” he says. “There are zero cons. It’s so much faster, and the customer doesn’t have to do anything. They already have it on their phone or their watch.”
EAST MORICHES, NEW YORK
John Cannarelli, owner of Bay Gardens, set up Shopify in November of 2017, which allowed for a seamless transition to mobile payments when COVID hit. Shopify merges the e-commerce portion of the site with its POS system, allowing for one live, shared inventory.
Even before the pandemic, Bay Gardens had a high amount of phone orders. Cannarelli heard about Shopify from his cousin, so he set to work and put a lot of time into developing it and adding products to their inventory. Over time, more products were added, and it started to build traction.
The system made it easy to accept contactless pay, and they didn’t have to fuss over the lengthy process of product integration because it already accepted digital wallet payments, he says. All it took was the flip of an activator and they were set.
“It was as simple as going into the back-end and clicking a button that says you can accept those payments,” he says. “So, we set up the online business and then obviously that put us in a good position last year. It just exploded.”
Since they can work out of a live inventory, he says it provides customers with more transparency to the availability of their products, something shoppers nowadays have come to expect.
Cannarelli raves about the reporting metrics Shopify provides as well, which can be accessed via smartphone. Retailers can log in and update products, access customer information and view sales reports in real time.
“It’s taken time for us to get where we are at. We’ve put a lot of time into developing it and adding products. It would be tough to move everything over mid-season, but it’s definitely a worthwhile investment because just having an online presence is really important,” he says.