One of the main concerns for businesses – no matter the size or sector- is to make sure they give customers as many payment options as possible. The line between online and offline sales, particularly with the rise of mobile technology, is blurring more every day.  We’ve talked to Matt Perkins from FreeAgent about online payment, big data and security, and what it really takes for small businesses to cover these points.

A big problem in the online payment market at the moment is that there are so many new providers appearing from all over the place that consumers are confused. Another issue to add is trust - customers might not be happy sticking their credit card into a chip and pin device that they don't recognise as a trusted brand – so that means at the moment the market is very fragmented. Most payment providers have a very specific offering and businesses commonly have to use several different providers to cover all the options.

When it comes to online payment, customer confidence levels need to be high at all times, so the source data should be available and visible to avoid future misunderstandings. The company’s account number and sort code should be always on the electronic invoice for BACS payment; it should also include a 'pay now' button on the invoice (linked to an online payment provider account) so the client can easily pay by debit or credit card.

Alternatively, payment providers can also be used to set up a direct debit agreement for regular monthly amounts from a client (when selling membership packages for example). Other products like mobile chip and pin readers will allow businesses to take card payments face to face (very useful for retailers and tradesmen).

One of the key successful factors to keep online payment running smoothly is to get big data organised. A lot of businesses are now collecting so much data that they don't really know what to do with it or how to use it properly to their advantage. The key is to find cloud products and services that integrate together to create an 'ecosystem' where data can be mined and used in a profitable way.

The huge advantage with cloud computing is that the possibility of building properly connected systems in a business is becoming a reality. Gone are the days when a sales database couldn't talk to a social media marketing platform; now everyone has real time, collaborative and connected products at their fingertips to build powerful 'back office' functionality.

As a result of managing a lot of confidential data, it is crucial to have a DRP (Disaster Recovery Plan) in place but unfortunately it is something that is not often taken seriously by business owners until it is too late. A good DRP should cover everything from backing up data to identifying points of weakness in the business and putting steps in place should the worst happen. It really boils down to common sense at the end of the day and doesn't have to be complicated to put together.

To conclude, and from an online selling position, the main thing to bear in mind is to make sure the company complies with data protection laws when taking payments. Remember: the minute you store payment or personal details of your customers you need to be fully aware of your obligations!

Another key factor as mentioned is having a proper Disaster Recovery Plan to avoid future pitfalls. Download now our Disaster Recovery Guide and get the knowledge you need to navigate any storm you may face.

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