It’s time for some good news.
Despite a once-in-a-century economic disruption for the better part of a year, retail sales are trending back to pre-COVID-19 levels at a rate that could see the highs of 2019 eclipsed by 2022. That remarkable recovery is driven in part by the ingenuity of merchants and the advances of eCommerce.
Online shopping has come into its own during social distancing and the steady rise online sales were enjoying pre-COVID are likely to continue in its wake.
The challenge for retailers is to capitalize on the eCommerce momentum and further build out what was a short-term alternative revenue source into a dependable and stable part of a growing business.
That outcome depends on finding the right virtual merchant accounts to provide the safety, convenience, and on-demand service online shoppers have grown to expect.
The Power of eCommerce
The final impact of COVID-19 on US domestic retail sales will take time to determine, but it appears the worst is over. Recent estimates show total annual sales could climb back over the $5.4 trillion mark of 2019 and reach above $5.5 trillion next year. The 10% drop in overall sales that accompanied the global pandemic was partially offset by a corresponding eCommerce surge of almost 20%, which means digital transactions will account for a record high of 15% of total sales.
Clearly, brick-and-mortar trade continues to meet the bulk of the nation’s shopping needs, but when more than 1-in-10 purchases happen online, every retailer has to be positioned to add to their bottom line by establishing an internet presence.
The websites that make eCommerce possible are powered by virtual merchant accounts, which provide secure payment portals to accept transactions.
To make sure an online retail presence is viable, every retailer needs a virtual merchant account that hits on five priorities:
- A user-friendly and enjoyable platform
- A site that protects and projects the in-store brand
- Accurate online inventory
- Secure, cost-effective processing
- A reliable source of sales and customer information
With these key elements addressed through a reliable merchant account, any business can establish a digital presence that steadily feeds growth.
How to Operate As a Virtual Merchant
A virtual merchant account lets retailers accept payments, and therefore make sales through any device, from anywhere in the internet-connected world, at any time of day or night regardless of holidays, business hours, and staffing levels. Combined with an efficient dispatch and delivery system, it’s the modern way to service customers no matter their shopping habits or downtime.
The increasing surge in online sales has stimulated a thriving market for virtual merchant account services that make it easier than ever to take a business online.
Many retailers are already using digital point of sale (POS) systems that tie together retail service and management tools into a single all-in-one platform. Such systems draw their power from cloud networks and are intended to act as a bridge between the shop floor and eCommerce.
An upgrade to a leading POS solution will include the advice, space, and tech to build out a fully functioning online presence, complete with secure virtual merchant account tools.
Succeeding in digital conversion is a matter of ensuring the merchant account includes 5 key elements.
1. A User-Friendly and Enjoyable Platform
The success of eCommerce is driven by convenience. It’s never been easier to satisfy a shopping urge or purchase an urgently needed product.
That convenience is no fluke. An eCommerce site needs to be easy to navigate, understand, and purchase. The virtual merchant account portal is subject to the same rules. The form fields have to be clearly labeled and easily accessible making entering details a positive and simplistic experience.
Once an order is placed, digital invoices, follow-up messaging, and automated receipts can begin a smooth transition to the next sale.
2. A Site That Protects and Projects the in-Store Brand
If eCommerce has any sort of problem, it’s that customers are wary of the quality of products and the time it takes to receive them. One study found that almost half of the surveyed online shoppers from 12 countries said they were disappointed with the experience.
A web presence should be an extension of the in-store service and quality. That means providing detailed product information, offering clear modifications, alterations, sizes, and providing honest quotes and cost of deliveries.
If almost half the eCommerce shoppers are unhappy, there’s a lot of money to be made by offering a satisfying experience.
3. Accurate Online Inventory
Virtual merchant accounts have two core functions, and the first of those is inventory. Shipping delays, “out of stock” messages, and incorrect deliveries are the bane of eCommerce life and can be reduced or totally eradicated with accurate virtual merchant inventory.
There needs to be a link between the storeroom contents and the online advertisement. Adjustments made to one need to be reflected in the other in real-time.
The leading POS solutions already specialize in digitizing inventory for accuracy. Transferring this accuracy to an online presence is just a matter of making the right cloud connections.
4. Secure, Cost-Effective Processing
The second core virtual merchant account task is to provide reliable, secure, and convenient financial transactions. That means accepting a range of payment types, from credit and debit cards to third-party apps and digital wallets. Trust is absolutely essential in eCommerce so processing the payments using the latest in end-to-end encryption and authentication security is a must.
Coupled with a transparent digital invoice and receipt policy, the resulting consumer confidence can be the spur for repeat sales.
5. A Reliable Source of Sales and Customer Information
Finally, the right virtual merchant accounts system will reveal the true value of eCommerce by tracking every step of the sales process from purchase orders to providing customer receipts.
Sales analytics have become a standard feature of brick-and-mortar retail and the advantages of real-time reporting easily translate online. Every piece of product, staff, and customer information can be tallied to demonstrate how a business makes money, and highlight opportunities to make more. The leading solutions scale up in complexity from counting the hottest selling products of any given period, to accurate accounting of marketing campaigns and, of course, the difference between online and in-store sales.
Robust data analysis can lead to practical decisions that have a major impact on sales success. Turning that power to an online outlet sets up a retailer to profit from the biggest growth sector of a post-COVID marketplace.
Virtual Merchant Accounts Maximize the Online Recovery
Maximizing the pandemic rebound potential of eCommerce requires a dynamic, reliable, and easy to operate virtual merchant presence. By turning a website into a 24/7 sales platform, retailers can extend their reach into every corner of the internet.
Regardless of whether the resulting revenue is additional or essential, making the right virtual merchant choice is key to retail success in the 2020s.
In a period of change, talech has a number of POS solutions that can help grow your business, set up virtual merchant accounts, and adjust operations smoothly. From reaching new audiences to engaging with your existing customers more often, we give you the tools to adapt quickly and with confidence.
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