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Small merchants, big data

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gm_blogthumbYou often hear people at conferences say that it is the data around payments that is the basis for adding value as the payments themselves become commoditised. As Gary Munro from Consult Hyperion points out, this is true for the smallest businesses as well as the biggest.

The wonderful people at the Emperia group kindly invited me to chair some sessions at last weeks MPE conference in Berlin, and an excellent conference it was too. One of the sessions I chaired was on “New technologies on merchant payments and POS”, which featured some super presentations and panel discussions on Bitcoin and mPOS. One of the comments that stood out for me during the mPOS discussion was when Nigel Dean, Marketing Director of Spire Payments, stated that “mPOS is changing POS forever.” Quite a bold statement, and one that I find myself in agreement with.

So after three days of travelling and conferencing, it was nice to get back to the New Forest and a bit of cycling, fresh air, stunning scenery and much needed exercise. Of course when my friends and I go cycling, it normally (err, always) involves a stop for a bit of cake and coffee. One of our frequent haunts is Braxton Gardens, which has been run by Sarah & Si for the last 3 or 4 years. Si looks after the gardens and Sarah looks after the cakes (all homemade).

This time there was a difference, rather than using a calculator to tot up the coffees and cakes Sarah was using an iPad. Working at CHYP, changes like this need a bit of further investigation, and Sarah was only too happy to talk about her new app. “It’s my iZettle!”, “I absolutely love it!”

Doesn’t it just make the adding up a bit easier, you might think? Well, no. Sarah told that in the short time she has been using the iZettle app it has made a significant impact on how she runs her business. Yes, it provides a nice menu for entering products, and so does make the adding up easier, but the main advantage is when she gets home in the evening.

“I log into the web and can see all the statistics. I know what my best sellers are, what sells when and what’s not selling.”

This was quite an enlightening conversation. The data that the app was providing was changing the way Sarah was running her business. She now knows which cakes to make more of, which to make less of, when her busy and quiet times are, etc. Her parting comment on it was interesting too and will be of great interest to blog readers..

“Oh it also connects to my card thing so I can take card payments too.”

Not everyone thinks the payment is the most important thing in the world! To Sarah, iZettle is the app and the data, not the card reader / PIN entry device.

There’s a useful lesson here. The value to the small merchant is not simply that they can now take cards, but that the data that the app provides can help them to understand their business better. This leads me back to Nigel’s comment, as more merchants at the lower end of the card acceptance spectrum start to see what mPOS and its associated capabilities provide over their traditional biscuit tin for cash, it’s pretty clear that there will be considerable electronic payment growth in the small- and micro-enterprise market.

As an aside, if you’d like to learn more about the possibilities in this sector, I will be taking part in the expert panel on mPOS at Consult Hyperion’s 18th annual Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum with STS, Miura and Worldpay. You’d be mad to miss it, so check out #ttforum15 and see how it is coming along.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of our sponsors (Worldpay, Visa Europe, Vocalink, NCR Alaric and Olswang) to tickets are virtually free at £550 + VAT. The Forum is limited to 100 delegates as always, so run (don’t walk) over to https://payprocess.chyp.com/ttforum/ to secure your place right away. And yes, I will take Bitcoin if you don’t want your spouse to see it on a credit card statement at the end of the month.

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