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How Well Has America's Transition to EMV Really Gone?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Nov 30, 2016 11:07:13 AM

chip card.jpgNo one expected the transition to EMV technology in the U.S. to be easy. Those expectations have largely been met, as the full change to EMV-only terminals and cards, has occurred much more slowly than analysts predicted.

Currently, roughly 80 percent of consumers have chip and pin cards that are EMV ready, while only 30 to 40 percent of U.S. merchants have active EMV devices that are capable of processing them. On the plus side, however, is that Mastercard has already reported a 60 percent drop in counterfeit fraud since the liability shift last year—which means millions of consumers enjoyed a fraud-free year instead of the alternative.

The liability shift occurred in October of 2015, when merchants all across the U.S. were given an ultimatum: either update your payment card processing system for EMV chip and pin cards, or take full responsibility for any theft or fraud that occurs in the course of your business. As you might expect, businesses everywhere have worked hard to transition to the new system, which has effectively limited fraud in Europe for more than a decade.

Unfortunately, despite some results, the biggest problem experienced by many merchants who did update their systems for chip and pin technology is that they cannot use it. According to a report published by the Natonal Retail Federation(NRF), of the 86 percent of retailers who expected to have EMV terminals installed by the end of 2016, 57 percent succeeded in getting the equipment in place, but they can’t use the equipment until it is certified by credit card companies.

While Visa and Mastercard are working diligently to streamline the certification process, a lack of qualified testing staff and other ongoing barriers are limiting their effectiveness. Merchants who find themselves stuck in the middle of this process are growing more and more frustrated as a large number of chargebacks have occurred due to EMV systems that are not enabled.

In the coming year, EMV terminal and chip and pin card use will most likely increase substantially as the lingering issues are resolved. But there are more changes related to payment systems and fraud prevention that consumers and businesses can expect in 2017. Be on the lookout for the following trends:

  • Point-of-sale (POS) systems that have been integrated or semi-integrated with the gateway or processor, as well as internal management systems, will have the advantage in problem-solving and implementing solutions. With this integration, businesses can offload sensitive information directly from the POS to the gateway or processor.
  • While many businesses will continue to upgrade to EMV systems, many small businesses, 70 percent of them according to a CAN Capital study, have no plans to embrace the chip and pin technology. The upfront costs are too great, while the chance of fraud, in their minds, is too low. Time will tell if their decisions pay off.
  • While payment processing using near field communications (NFC), known as contactless payments and other mobile payment options have proven both faster and, with several layers of encryption, sometimes safer than EMV, the demand hasn’t taken hold of the population just yet. One might predict that is the next step for U.S. payment systems, but no one knows for certain.

If your business is awaiting certification for your EMV system, stay vigilant.   If you’re a small business owner who thinks the cost to transition to chip and pin is too expensive, reconsider, the risk far outweighs the cost.  The more layers of defense in place to protect your customers, the better—and the less money you end up paying out of pocket later if you or your client becomes a victim.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: EMV, Chip and PIN, Chip Cards

Black Friday Strategies for B2B

Posted by Ashley Choate on Nov 16, 2016 9:32:45 AM

B2B Black FridayBlack Friday and Cyber Monday are by far the biggest retail days of the year. Last year, retail shoppers reportedly spent over $4.45 billion between Thanksgiving and Black Friday alone. Cyber Monday saw an additional $3.07 billion in retail sales, according to the Adobe Digital Index. For most retail businesses, the combined three days feel like Christmas and a miniature Armageddon all wrapped in a profitable package.

But how do B2B businesses leverage Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events to their advantage? As a B2B business, you are in a unique position, regardless of the product or service you offer. Ultimately, you have two customers: the business and the customers they target. Your services, either directly or indirectly, must appeal to both—which is no small marketing challenge.

In the case of a B2B Black Friday plan, you’ll need to be more proactive than ever before, and your most fruitful approach will be finding ways to arm your retail clients for the onslaught of shopping mayhem that will descend on their stores during those Black Friday and Cyber Monday events.

Plan Ahead
Unlike B2C, B2B businesses rarely consider the profitability of Black Friday. Taking a proactive approach in developing a plan for this time of year can give you an edge over your competitor. First you may need to do a little research. Reach out to your customer’s in advance, ask specific questions – “Is there anything we can do to help take any burden off the next few weeks? Were there any issues you faced last year that we may be able to address now?” - Asking the right questions can help everyone process the details and begin to anticipate the demand over the next month. 

Try Different Marketing Tactics

Whether your primary marketing tactics utilize email, social media, or Google AdWords, this season may be time to try a different tactic in either the quality, offer, or format of your marketing. For B2B businesses marketing to retail, figure out the most useful product or service you can provide your client, and help them get through their own Black Friday. Then, offer your own discounts or sales tactics to reel in a new contract, referrals, or draw in additional business.

One B2B owner actually offered a free seminar, just one out of the series she normally provides, and found that 41 percent of the individuals who signed up had no previous exposure to her brand.

Adjust to the Needs of Your Clients

One of the core elements in business is anticipating and predicting your customers’ needs. For instance, an overabundance of sales-targeted emails are probably slamming into your clients’ inboxes as you read this. And they’re probably ignoring most, if not all of those messages in a bid for self-preservation and sanity.

Find a way to connect with them through the noise. Step around them, offer solutions, make phone calls to standing clients, and consider creative discount programs to get them engaged. Give a gift. Throw a party. Spread festivity and cheer—and make sure your brand reaches those who can appreciate it most.

Communicate Holiday Availability

Another consideration this time of year: vacation schedules or extended-hour services. Make sure your clients know when you’ll be available. Obviously, they need to be aware if they can’t call on you during a scheduled vacation period. Even more, they need to know if they can should an emergency occur. Depending on the nature of your business, your B2B Black Friday fortune could be made or lost because of availability.

Because B2B businesses vary widely, the best approach for a B2B Black Friday strategy is going to require more creativity than the average retailer. Most importantly, don’t chalk this up as a wasted holiday for your business. Whether you realize it or not, there are business owners out there who need what you have to offer. They just need a little incentive.

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

Tags: B2B, Black Friday

Sign for Credit Card Purchases—With a Selfie?

Posted by Ashley Choate on Nov 9, 2016 2:47:50 PM

selfie paymentsIn a digital world beleaguered by cybercriminals and hacker elements, credit card companies and consumers are constantly on the lookout for new, more creative methods to prevent payment card fraud. A new card protection idea currently being tested by MasterCard may be the most creative concept yet: selfie ID for online purchases.

The technology being developed right now by MasterCard for online purchases would allow consumers to use either fingerprint or facial recognition to securely authorize credit card payments. By design, these selfie payments or fingerprint scans would actually be fairly secure—if the technology works as they anticipate.

According to a recent CNN article, the designers have created a program that runs a computer scan for timing and authenticity, ensuring the photo was taken at the time of the purchase and not found online previously. Fingerprint scanning could be conducted through new smartphones with finger scanning technology, including iPhone 6 and 6s.

Sources say that MasterCard is even now working on other ways to verify that online purchases are being made directly by cardholders, instead of individuals who may have stolen card information for fraudulent use. They’re taking the pursuit of absolute security very seriously and looking into some creative technologies and ideas, such as monitoring the customer’s heartbeat, iris scans, and voice recognition.

For now, the selfie payment option is still pending release in the U.S. USA Today reported in October 2015 that more than 200 employees of the First Tech Credit Union were putting the software through its paces. All in all, the trial runs must have been a success because a press release from MasterCard was issued on October 4, 2016 indicating a 2017 worldwide rollout date. Already, 12 European countries are working with the new selfie payment technology.

The actual operation of the system may be the most ingenious part. It relies heavily on mobile technology, similar to a password verification text that you would receive from your bank or another online account when you log in from an unfamiliar device.

In this case, MasterCard users would make sure to download a special Identity Check app. Then, each time they log in to make an online purchase using their credit card, a push notification will be transmitted to the app requesting an immediate selfie verification photo. They snap the photo, then and there, and they’re done.

By all accounts so far, the selfie payment app and verification process seems to be effective and easy-to-use. It would provide the following benefits for both consumers and businesses:

  • Additional payment security
  • Fast, easy identity checks
  • Seamless purchasing power
  • Fewer abandoned shopping carts while waiting on a third-party secure site for payment processing and verification
  • Less chance of identity theft
  • More functionality for tools like contactless payment, which are currently a major concern for security-conscious card users

As card companies continue to explore new biometric options for payment verification, consumers can expect new and more interesting security features to be developed over time. The technology we have available at our fingertips today can be dangerous, as we’ve seen with the myriad of security breaches within the last several years.

But, as the technology companies continue to develop and leverage new tools to further secure mobile payment and card payment options, consumers will discover new and innovative weapons to combat cybercriminal activity. Most likely, selfie payments are only the beginning.

Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Hannesdesmet Flickr CC.

 

Tags: selfie payments

How Architectural and Engineering Firms Can Better Manage Cash Flow

Posted by Ashley Choate on Nov 2, 2016 1:34:51 PM

architecture.jpgLike many industries, the architectural and engineering markets have had a rough few years. With the recession in 2008 and the role the housing market played in that particular economic downturn, most architectural firms have only recently started seeing profits swing back around to pre-recession levels.

According to Architectural Digest, architectural firms lost an average of 30 percent of their payroll employees during the recession and saw profits decline by roughly 40 percent in the three years following the crash. Fortunately, the process of rebuilding has helped firms realize some areas where they could improve, particularly in the arena of cash flow management.

Below are some helpful tips for any firm looking to expand or improve. By streamlining internal processes with the right technological tools for project and finance management, your firm could see improved billing returns in a fraction of the time.

Utilize technology to manage your projects more effectively.

Better cash flow management begins with removing any processes that might be damming up your revenue stream. Doing everything manually would definitely be considered part of the problem. Many firms are still stuck doing things the way they always have—but there may be a better way. New software is now available to help you improve planning management, project outcomes, and billing processes. With the right program, you can easily plan your project and effectively divide up the labor for specific milestones. While you could do that manually, many of the project management programs available make it much easier and have built-in tools to help you calculate and easily adjust plans according to unforeseen complications.

Know your customers and plan accordingly.

Your customers are all different, each with different processes for delivering payment. Make sure you understand a client’s billing process up front. You should know, for instance, whether or not they process invoices quickly or if they hang on to them until a statutory limit is met. Knowing your customers will allow you to plan and anticipate your revenue stream accordingly. Cash flow management means good planning for incoming and outgoing funds, in order to appropriately balance the ebb and flow of money within your firm. To do that, you have to know what you’re getting into with every client.

Bill monthly and stay on top of payment processing technology. 

Your customers can’t be expected to make a payment if they have not received a bill. Unsurprisingly, some architectural firms struggle to get invoices or bills out to their clients. It takes time and money to print and mail out paper bills. Today, all of that struggle can be avoided with the use of paperless technology. By using email to send out invoices and correspondence, your firm can enjoy easier billing at less overall cost. Similarly, with automated payments, your client could be charged based on a certain monthly minimum or make arrangements for past due bills. In this way, cash flow management can become a well-oiled process within your firm through the use of effective payment technology.

While many architectural firms are starting to find more solid footing within the economy again, building stronger and better is always the goal. If your firm is still lagging behind in cash flow management technology or project planning software, update sooner rather than later. You will see remarkable changes once the tools are fully implemented and integrated into your firm’s operational processes.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Google CC.

 

Tags: cash flow, architectural firms

FAA Approves Drone Use For Businesses

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 25, 2016 12:41:41 PM

drones for businessBusiness technology has risen to some pretty impressive heights in the past, but none so spectacular as the recent approval of drones for business purposes. This is not a drill. Approved August 29, 2016, businesses can use drones for any number of reasons, as long as they follow specific U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) guidelines.

Your first thought after hearing this momentous news probably echoed mine: what possible use could most businesses have for drones? Images of toy-generated corporate warfare immediately sprang to mind, but, in fact, many businesses have already formulated some rather ingenious uses for the remote-controlled flying machines that have nothing to do with aerial battle.

Look forward to drones, more officially known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), in the following capacities in the near future:

  • Delivery

While current drone models can only carry about 55 pounds, including the drone itself, business technology is likely to continue to develop in this direction if Prime Air from Amazon pans out like developers are expecting. They claim parcels could be delivered to customers in as little as 30 minutes. No doubt consumers will be happy about that perk if all goes according to plan.

  • Farming

Farmers are also excited about the usefulness of drones for viewing crops, assessing harvest yield, and scouting for dying or diseased plants. All the assessments that currently require manpower and constant management in the fields can be done quickly and efficiently with the help of drones.

  • Media

News broadcasters and other media outlets are constantly trying out new methods for getting the best video or the latest scoop. With this newest business technology development, media broadcasters have gained a valuable tool for scouting traffic patterns, taking footage of conflict situations from above, getting access to difficult to reach stories, and more. As long as paparazzi don’t overstep their bounds, drones promise to be a serious boon for the news industry.

  • Engineering

The drones also have the potential to contribute to more accurate engineering projects. With aerial viewpoints, engineers can more accurately plan and assess structures. The drones can also be used to inspect potential problem areas in important structures like bridges and highways without having to shut the structures down entirely and dispatch crew for dangerous inspection missions without ample cause.

  • Architecture

When building or planning a structure, architects are often limited to speculation, mathematics, and scaled models. With drones, architects and construction firms can get full video of the grounds or construction site and use it to build 3D models based around the actual landscape for more accurate planning and rendering.

  • Advertising

As with most business technology developed in the last decade, drones will also have serious application for advertising. They can fly advertising posters around town, like moving billboards, as well as help obtain new video footage and perspectives for different types of social media campaigns.

  • Photography

Drones will be useful in obtaining aerial shots for different types of photography. With a little more attention to photography and camera technology, drones could even add a whole new dimension to some aspects of a photographer’s list of options for wedding or party picture packages, such as video taken by a drone throughout the event.

  • Real Estate

For real estate agents and the home selling markets, drones provide an extended method for marketing a home. A drone-based tour video would give buyers a full view of the home and properties, from aerial or up-close perspectives.

  • Internet Access

Finally, one of the most fascinating projects taking place in business technology right now has already launched. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has already successfully tested a drone called the Aquila that is designed to be solar-powered and to fly for months at a time over developing countries where it will deliver internet connection to the residents below. This project is all part of Zuckerberg’s plan to expand Facebook’s user base to over 5 billion by 2030.

Undoubtedly, crafty entrepreneurs will find more lucrative and creative uses for drones in the next few years, as this trend in business technology continues to develop. Some days, it’s easy to feel like a participant in a sci-fi novel with some of the incredible new technology hitting the market every year. Who knows what will happen next?

Five Ways Your Business Is Losing Money Without Knowing It

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Robert LZFlickr CC.

Tags: Drones for business

Business Predictions for 2017

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 19, 2016 1:54:11 PM

business predictions 2017The 2017 new year is fast approaching. With it, we’ll  see several trends that have been building over the last few years and will continue to gain strength, while some new ideas will be launched that could cause quite a stir in the market. For consumers and businesses alike, 2017 will have a lot to offer, especially for tech savvy consumers and adventurous entrepreneurs.

Here are some of the trends and new products that you can expect to make a splash in 2017:

  • E-commerce numbers will continue to grow. Currently, the average consumers spends roughly $1,800 per year on internet purchases. All sources are predicting the numbers are only going to increase. One source predicts we’ll be spending more than $400 billion through e-commerce by 2018, compared to $355 billion in 2016. E-commerce is quickly gaining traction and support, especially among innovative entrepreneurs, and it’s unlikely to fizzle out any time soon.
  • Facebook Live will rise in popularity within the social media and advertising markets. Facebook has been the most popular social media for close to a decade. No wonder Facebook’s latest interactive tool, Live, has already gathered a steady following. For businesses in 2017, the use of Facebook Live is expected to increase and take off, setting up a new avenue for a currently less common type of advertising—active customer engagement.
  • Live action customer engagement will take marketing focus. Interactive social media tools like Live are already poised to aid in the development of new marketing strategies within the next year. These techniques will more actively engage consumers. It’s already started this year with trend towards heavier social media marketing and dedicated social media operators who respond to consumer messages, tweets, emails, Facebook posts, and more. Businesses will see even more of this interactive form of advertising, as they seek greater loyalty and spending potential from customers who are actively engaged in real-time discussions with the business and other likeminded consumers.
  • Social media marketing will go from recommended to mandatory. While most entrepreneurs would condemn you as crazy if you haven’t already taken advantage of social media advertising, that slight disapproval is about to get worse. Trends are showing social media marketing as squarely lodging itself into the standard, required protocols for any business that plans to survive more than one year.
  • Mobile sales will dominate. It should surprise no one that increased mobility is at the top of most consumers’ wish lists. Phones are becoming more incredible every day, and new software and attachable hardware pieces have added new capabilities. Phones can become projectors now, portable Virtual Reality (VR) machines, and built-in personal assistants. The fact that consumers like to buy online and that businesses have to accommodate that preference—well, any entrepreneur could see that coming.
  • Free and automated returns will become standard. Consumers have watched and joined in on Amazon’s rise for a variety of reasons. Businesses have often looked on with a touch of envy. While Amazon’s soaring popularity has its source in many aspects of business, one of the most subtle in catapulting its rise was the automated and free returns policy. If you didn’t like something you order, for most items, you could just log in and print up a quick and easy return packing slip. You return the item within 30 days of printing and your money is refunded. Quick, easy, efficient—and one of the trends you can expect to see more frequently in the world of business.

There are probably other trends, software programs, or pieces of hardware coming out next year that will send major ripples throughout internet buzz, but you can definitely expect to see the six listed above.

Beyond that, you never know. Amazing things can happen in just one small year, and 2017 promises some fascinating developments. We’ll have to wait and see.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pixabay @ Flickr CC.

Tags: Business 2017

5 Reasons You Should Be Accepting Payments on Your Website

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 12, 2016 8:46:06 PM

accepting online paymentsHaving a website that looks good is only half the battle in the modern business market. Your site also needs functionality.

A good website should act as a useful tool for both conducting and attracting business. Accepting payments or allowing your customers to make purchases over your website should be part of this functionality for a number of reasons—all of which lead towards greater success and efficiency for your business.

  1. It’s easy.

Online payments are a quick, accessible, and efficient method for your customers to pay their bills. Through payment gateways, customers simply log into your website, upload credit card or debit card information, and click submit. That easily, bills can be paid at any time of the day or night. Why wouldn’t your business offer this option? Remember, the easier you make it, the more likely they are to do it—and online payments are pretty easy. 

  1. Your customers want it.

Most businesses have realized by now that customers love mobility and easy accessibility. More than that, they love technology. Let’s face it: technology is just cool. In fact, it’s so cool that Forrest Research estimates shoppers will be spending roughly $370 million through e-commerce by 2017. And it’s not just for shopping. People also want to be able to press a few buttons and take care of every bill in their household. They want online payments to be accessible through their mobile phones, in case they are out for the night and just remembered to pay that bill. They don’t want to wait and they don’t want it to be complicated. They want easy payment gateways available to them at any time.

  1. It’s more efficient.

Whether your business is retail-based or service-based, you probably already have an online presence. Why not attach an online payment gateway to your website? For retail businesses, the benefit is obvious since customers can simply purchase merchandise online. For non-retail, payments can be made via invoices online, as down payments for specific services, or for recurring monthly payments. Best of all, there will be no check processing, no receipt printing costs, no tracking and recording sales—because that will be done automatically by your payment gateway.

  1. It extends your reach.

For most businesses today, bringing in customers is about extending beyond the market in your immediate vicinity. Even if you have a storefront, many of your local consumers probably shop online or head to major chain stores for much of their shopping. To be successful, you need to be able to reach out to a wider audience that will be interested in your products. With access to online payments, you can do that. Obviously, some  capabilities will be limited depending on your service area, but for many businesses, the ability to reach outside a single city and offer merchandise to the entire world can make a big difference to their long-term success.

  1. Adds credibility.

Anymore, a business isn’t really a business if it doesn’t have a strong online presence. Part of that presence is a payment gateway and the ability to take online payments. Maybe you’ve done the marketing or you have a strong word-of-mouth network. Those are great, but without a place for many of your customers to check up on your merchandise and maybe make a quick purchase or two, you’re going to miss out on a lot of great and easy business.

Don’t lose easy sales because you haven’t updated your online functionality. Setting up an online payment gateway is both easy and inexpensive. It’s also going to become more and more necessary if you want to stay competitive.

According to one article, total e-commerce sales increased by 11 percent in the first quarter of 2014 , and those numbers are only going to grow. Online payments are simply an inescapable part of current and future business practices. Don’t fight it. Your business will operate better and attract higher sales if you embrace the technology and use it to your advantage.
Texas Credit Card Processing Services

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia.

 

Tags: online business, online payments

How B2B E-Commerce Is Helping Businesses Streamline Payments

Posted by Ashley Choate on Oct 5, 2016 8:27:15 PM

images-9.jpgWhile consumers can often be demanding and fickle, anticipating and meeting their needs is all part of the game in business. Not surprisingly, the wants and needs of consumers have influenced the development of many businesses, pushing growth, change, and adaptation—and often resulting in improved and more efficient practices.

That influence has led many businesses to develop powerful e-commerce tools in order to provide consumers with the flexibility and mobility they crave. But what about businesses that serve other businesses, also known as B2B?

With B2B, the adoption of e-commerce technology has been much slower, since businesses tend to be less demanding with other businesses. Similarly, the competition is not as fierce, and many businesses that operate via B2B payments and commerce haven’t needed to change as much or as rapidly as B2C (business to consumer) companies.

But that time is at an end for B2B businesses. As so many businesses have already streamlined much of their B2C sales into e-commerce, it only makes sense to adopt B2B e-commerce as well—and not just for the sake of consistency. There are real benefits to be gained. 

E-commerce has become so popular among consumers and B2C businesses because it’s both more efficient and easier to operate, with less drag time and lower costs, since check processing and paper statements for billing are eliminated.

Essentially, adopting e-commerce means three major steps:

  • Going paperless, or close to it
  • Providing online and mobile payment options
  • Acquiring the ability to automate payments or statements for recurring billing needs

By implementing B2B e-commerce software, your business could reap a variety of benefits, including a general streamlining of most internal processes and reduced costs over time. Consider the following benefits for B2B payments and e-commerce processes:

  • Get rid of paper-based processes. With B2B e-commerce, your business can create more efficient lines of communication, both internally and with your business customers, to ensure prompt response of invoices, payments, and orders. Digitizing the ordering and payment processes make for easier tracking and less paper-shuffling—as well as less money spent printing everything out and mailing it. Those costs add up over time. Save yourself the hassle and money with internet-based or electronic systems.
  • Automated payments can ease billing stress and costs. When you adopt a B2B e-commerce platform you can also adopt technology that allows you to store billing information on file. When a customer has to make regular payments for any reason, you will both feel less stressed if an automated system takes care of the regular payments for you.
  • New forms of payment will save money and time. By allowing your clients to pay by more than just check form, you’re saving time and money for both of you. Checks are great for some purposes, but in general they cost money to print and money to cash and deposit. Digital fund exchanges through secure banks and accounts are much faster, cheaper, and easier for everyone. This aspect of B2B e-commerce should be embraced across the board, at the very least, since it’s quickly becoming a must for all industries to accept more than just cash and checks.

Overall, B2B payments are still largely handled in check form, and most business processes have not embraced the wide range of technology available. Even so, B2B e-commerce is growing at a fast rate.  According to a Forrester Research forecast, B2B e-commerce currently makes up 9.9 percent of all B2B transactions and is forecasted to reach 12 percent of total B2B sales by 2020. If the speed at which B2C businesses adopted e-commerce is anything to go by, this is one trend you don’t want to ignore.

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Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Pexels.

Tags: B2B Ecommerce

Preparing Your Business for Fourth Quarter Success

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 28, 2016 1:31:07 PM

fourth quarter successBy the fourth quarter, most business owners are well aware of how successfully their year-end wrap-up is going to go. With three quarters of the year gone already, it’s easy to fall prey to assumptions that a good year is good enough or a bad year is unavoidable. But the fourth quarter, with its holidays and year-end marketing potential, has all the elements you need to propel your profits above and beyond expected year-end goals—if you do it right.

Below are five tricks to approaching your fourth quarter that will help you achieve better outcomes and higher profit margins by this year’s end. Don’t give up on increasing your numbers just because the year is almost over. There’s still a few more months—and a chance to improve your overall business success.

Establish Goals.

You should have already established clear goals for your yearly numbers. Well, now that you’ve seen how everything is going to play out, you can gauge how far ahead of or behind those goals you are. Some of your other quarters may have ended ahead of goal, while others fell behind. Assess what you need to do to catch up in this fourth quarter to meet your yearly goal for growth. Once you’ve got that goal down and all of your staff is on board and aware, then it’s time to get down to business.

Evaluate Inventory & Operations.

Once you know your goals, you’ve got to establish what resources are available to work with. Your goals most likely break down into sales numbers or product objectives. This time of year, products of all types fly off the shelves and end up under Christmas trees or in other holiday celebrations across the country. You need to make sure you’re stocked up on items that have sold well around this time of year before, and you need to add in other merchandise that you can package up nicely for customers to give their loved ones this year.

Organize Marketing.

After inventory is assessed and handled, you have to establish plans for how to push both new and previously popular merchandise. Remember that most people like easy, visually appealing presents. Also, mix up your marketing. Throw out some free and easy advertising on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.  Use pictures, special deals, or family fun events run through social media to your advantage. Make phone calls to previous customers. Whatever you have to do—reaching out to your customers means business success for your fourth quarter. They can’t come around to buy your products if they don’t know what you’ve got.

Train Staff Members.

Are your employees trained on the best products for this holiday season? Are they aware of your sales goals and objectives? They should be. Particularly in a product-based sales environment, your employees need to know their goals, have incentives, and must be trained to upsell or verbally push certain products. Your staff also needs to be capable of handling larger than normal sales volume, online purchases and shipping, difficult customers, and certain crises within your store.

Budget to Increase Profits.

Another highly effective way to increase profits is simply going back to the budget. Sometimes, to make the books balance at the end of the year, you have no choice but to cut costs. When your sales outcomes are falling short, at least analyzing and selecting a few nonessential expenses to cut out of your budget for the final quarter can help draw you a bit closer to the black. Even more, though, you may be able to discover wasteful practices, unproductive employees, or inefficient processes that can be improved or removed for a much more significant impact on your budget without the strain of cutting any essential items.

If your sales and profitability outcomes are looking dreary by third-quarter’s end, take some inspiration from football. Just because you’re behind doesn’t mean you can’t make a spectacular comeback. It’s happened before, both in football and in business. Use the holiday seasons and good strategic sense to drive your business success this year. You’ve still got time to even out the score—as long as you play it right.

  Six Business Functions on an iPad

 

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Automotive Social @ Flickr CC.

Tags: business success, business tips

5 Things That May Be Hurting Your Business

Posted by Ashley Choate on Sep 21, 2016 1:02:24 PM

business tipsThere’s no fool-proof method for running a business. Unfortunately, you don’t get a user’s guide when you file for a business license, and there’s really no fully comprehensive list of do’s and don’ts that will guarantee ultimate entrepreneurial success.

The fact is: every business is different. What works for one business might not work for another. As any good entrepreneur can tell you, success is about observation, creative thinking, and adaptation.

Part of adaptation is the elimination of processes or policies that are no longer working. Many businesses fail to do this, either because they are so used to the rules that no one thinks to question them, or because they fail to realize the damage the old status quo is doing.

It all goes back to paying attention and observing. Of course, as with most things, that’s easier said than done. So, here’s a list of five common areas of trouble for many businesses. These are aspect of business as usual that perhaps shouldn’t be so usual after all—especially since they may be doing more harm than good.

  • Excessive Meetings

How many hours a week does your team spend in meetings? And what is really accomplished during that time? Not every business has issues with this. In fact, some probably don’t have enough meetings, and their business may be suffering from an overall lack of communication.

For many businesses, however, the meeting schedule can get a bit excessive. Try to cut it down by setting a clear agenda of items to be discussed. Then, make sure everyone walks away with a task or a goal from each meeting, so you can see a measurable accomplishment from the interaction. Otherwise, you may be wasting time that is better spent elsewhere.

  • Too Much Time on Email

According to 2012 article in the Washington Post, Americans spend roughly 28 percent or more of their workweek reading, writing, and responding to email. That is literally hundreds of hours per year working on emails.

While they are especially useful in many circumstances, emails are not always the answer to internal communications. Most, especially, long emails are rarely the answer to inner-office interaction, since they are often not thoroughly read anyway. Sometimes, it’s best and faster to just pick up the phone.

  • Red-tape and Roundabouts

Another major time-waster in many larger business offices is an excessive need for approvals for an employee to take action on a project. One reviewer and approver is perfectly reasonable, but when an employee has to go through three layers of management to push an action through on a project, there’s definitely a problem.

With business, there’s always another way, and this case is no exception. There is a less roundabout way to get the job done and ensure it’s still at the expected level of quality. You just have to figure it out. Especially in cases where the approval process has become mostly cursory, let it go. If it’s not absolutely necessary, take it out of the equation and use that time for more productive tasks.

  • Underutilizing Your People

Unless you’re doing it alone, employees are a huge component to your business. They are the lifeblood to getting the job done. Unfortunately, many leadership teams today have forgotten that. With so many aspects of business being run by computers and measured in numbers, it’s easy to forget that you’re dealing with real people day in and day out.

A good entrepreneur builds his business more around the people than around the processes and policies. Good people will be what makes the different between failure and success, so find them and be good to them. They will be the core of what makes your business strong, if you motivate them and use their talents accordingly.

  • Stifling Management Team

One final aspect that can be a problem for some businesses is the attitude of the management team towards employees. A good manager can turn an entire office around, while a bad one can run it into the ground quickly—even with highly capable employees on staff.

Usually, however, the problem is somewhere in between. How management approaches employee ideas and brainstorming, how open they are to listening without judgement, can make a big difference in morale and productivity. Strong, highly effective managers encourage their employees without judgement and will listen to ideas with an open mind. The right attitude can make all the difference.

While your business may or may not be struggling in the areas listed above, there could be other areas of weakness within your organization. Look for time-wasters and common activities that are not producing the results they were intended to produce. Then, do what any good entrepreneur would do—get rid of them and find something that does work. Adapt and step outside of the status quo, and you might find the key to your success along the way.

Six Business Functions on an iPad

Ashley.jpgAbout the Author - Ashley Choate is a native of Jacksonville, FL where she lives with her son, dog, and three cats. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Jacksonville University with a BA in English and holds an MAED in Adult Education and Training. She lives for reading and writing, learning and teaching, and figuring out the day-to-day traumas and joys of mommyhood. .

 Top Photo Courtesy of Automotive Social @ Flickr CC.

Tags: entrepreneur, business tips