A large proportion of consumers report that a digital payment method - such as paying using either a card or a mobile device - is their favoured payment option, according to a study by payments giant Visa and a consortium of other industry organisations including Maru/Matchbox and ESI ThoughtLab. This article is copyright 2018 The Best Customer Guide.

The study, entitled 'Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce', was conducted to examine the opportunities and challenges that small and medium size business (SMB) owners face in an increasingly digital world.

The report aimed to provide a 'snapshot' of how SMBs can capture revenue opportunities and move to more technology-focused processes, and revealed a number of surprises.

Digital Payments Improve Profitability
One immediate opportunity for SMBs to go digital is by digitizing checkout and other business processes. Based on survey responses, Visa estimates that the SMBs' average cost of processing digital payments, inclusive of direct expenses and labor costs, is 57% less than that of non-digital payments.

Furthermore, 65% of SMBs agree customers spend more when they use cards versus cash. 78% of consumers surveyed rank a digital payment method, such as paying with a card or mobile device, as their number one preferred payment option.

Digital Presence for SMBs
According to the report, consumer purchasing behaviour is driven in part by websites and online experiences. More than half of consumers (51%) wish they could shop exclusively online. This has big implications for SMBs, given only 46% of SMBs surveyed have an online presence, such as through a business website or online marketplace.

Today, 38% of consumers' retail purchases are made online, but that number is expected to grow, as 61% of consumers plan to increase their online purchases in the next 5 years. As online purchases continue to increase, it could exacerbate a widening gap, given only 15% of SMBs' sales are conducted through digital channels.

Offers and Increased Loyalty
Only one in five SMBs surveyed offer a loyalty program, yet rewards drive consumer preference and digital programs can offer instant value and gratification. For example:

  • 78% of consumers are more likely to choose a business that offers a loyalty program over one that does not and 65% of consumers surveyed said they examine loyalty programs prior to shopping at a store, visiting a restaurant, or trying out a service.
  • 90% of consumers prefer a digitally based loyalty program compared to a paper-based stamp or punch card.
  • Nearly 80% of businesses say loyalty programs have a positive impact on average ticket size, repeat customers and revenue.

"For small and medium size business owners, the perceived cost, time and tech-proficiency required for building a digital presence can feel like an insurmountable obstacle. But it doesn't have to be," said Jack Forestell, chief product officer, Visa Inc. "More than 80% of consumers surveyed say digital related benefits are motivating factors to shop at a business, yet our research shows SMBs are currently under utilising these preferred digital channels," continued Forestell. "This new report offers actionable ways for SMBs to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and current offerings, resulting in untapped profit and growth in this digital revolution."

The full report has been made available for free online viewing at https://www.visa.com/smbDigital