Business tips

Understanding virtual POS systems.

By Jereme Sanborn on
post image

Accepting payments through multiple channels is a fast and easy way to grow your business. With a virtual POS system, you can start processing credit and debit cards for all types of purchases, not just those made in person.

What is a virtual POS?

It’s been a long time since anyone was limited to accepting credit cards through a clunky, old-fashioned terminal operable only from fixed places within a store. Today, it’s more common to see businesses using online and mobile platforms to process payments in multiple locations. As a small business owner, you can count yourself lucky that there are so many POS options available, virtual terminals among them.

A virtual terminal or virtual POS acts as a supplement to your current system by allowing you to enter customers’ credit card information using a web-based form or mobile app. Unlike customer-facing payment gateways for online or mobile sales, these payment platforms are completely manual and operated by you, the merchant.

Virtual POS vs. payment gateway.

You’re probably wondering why in the world you’d want a payment system where you have to input the information yourself, especially since you’ve already got a million other things to do. So, why not just use a regular online payment gateway and let customers fill in their own data?

It’s a legitimate question, especially if you’ve looked into ecommerce or already have a payment gateway in place to accept orders online. Payment gateways are the most well-known form of web- and cloud-based payment processing. Everyone who’s ever made an Amazon order or used PayPal to check out has experience with a payment gateway and most customers are familiar and comfortable with using these options.

The problem arises when you need to process a credit or debit card for a different type of order. What if most of your customers order things via phone or mail? You need a way to input, process, and authorize their cards so that you can get paid and deliver the products or services they want in a timely manner. Without a virtual POS, this is pretty much impossible.

For businesses making the majority of their sales at trade shows or festivals, a virtual option takes a lot of the hassle out of the payment process. There’s no need to invest in a card swiper nor do you need to carry around any unnecessary equipment to accept cards when you’re away from the store. All you need is your mobile device or computer and a good internet connection. Even without the internet, you can take down customers’ information and process the payments later with the right offline transactions feature.

A lot of payment gateways include or let you add a virtual POS, which is useful if you don’t want to juggle bills from a bunch of different providers or deal with multiple fee structures when working out your business budget. Adding a virtual option also gives you an alternate method in case your POS hardware stops working. Instead of halting sales and losing a ton of money, you can continue to accept credit card payments with the virtual terminal. 

How a virtual POS benefits your business.

The number one reason to go for a virtual platform is growth! This is particularly true if your business is on the small side and you don’t have a lot of money to invest in payment processing equipment. The addition of a virtual POS means you can accept credit card payments no matter where you are, regardless of whether or not physical point of sale equipment is present.

Imagine the possibilities this flexible solution can open up for your business. Employees talking with prospective clients at networking events are able to make sales on the spot. Eager customers no longer have to wait until they can access your website to sign up for services. Customers with limited cash but available credit may decide to make larger purchases when they see your booth at a show.

If you’re still not sure whether a virtual POS is right for your business, consider these additional benefits:

  • Authorize and validate payments in real time.
  • Capture customer information to grow your contact list, speed up future order payments and improve marketing tactics.
  • Set up recurring payments for services or subscriptions.
  • Sell more in each transaction.
  • Expand your reach to people who aren’t internet-savvy or are simply more comfortable with phone and mail ordering.
  • Get paid faster than with checks for mail order and telephone (MOTO) payments.
  • Collect insufficient funds automatically.
  • Always have a backup for your other POS systems.
  • Automatic software updates are cheaper than updating a physical POS every time technology changes.
  • Reporting options allow you to track sales data and map growth over time.

Features every business needs in a virtual POS.

To get the most out of your virtual system, you’ll need a platform with the right features. Here’s what to look for as you start shopping for a web-based POS.

Seamless integrations.

Integrations are non-negotiable for today’s businesses, even if your operation is so small you joke about your cat being your accountant. The virtual terminal through which you process credit card payments should integrate with an account and employee management software. Without these vital links, you’ll spend way too much time entering payment information and updating details in other programs. That means you’ll be losing out on some of the benefits of the virtual POS, while neglecting other important business tasks in the process. So, seamless integration is key.

Detailed reporting.

Reporting is another important element in a POS. How else are you going to know which of your customers are the biggest spenders, the most loyal, or the greatest fans of particular products? Look for a virtual option with easy-to-understand reports from which you can gain insights for better marketing and the building of stronger customer relationships.

Robust mobile app.

When you’re making offsite sales, it helps to have access to most or all of the same features available on the web version of your virtual POS. Missing features limit the flexibility of a virtual platform and may actually make accepting payments more rather than less frustrating.

Recurring payment processing.

Do you make most of your money on monthly services or product subscriptions? Make sure your virtual platform allows you to set up automatic billing cycles. You should be able to input and securely save customer details and payment information, set the length of the cycle, and choose to have payments process. All without further action for the duration of the subscription.

Then, of course, there is price.

Keyed-in transactions always cost more than swiped transactions. That’s because when you swipe a card, the processor knows that both the card and the customer were present. Keying in the information bypasses this confirmation and makes the transaction riskier due to the potential for fraud. You need a virtual POS provider with reasonable rates, especially if small purchases make up the majority of your keyed-in transactions. 

Choose your virtual POS wisely to get the best rates and service so that you can start taking orders anywhere you are. Using a virtual POS system to supplement your regular POS lets you increase your sales and build new customer relationships beyond the confines of your physical location, which in turn spurs growth and provides new opportunities to expand your business!