Most of us use text messaging to communicate on a daily basis.
We text to confirm dinner plans. We text about random thoughts or events that happen throughout our day. And we text to share information — whether it's an intriguing article we've read, or a funny YouTube video we've watched.
So it only makes sense to allow your consumers to make payments via text.
One company that aims to help small businesses create a more efficient and seamless payment experience is Podium, a Utah-based technology company that provides easy-to-use review, messaging, and payment tools.
Here, I sat down with Podium's Payments Product Lead, Jim Christian, to discuss the benefits of text-to-pay for small businesses, plus text-to-pay best practices if your business is considering the switch. Let's dive in.
Why consider text-to-pay?
To demonstrate the true power of text-to-pay — also known as SMS (Short Messaging Service) payment — for consumers, let's consider a multiple-choice question.
You've recently purchased a new stove. You have three options for payment. Choose one from the following options:
- You receive a bill in the mail, which includes a website or phone number to call to make a payment. You leave the bill on your kitchen counter and ignore it for two weeks, before finally taking the time to log into the website and make the payment.
- You receive a bill via email, where it accidentally ends up in your spam folder until you get repeated calls from the stove company, asking you to please make the payment.
- You receive a text while you're at the grocery store. In three quick clicks, you've made your payment with your Apple wallet — all before getting to the end of the checkout line.
I'm willing to bet, in most instances, you'd opt for C. It's fast, convenient, and secure. The three major benefits of text-to-pay, according to Jim Christian. Let's explore each of these three benefits now.
1. text-to-pay is convenient.
As Christian puts it, "We all text, and compared to alternatives like email or snail mail, we know that we read most (if not all) of our text messages. At a 98% open rate, text is a great channel to get noticed and get paid."
Which makes sense. We're already on our phones for most of the day to communicate with friends and family. And as of 2022, roughly 50% of consumers would prefer to communicate with a brand via text message (SMS), versus other forms of communication like email, apps, or direct mail.
Text-to-pay is convenient for your employees, too. It frees up valuable time to focus on other aspects of the business, rather than spending hours on the phone tracking down customers to collect payment.
2. text-to-pay is fast.
Christian continues, "The second benefit is speed. Think about the last paper bill you got in the mail — how many days did it sit before you opened it? On the other hand, most text messages are opened within minutes of receiving them, which makes things a lot faster."
Consider Valley Roofing in Virginia, who reduced the average time between sending an invoice and receiving payment from two weeks to less than 24 hours by offering text payments via Podium.
Ultimately, your consumers will appreciate the speed with which they can make a payment for your product or service — and, since fast solutions are a major component of high customer satisfaction, it's vital for your long-term success that you provide the fastest means possible for your consumers.
3. text-to-pay is secure.
One other major benefit to text-to-pay? Security.
Christian told me, "If you compare the kind of payment methods that a lot of local businesses are using — whether that's calling up the customer over the phone to collect credit card information, sending a paper bill, or asking them to come into the office — our text message payments are extremely secure, and are built on top of Stripe, a globally trusted and secure payment processing platform."
It should be noted that Podium's text-to-pay links operate like a secure e-commerce checkout. You only need to supply your credit card information. No other personally identifiable information (PII) or personal health information (PHI) is passed to Stripe.
I did wonder how secure it feels for consumers when they receive a text, out of the blue, suddenly requesting your credit card information, or whether it can accidentally come across as spammy. Fortunately, Christian has a solution to that.
"Businesses that are successful with text-to-pay are those who build it into their entire customer experience."
For instance, Christian posits, maybe your local auto-service center texts you regular updates on your car. When it's time to pay, they might say, "Hey, we're going to be sending you a secure payment link that is safe to open." Then, the auto-service center can naturally include the text-to-pay link directly into your ongoing conversation.
If you're convinced text-to-pay is a good option for your business, keep reading. We'll dive into best practices for optimizing text payments, next.
Best Practices for text-to-pay
1. Build text-to-pay into the entire customer experience.
For instance, how can you engage with your customers through text prior to payment? And how can you continue to communicate with them through SMS after they've paid?
As Christian told me, "Putting text payments into the entire customer journey allows the business to do things based on the transaction. Podium enables businesses to automatically send a request to the customer to write a review on the product or service after payment is complete."
Asking for a review right after a transaction occurs can help you collect more customer reviews, since you're asking when you're top-of-mind.
Additionally, you might consider offering SMS coupons to encourage repeat purchases. The 2022 State of Local Business Report found consumers redeem SMS coupons 10X more than any other coupon.
2. Offer and accept a variety of payment options.
Nowadays, the businesses that make payment easy are the businesses that win.
Consider, for instance, when I'm out running errands and realize I've forgotten my debit card. The coffee shop around the corner that accepts Apple Pay will become my coffee shop of choice.
Alternatively, ecommerce sites like Amazon make payments almost effortless by saving my payment information and enabling me to purchase anything — whether it be clothing or Whole Foods groceries — with a click of a button.
As ecommerce continues to evolve in the direction of convenience, it will become increasingly imperative that businesses offer payment options. These options include a bank transfer, a credit or debit card, Apple pay, Google pay, or even consumer financing options to buy now, pay later.
Christian says, "As new payment methods become popular and new technologies become more widely adopted … We're always asking, 'How can we make it even easier for local businesses to get paid?'"
Additionally, Christian advises businesses to make the payment process feel natural. For instance, if you're communicating with your consumers on Facebook messenger, send the payment form through Facebook messenger, too.
3. Use a trusted platform.
To get started with text-to-pay, you'll want to ensure you're using the right tools for your business. Podium is one effective option, with over 100,000 local businesses already leveraging the platform.
Unsure if your company is the right fit for text payments? I asked Christian which industries or businesses he'd suggest as best-suited for SMS payments, and he told me, "It's a good fit for any business that wants to build a better relationship with their customers"
He adds, "For instance, a couple remodeling their kitchen may make multiple visits to the same appliance store to understand everything about an appliance package before making that large purchase. That's a great opportunity for text-to-pay."
Ultimately, only you know if text-to-pay is an effective solution for your business. But it's worth remembering — text-to-pay isn't just convenient for your consumers. It can also enable your business to run more smoothly, lower transaction fees, and free up your company to focus more on what really matters: The work itself.