How to prepare merchants for the possibility of another pandemic lockdown.

Written by Ryan on

Uncertainty continues, but ISO agents and Sales Partners can ensure their accounts are prepared with a fully functional, flexible payments solution. 

Winter is coming, and with it, the potential for yet another pandemic lockdown, thanks to COVID-19 variants that seem like they just won’t quit. Though experts say coronavirus cases could drop through next March, infections have overwhelmed some states. In the end, as we’ve seen over the past 18 months, uncertainty is the only certainty.

Consumers embraced a return to brick-and-mortar over Summer 2021, inspiring merchants to re-adapt along with them and resume business as usual — or something like it. Now, however, small businesses need to start thinking ahead about contingency plans in case consumers retreat to the digital habits they formed in isolation. In fact, new research already suggests that holiday shoppers plan to do more purchasing online and less in person, illustrating why merchants should prioritize their strategies to weather another shift to ecommerce and, in the worst-case scenario, another pandemic lockdown.

Pandemic lockdown-proof payments.

By now, you know that helping merchants accept countertop credit card payments is just one tool in a fully functional payments solution. To compete in the event of a new pandemic lockdown, your merchants will need a full arsenal of payment options. Their customer base wants to transact wherever, whenever, and that means online, on the phone, or on the go. Ecommerce is table stakes today and just might be the lifeline that gets a merchant through a tough season. Give your merchants a fully customized checkout that seamlessly plugs right into their current digital site or store. 

Or, take it one step further with a virtual terminal where business owners can manage phone, snail mail, online, and card-not-present transactions in one simple, centralized hub. Have you helped your accounts put payments on autopilot? Regardless of the vertical they’re in, your merchants might have the opportunity to lock customers into recurring revenue, whether through one of those popular curated subscription boxes or some other service rendered regularly, such as landscaping, or housekeeping.  

As shoppers get into the gift-giving mindset, help your merchants stay top of mind with easy-to-share gift cards redeemable in the channel of the recipient’s choosing, whether through a website or at a store. Gift cards are also a smart revenue play, pandemic lockdown or not; most people spend above the card’s value or make repeat visits to cash in the entire amount, driving traffic and brand-enhancing opportunities for the business. Loyalty programs allow merchants to capitalize on these same opportunities, rewarding patrons for their support while encouraging them to return time and again. With experts advising consumers to start their holiday shopping now to avoid frustration with supply chain disruptions, now is the time to start pandemic-proofing. 

Must-have flexibility.

The businesses that thrived through pandemic lockdowns all had one thing in common: Agility. Being able to pivot on a dime and quickly chase consumer behavior can spell the difference between capturing sales or losing them to someone else who’s better prepared. That said, with all the payments bells and whistles out there, be sure you’re giving merchants the full story so they can brace for the bottom-line hit (even if it’s ultimately for their benefit). 

Become a trusted business advisor.

Your merchants might already be anxious about whether another pandemic lockdown is around the corner. Now’s the time to remind them that you’re ready and available to help address their concerns. Since they’ve got a million other things on their plate, it’s your job to get them thinking about what might lie ahead and how to implement strategic workarounds. Be ready to walk through the options, list the pros and cons, and determine what will move the needle in their particular sector. Even if a new pandemic lockdown never materializes, investing in a smarter payments stack is never the wrong bet.