What franchisors need to know about payments and loyalty in the post-COVID world

by Tom Epstein

It’s been exactly a year since I was on stage at a conference in Austin, positing how in the short term, payments would evolve away from paper currency, paper checks, and even plastic credit cards into digital and app-based mediums. I was thinking three to five years. Little did I (or for that matter, most people) project that in a few months, a global pandemic would cause consumer reluctance in using cash or handing someone their credit card for processing.

Today’s reality is apparent: we must all work towards making consumer payment processes as comfortable as possible, supporting changing buyer habits through safety and convenience.

If you follow me on LinkedIn, you have likely seen regular updates on the state of franchising from the payments perspective. As I write this, our portfolio of franchisees is experiencing a 16.5 percent increase in same-store processing dollars in October 2020 over October 2019. Consumers’ average tickets have risen from $63.39 to $78.12, a 23 percent increase in transaction size.

These growth numbers are primarily driven by helping merchants shift their technology to touchless methods. Service franchises that traditionally accept checks and credit cards in front of their customers for deposits and job completions are now employing methods where electronic invoices and payment pages are sent via text and email, even while in-person with their customers. Restaurants are utilizing mobile apps and online options so customers can order ahead and pay in advance for curbside pick-up and no-contact delivery. Pay-at-the-counter restaurants are using mobile apps to transact via barcodes scanned at the POS and dine-in is moving towards kiosks and mobile devices at the table.

What’s interesting is all this technology has existed for years. We now have a compelling reason to deploy it and franchisees who don’t will likely experience customer attrition.

In the loyalty sector, we are advising franchisors to enhance their offerings. Just as franchisees want customers to be loyal to them, customers want to feel appreciated for sticking with the brand, especially during shutdowns, and for adjusting their behaviors. Now is the time to thank them while incidentally attracting new customers who may be unhappy with where they frequented before the pandemic.

If you own a restaurant and were able to stay open, service regular customers, and possibly acquire new ones due to thinning competition, consider rewarding patrons more than usual for their activity (example: create a tier that offers higher rewards for a greater frequency in visits). Examine ways to reward customers for bringing their friends and family in. Establish benefits that reward new activities, not actions they are already taking.

Increasing spend share

With our POLN8 platform, we are helping franchisees’ customers do more, such as increasing spend share within each category. If you own a men’s hair salon and know your customers always get a hair cut every three to four weeks, set automated triggers to send a message or coupon out three weeks after they missed you, as they likely went somewhere else last time, maximizing the possibility they will return
next time.

Historically, it is during these most difficult times that the most successful organizations out-worked and out-thought their competition in becoming the household brands they are today.

 

Tom Epstein is the CEO of Franchise Payments Network and Poln8. He and his team assist franchise-based companies with strategic advice and project management relative to electronic payments and loyalty programs. Learn more at www.poln8.com or contact Tom at tomepstein@steinhouseholdings.com