Put your processing data to work for you

Until recently, the fees associated with your merchant processing account were a cost of doing business.

Most retail businesses in the U.S. today view the fees charged by their merchant processor as a “necessary evil” as more consumers migrate their transactions from cash and check to various cards– rewards, business, debit and the like.

Michigan Retailers Association is in the final stages of developing a service that will change this mindset.

The big-box stores, for years, have had customer “clubs” that they use to track purchases, identify trends and encourage loyal shoppers to return. Small retailers have tried to operate in this space with loyalty cards or keychain tags, but keeping those at “top of wallet” for consumers is a challenge because customers have to carry so many of them.

These cards and tags are also somewhat “invasive,” because consumers must perform several actions to participate. They must sign up, receive a card or tag and choose to use it each time they shop in your store.

All of that is about to change…for the better!

Track Transactions
With our new service, you as business owner will be able to track transactions by credit or debit card number. You will be able to see the frequency that a customer shops in your store and whether or not the consumer is a repeat customer or a new one.

All of these tracking points and others will key off the merchant processing transaction and the card that is used at the point of sale.

It does not matter how you handle the transaction. It works with elaborate POS systems, traditional standalone terminals, smart phone or tablet transactions and even the old-fashioned “knucklebuster.”

The service will be divided into three parts: the collection of transaction data, the tracking of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and others) and the use of marketing promotions to reach your customers based on their shopping patterns.

The first, collection of data, will happen each night as you settle your batch. Each transaction in the batch will be collected (minus the full card data to eliminate the possibility of a PCI data breach) and reported to you if you sign up for the service.

Track Social Media
The second part of the service will allow you to track, in one place, all of your social media efforts. If you have a Facebook page, a Twitter account, Yelp or any of the many other social media communication tools, you will be able to manage them all in one place.

This part of the program allows you to set up events or offers and have them push out to your social media customers (Facebook friends, Twitter followers, etc.) at a later time. You no longer must remember to log in on a Tuesday morning to generate an offer; you can set it up on Saturday evening and have it “published” on Tuesday morning.

You also can configure the system to immediately notify you when a customer posts a “low score” or a comment about your business on any of the various social media sites. This will allow you to respond appropriately in quick fashion and prevent the negative experience from festering or spreading.

Customer Offers
The third part of the service enables you to push offers to your regular customers and reward their loyalty. With the data collected under the first section of the program, you can set certain flags that automatically generate an “offer” to your customer.

For example, you could automatically send first-time customers a thank-you along with an invitation to come back and save 10 percent. Or you could send an offer to anyone who has spent at least $100 in your business during the month.

To accomplish this third part, you must collect the consumer’s email address – but this can be as simple as training your staff to ask each consumer who pays with a card if he or she would like to receive an “offer.” All the customer must do is write the email address on the back of the store copy of the credit card receipt.

With the email address entered in your system, you can link that customer’s card transactions to his or her email account and start tracking specific actions and make specific offers to that customer.

Watch your mailboxes (snail mail and email) in the near future for information about this exciting and valuable new service from Michigan Retailers Association.

As always, if you have questions about this or anything else, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

John Mayleben CPP is Michigan Retailers Association senior vice president, technology and product development, and a national expert on electronic payment processing. He was the first person in Michigan and among the first in the nation to receive the Certified Payments Professional designation from the Electronic Transactions Association.