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Understanding Omnichannel Payments

Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino
business.com Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 02, 2022

The term "omnichannel payments" means offering multiple ways to accept payments from customers while providing consistent convenience, service and branding. Learn why you should offer them.

Today, few businesses take payments in only one way, instead opting for omnichannel payments. For example, customers can pay when they dine at a restaurant, but they may also have options for online ordering and payment for delivery or curbside pickup. Professional services businesses likely accept in-person payments but also may offer clients the convenience of paying via an online invoice. Even e-commerce brands often accept payments by phone if their customer prefers. 

Accepting multiple payment methods offers your customers additional options and convenience. When omnichannel payments provide a consistent customer experience without hassles and hiccups, satisfaction and customer loyalty are likely to increase. 

We’ll explore omnichannel payments and how to ensure easy and convenient payment methods for your customers. 

What are omnichannel payments?

The term “omnichannel payments” means accepting payments from customers while providing consistent convenience, service and branding. Omnichannel payments are all about giving customers convenient payment options that provide a seamless experience. 

Here are some examples of omnichannel payment options: 

  • In-person payments with a credit card reader or POS system
  • In-person, phone and mail payments with a virtual terminal (typing payment information into a secure webpage)
  • Invoicing by text or email with a link to a secure online payment page
  • Recurring billing where the payment is automatically made with the customer’s card or bank account information on file
  • E-commerce payments made on a company’s website or through a third-party website such as PayPal

Some businesses don’t need an omnichannel solution. If your business accepts payments in only one way (either all online or all in-person), omnichannel won’t matter to you. However, if you accept payments in multiple ways, then you have two options: 

  • Work with processors and obtain separate merchant accounts for each acceptance method
  • Work with a processor that can offer an all-in-one (omnichannel) payment processing solution

Ideally, your business should accept payments via cash, credit cards, debit cards, checks, and contactless payment methods such as Google Pay, Apple Pay and Samsung Pay. If you have a membership-based business, you’ll want recurring billing capabilities. Professional services and B2B businesses will want to send invoices that their clients can pay online. 

An omnichannel payment processing solution allows you to accept payments in various ways through one vendor. For example, if you’re a medical practice that swipes clients’ cards if they’re in the office but also accepts payments over the phone, you could benefit from an omnichannel payment processor. 

Using one payment processor for your omnichannel payment needs streamlines accounting, reporting and customer service. 

Did you know?Did you know? According to a Redpoint Global survey, 63% of consumers expect personalization. Omnichannel payment solutions let businesses personalize customer offers, thereby boosting sales and customer satisfaction.

What payment types and channels are available?

In payment processing, there are two primary types of credit card transactions:

  • Card-present transactions: Staff (or the customer) physically runs a card through a reader.
  • Card-not-present transactions: The card is not swiped, tapped or dipped. For example, an online purchase where a customer enters their card information into a form is a card-not-present transaction.

Although it may seem counterintuitive, in some situations, a customer may present their card at the time of the sale, but the transaction is considered card-not-present because an employee manually enters the information.  

A transaction is considered card-present only if the card is swiped (magnetic stripe cards), dipped (chip cards) or tapped (Apple Pay and contactless payments). This is important because payment processors charge higher processing rates for card-not-present transactions. 

Some processors further break down card-not-present transactions with different rates depending on whether payment is made online or in a virtual terminal, for example.

Payment acceptance methods

Within the primary categories of card-present and card-not-present, there are multiple ways to accept the customer’s payment:

  • Online shopping carts or “buy” buttons
  • Recurring or subscription billing
  • Invoicing with links to secure payment forms
  • Keyed transactions (often used for phone or mail orders)
  • Mobile payments via connected card readers 
  • Traditional countertop credit card machines
  • Point-of-sale (POS) systems
  • Contactless NFC transactions, like Apple Pay

Your specific business will guide the payment methods you accept. For example, a general retailer may only need online and swiped payment capabilities, while a gym or yoga studio may want recurring billing and swiped payments. 

TipTip: When deciding which channels to offer, consider your customers. B2B companies should offer invoicing, while delivery restaurants might need the ability to accept credit card payments by phone with a card reader.

How to choose a payment processor

After you determine the payment methods and channels your customers need, it’s time to find a credit card processing company that can handle the payment methods your customers require. 

The most straightforward solution is to find one company that can handle all of your payment processing needs. That way, you won’t have to deal with multiple customer service departments, billing will be seamless, and the company will provide consolidated reports on key business metrics, such as sales trends and revenue. 

POS system considerations

Many payment processors also offer integration with POS systems. That capability is ideal for many businesses because they won’t have to work with additional providers. However, some businesses require a specific POS system with more advanced features. In those cases, you’ll often be able to use the POS system of your choice with your credit card processor, but you may have two points of contact – one for your credit card processing and payment needs, and one for installation and assistance with your POS system.

Did you know?Did you know? Having multiple merchant accounts with your processor may benefit your pricing if you have a mix of card-present and card-not-present sales.

Best credit card processors

The best credit card processors for omnichannel payment acceptance include the following features: 

  • Robust security
  • Easy-to-use equipment and software
  • Low processing rates
  • Excellent customer service
  • Reliable, easy-to-use and affordable credit card readers (for in-person payments) 

Additionally, robust back-end payment software can give you the data you need to make smart decisions about staffing, inventory and finances. It can also keep customer records and help you contact customers with personalized offers. For example, if a customer has purchased a tent from you recently, you can send them an email featuring sleeping bags and other camping products. 

Here are our top picks for payment processors that provide omnichannel payments:

  • Helcim is our pick for the best all-in-one credit card processing platform. The software interface is truly outstanding and provides enough functionality that many companies can use it to run multiple aspects of their business. It’s a fully functional POS system and includes customer management, POS inventory management and employee management. It also offers in-person payment capabilities, QR payments, invoicing, recurring billing and a quick-order online store for restaurants. Read our Helcim review to learn more.
  • Stax by Fattmerchant is our pick for the best subscription-priced credit card processor. Merchants can choose a monthly subscription plan that meets their needs. You’ll pay the appropriate monthly fee and a low interchange-plus processing rate for transactions. Businesses that need invoicing capability would choose the Pro or Ultimate plan. You’ll be notified about invoice payments in real time. For e-commerce, Stax integrates with shopping carts and automatically displays the payment option that’s the least expensive for the merchant first to minimize credit card processing fees. To find out more, read our in-depth review of Stax by Fattmerchant.

Best POS systems

If you’re looking for a POS system, here are two of the best POS systems for your business:

  • Clover is our pick for the best all-in-one POS system. It’s considered a standard in the industry, with many payment processors reselling it. The integrated and sleek POS hardware is attractive and functional, and includes a built-in credit card reader. The software has various functions, giving you excellent reports and tools to help manage your business. And thanks to Clover’s mobile app, the POS system is even available on the go. Find out more in our full Clover POS review.
  • Toast is our pick for the best online restaurant-ordering POS system. It can work for restaurants of any size, from a mom-and-pop cafe to a multilocation fine-dining establishment. In addition to offering in-person capabilities, Toast allows restaurants to provide online ordering and delivery. There is no commission for online ordering, and you can control ordering flow during peak times so your kitchen doesn’t get overwhelmed. As a bonus, restaurant owners can tap into an on-demand network of delivery drivers with Toast Delivery Services. Learn more in our in-depth Toast review.

Ellen Cunningham contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. 

Image Credit:

everything possible/Shutterstock

Jennifer Dublino
Jennifer Dublino
business.com Contributing Writer
Jennifer Dublino is a prolific researcher, writer, and editor, specializing in topical, engaging, and informative content. She has written numerous e-books, slideshows, websites, landing pages, sales pages, email campaigns, blog posts, press releases and thought leadership articles. Topics include consumer financial services, home buying and finance, general business topics, health and wellness, neuroscience and neuromarketing, and B2B industrial products.