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8 Essential Google Analytics Metrics You Need to Know

8 Essential Google Analytics Metrics You Need to Know

By Syeda Fatima, Manta Team – October 24, 2018

8 Essential Google Analytics Metrics You Need to Know

Do you know what your current bounce rate or who your digital audience is? These are metrics that can be measured and should be monitored via Google Analytics. Here’s a complete list of SMB essentials to watch.

It’s no doubt that Google Analytics is an excellent free tool to measure the ROI of your digital marketing efforts especially for checking metrics of your website. It’s easy to get lost in the wealth of data this tool has to offer. Here are some of the google analytics you should be tracking on your website:

#1. Bounce Rate

This is a crucial metric to measure because it tells you how many people leave your website after viewing just a single page. In this case your visitor isn’t looking at other pages of your website or completing a goal such as signing up for that freebie you may be offering by leaving their email or clicking on a discount you may have. It is important to pay close attention to the bounce rate because it may indicate which landing pages are working best and which are driving your users away from your website. This could help identify a deeper problem with your website such as low page speed, poor website design, irrelevant content and/or more.

#2. Average Session Duration

This metric shows you the amount of time your visitors spend on your website on average per visit. It is very likely your visitor may not reach goal completion; however, it is still vital to track the amount of time your visitors spend on your site. A session is recorded each time someone visits your website ending after 30 minutes of activity and your visitors can have multiple sessions. Ideally, we don’t want this number to be too high or too low. If your website is engaging and relevant, then this number shouldn’t be too low. However, too high of a number could indicate that you may have too much information on your landing pages and your visitor may have to muddle through a lot of information to complete an action. It is important to analyze this as a standalone number depending on the context and goals of your website and its landing pages.

#3. Visitors

It is not only important to track new visitors but also returning visitors. Tracking returning visitors helps you better improve the content, design and other aspects of your website which can then spur these visitors to convert. Getting returning visitors can be a challenge, however, returning visitors are more likely to convert. A growth in new or unique visitors is always a successful sign of your digital marketing or even traditional marketing efforts. However, it is important to remember to pay even more attention to returning visitors because they can give you more insight about the various aspects of your website.

#4. Traffic

Not only is it imperative to measure the growth or decline in traffic to your website, you also need to track the sources of your traffic. You can get traffic to your website from a variety of sources such as through organic efforts, paid advertising campaigns, social media, email, guest blogs and more. It is important to track these to best invest in your marketing and advertising efforts to increase more traffic and gain leads. The incoming traffic sources breakdown can also help you see which type of traffic is giving you the most goal completions or conversions. This can also help you better the user experience of your website.

#5. Exit Pages

Another aspect of your website analysis that can help improve the user experience is tracking the exit pages. As the name suggests, the exit page is the last page the user views before leaving the site. If the exit metrics are high for a page, you may need to analyze the page to identify the reason why your audience is leaving from that page. Your exit page could possibly be a landing page with a pushy sales message that could be turning your audiences away from your website or it may just be the last page of the website, and you may not need to worry. However, unless you take time to track the exit pages you won’t know where and how you lost a possible lead.

#6. Conversions

The goal of all your marketing and advertising efforts is usually conversions whether that is making a purchase, calling your store, signing up for your e-newsletter or anything you’ve set up as a goal you want your visitors to complete. You can track different types of conversions using Google Analytics. For example, if you’re offering various discounts at various times, by tracking conversions you can check which discount managed to convince your visitors to make a purchase. Conversions are the true mark of how successful your digital efforts have been and where you need to improve.

#7. Top Pages

While this may seem like an obvious metric to track but it’s often overlooked. The web pages that are performing the best on your website need to be analyzed very thoroughly to understand how you can apply the same type of design, content, layout, call to actions and more to your other pages. This analysis will help improve the pages that are not doing so well, especially the exit pages. This can ultimately help reduce your bounce rate, improve the average session duration and ultimately lead to conversions.

#8. Audiences

Analyzing your website’s audience including their demographics, behavior, interests and more can help better evaluate your audience and visitors for better targeting. This helps you create better, more targeted content that will appeal to the kind of audience you are looking to attract to your website. By analyzing these metrics, you have a higher chance of more successful targeted marketing and advertising campaigns. You’d be surprised how many valuable takeaways you can get from this type of analysis.

Analyzing data in the world of digital marketing is a given but knowing which metrics to track and how to best use them is the key to success. Analytics can be very complicated; however, Google Analytics is an easy to use tool to track even the most advanced analytics. Click here to start measuring your success!

6 Signs You’re Ready to Take the Leap and Start a Business

6 Signs You’re Ready to Take the Leap and Start a Business

By Meredith Wood, Fundera – October 22, 2018

6 Signs You’re Ready to Take the Leap and Start a Business

You have a concept you’re excited about and have put in a lot of thought to starting up. That doesn’t mean it’s the right time in your life or the right idea. Here are some signs you may or may not be ready.

In some respects, it’s easier than ever to start a business. There’s a wealth of information available for aspiring entrepreneurs and lots of emerging industries that need people to open great companies within them. Plus, as online small business lending continues to grow, and early-stage venture funding flowing from VCs, there are funding options available, too.

Before you hand in your resignation—politely, of course—make sure you’re ready to start your business. Just because you have a concept you’re excited about, or simply want to, doesn’t mean it’s the right time in your life or the right idea to pursue at all. These four signs are tell-tale.

1. You’re all in. No hesitations.

Starting a business is an all-or-nothing decision. If you don’t go all in, your business isn’t going to succeed, and you won’t have any rewards to reap. At the same time, you’ll have to fully understand that with all of the great stuff about being a business owner (and there’s lots!) also come the unavoidable bad things, too. There’ll be months that are unstable, and periods where you’re bringing in lower-than-comfortable revenue. There’s even the chance of failure.

But, if you’ve turned over the upsides and the downsides in your head lots of times, and you’re not hedging or hesitating about their possibilities, then that’s a great sign that you’re ready. You need that true buy-in from yourself before you can go any further.

2. You’re not acting on impulse.

Many of the best business ideas come from a genuine need: an entrepreneur sees something they wish existed, so they build it. That could be something as simple as a dog grooming operation in a neighborhood that doesn’t have one, or as sophisticated as a new kind of software built on the back of emerging technology. Whatever the idea is, it’s usually not born and built overnight.

You’re ready to start your business if you’ve sat on your idea for a while, and still decided it’s a worthwhile venture that you’d be excited by for a long time. You’ve thought, Hey! This is something I could want to do with my life, and realized it’s not a fleeting interest. You’ve run your concept by other people, and let them play devil’s advocate.

Perhaps most importantly, you’ve also given your idea some time to future-proof. Lots of businesses that monetize against short-term trends don’t have any staying power once the wave passes. If you’re going to quit your day job and invest savings into a new company, make sure you can see long-term viability.

3. You’ve laid your practical foundations.

In all of the great stories about companies that started in dorm rooms or kitchens, the part that founders often gloss over are the unsexy details about getting things off the ground. And there’s a lot of it: looking into business entities and corporate structures, applying for business credit cards and making sure your personal credit is in good standing, determining product-market fit, doing competitive research… you get the idea.

All of the groundwork can feel like glorified homework. But it’s so, so important.

You’re not ready to start a business until you’ve really done a lot of legwork on your potential business and your personal financials. The last thing you want to do as a business owner is start from a disadvantaged position, because you’ll be playing catch up forever. Take the time now to lay your business’s foundations.

4. You have a plan.

Now that you have the basics down, it’s important to make sure your business plan is solid. After all, if you’re giving up a steady career for a future of hustling, you want to be sure you’ve laid out your overall vision and plan for growth. A business plan is not only useful to help align your long term thinking, but it is also key if you ever plan to apply for business financing or seek out investors.

A business plan doesn’t have to be extensive—in fact, it should be concise and to the point. No one wants to read an endless business plan full of technical jargon. Instead, stick with universal terms and language to make it as accessible as possible. Expect your business plan to be always changing as you grow your business, but you should have the basics down before you set out.

5. You have developed a network.

Sure, you may be able to make it without anyone’s help—but having the right people in your court will make it endlessly easier. If you already have experience in your business’s industry, you likely have a network of former colleagues, business partners and clients that you can reach out to. If you haven’t spent time in the industry, consider getting a side gig or moonlighting in the field before you set sail.

If you don’t have one, finding the right business mentor can be make the difference between making it big and striking out. Studies show that business owners who have a mentor (especially the right mentor) often see higher revenue growth and stay in business longer than those who don’t. If you’ve found someone you trust to offer advice and guide you when it comes to big decisions, you’re one step closer to success.

6. You trust yourself.

This one’s easier said than done. But, if you think about it, small business owners generally have incredible discipline and presence of mind. That’s because running a business isn’t for everyone and only those who are in it for the long run can succeed.

To make it as an entrepreneur, you have to be able to depend on yourself. You’ll be structuring your own time, making sure you balance work and play (and stopping yourself from overworking). You have to keep yourself motivated on the days when the last thing you want to do is work. You have to push yourself to keep learning things that you never thought you wanted or could, and that you didn’t even know you didn’t know. And you have to trust that you’ll find solutions—or seek the people who will.

But knowing yourself on that level is a privilege. That’s why many small business owners never want to go back. It’s not just having your own schedule and not working for anyone else—which is great, too.

Owning a company changes your life, and yourself, in amazing ways. But it’s important to be sure you’re ready for everything that comes along with entrepreneurship before you take the leap.

Why paying for stuff is so complicated now

A cash register among debris

I’m standing at the counter of a Vietnamese restaurant in Berkeley, ordering a pork bun. There was a time when I knew exactly what would happen next. I’d hand over my card, the cashier would swipe it, a little receipt would curl out of a machine, I’d sign it, and I’d crumple the bottom copy into a pocket. Easy.

Now all kinds of things can happen. I might stick my card directly into a point-of-sale (POS) system. Maybe I swipe; maybe the cashier does. Perhaps a screen is swiveled at me. I could enter my pin on a little purpose-built machine; I could sign with my finger on a screen; I could not have to sign or enter a pin at all. I could tap my phone on a terminal to pay. Usually, there’s a chip reader for my no-longer-new chip card. When I put the card in one of the machines, sometimes it takes four seconds; other times, I have time to pull out my phone and stare at it, which means I forget about the card until the reader begins to beep at me, at which point I pull it out, mildly flustered, as if I’d caused too much ice to pour out of a soda fountain. Ah! Okay. Sorry.

The act of paying for stuff is undergoing a great transformation. The networks of machines and code that let you move your imaginary money from your bank account to a merchant are changing—the gadget that takes your card, the computer that tracks a restaurant or store’s inventory, the cards themselves (or their dematerialized abstractions inside your phone). But all this newness must remain compatible with systems that were designed 50 years ago, at the dawn of the credit-card age. This combination of old and new systems, janky and hacky and functional, is the standard state of affairs for technology, despite the many myths about how the world changes in vast leaps and revolution.

If some areas of financial technology, or Fintech, promise a new elegance, the point of sale serves as a reminder of the viscosity of the everyday technologies on which most Americans rely. If you want to divine the future of transportation, you’d probably learn more thinking about the bus than the rocket. If you want to know how money is gonna change in the future, you need to look at the cash register as much as the blockchain.

But the most powerful and ambitious companies in the world have tremendous incentive to take interest in the cash register. It’s there where the two great data streams of the modern world flow together: what people do on their phones and what they buy in the physical world. In the first stream, the tech one, the rule is that data becomes money, after it is fed into machine-learning systems tuned to show you better ads. In the other, the data is money. If these two streams fully merged, a company could have a perfect ledger of what you saw and then everything you bought. The ads would get better, so you’d buy more stuff, and in buying more stuff, you’d make the ads better. Online, Facebook (and others) can already track all kinds of activity. But about 90 percent of purchases are still made IRL. Imagine the vast sums of money that could be made if every transaction became part of the ledger. Unsurprisingly, the big tech companies want a piece of this action—as do the banks, as do many start-ups and established, niche players.

So Americans are living through what Bill Maurer, the director of the Institute for Money, Technology, and Financial Inclusion at the University of California, Irvine calls the “Cambrian explosion in payments.” The “point of sale”—once a poky machine or just a person with a calculator or a pencil—is now a computer like everything else, tied deeply into the operations of the restaurant or store. The labor of making a payment could fall to the cashier, as in the old days, or to me, the customer, but we’re both accessing a complex, evolved system of reckoning between banks and their attached remoras, feeding on whatever money ends up in the water.

For your average fast-casual restaurant or mom-and-pop store, new point-of-sale systems promise easier bookkeeping, strategic business insights, and the kind of synoptic view of operations that is irresistible to managers. But to get all those analytics, those efficiencies, requires becoming part of the Silicon Valley world, with all the potential and pitfalls that entails. Players such as Square and Toast are fully technology companies, thinking about payments as a “stack” of different pieces of hardware and software, and they want to capture more of those layers than the banks and hardware makers of yore. Apple and Google and Amazon see locking people into their ecosystems and accumulating payment data to be as valuable as any transaction fees that can be wrung out of consumers.

Which is why the biggest trends in technology—platformization, data hunger, iteration, venture-capital-backed disruption, hype—have made their way to payments. Point-of-sale systems used to change slowly, with restaurants upgrading over years or even decades. Now they can be an app on an iPad with a new UX as often as engineers can push the updates.

A butcher customer using a point-of-sale machine (Marco Bello / Reuters)

Even the literal way that the machines plug into one another has changed. A credit-card reader almost always used to be a standalone brick of a machine, a Verifone or an Ingenico perched on a countertop. Maybe it was tied to a point-of-sale system. Maybe it sat there alone, next to an electronic cash register or someone with a big-buttoned calculator. The Squares of the world seek to internalize all the components of a transaction into a sleek screen mounted on some futuristic enclosure. The legacy companies such as Northstar and Cayanhave tried to keep pace, and new systems are proliferating as quickly as salespeople can harangue merchants into upgrading.

In payments, everything is categorically more convenient than in previous decades and yet also sort of broken in new ways, which I guess makes them pretty much like everything else that has been touched by technology in recent years. The last time things changed this much, Richard Nixon was president.

Take out your credit card, the piece of plastic. Run your finger over its embossed characters: your name, the expiration date. The embossing is a holdover from the earliest days of charge cards, an early-20th-century invention that was generally issued by a retailer, say a department store, and looked basically like a dog tag with raised figures enumerating your account. Stick one in an imprinter, with some carbon-copy paper, and it could create a receipt for a customer as well as one for the store. When the merchant brought the receipts to the bank, they got funds deposited in their account. It was simple, but laborious.

In the mid-century, banks came to take over issuing credit cards. To know if a customer’s account could be drawn on to make a purchase, the merchant had to call the bank. I mean this literally: They had to pick up the phone and dial, according to David L. Stearns’s history of the development of payment systems. And the cards only worked within one bank’s system, which meant that every bank had to sign up the merchants who would accept their card. Banking was much more tightly regulated back then too, so in some states, there were only local banks. If you left the zip code, your card wouldn’t work. One 1950 charge card only worked “in a two-block radius” of its issuing bank.

California was a little looser with its banking regulations, which made it possible for Bank of America to scale up the highly successful BankAmericard throughout the populous state. It used its many retail locations to sign up merchants and sent cards to people’s homes unsolicited. What they lost in fraud and unpaid bills, they made up for by taking a hefty cut from merchants for the ability to accept cards.

By the mid-1960s, other banks began to launch widely used credit cards. But what would happen if the bank issuing the card was different from the merchant’s bank? There wasn’t a way to exchange those funds. And what about traveling to different cities, let alone states or countries? The banks knew they needed a way to authorize transactions and exchange money with each other. So they developed new systems of cooperation, which became known as Visa and Mastercard. The card networks allowed someone whose bank was in San Francisco to use their card in Los Angeles or Louisiana or La Paz. This is so basic to how money works now that it seems like it always existed. It is such an ordinary miracle, like photosynthesis, that it’s only when you slow down to explain it, as if to an alien or a child, that it becomes striking, even amazing.

The prophet of this new system was Dee Hock, then a local banker whose branch had become a licensee of the BankAmericard. Hock became a central figure in knitting together the banks, not just technically, but through the organization he helped create, Visa.

Hock believed that Visa was the embodiment of a new type of decentralized organization, one that would help usher in what he called the “chaordic age.” He realized, he wrote, that “everything was changing with accelerating speed” and the world needed a new kind of institution on the same level as the “nation-state, corporation, and university.” The answer, as he saw it, was in the “chaord,” “the behavior of which harmoniously blends characteristics of both chaos and order.”

To create the “chaordic organization,” core notions and oppositions would have to be discarded, Hock contended. “What if the very concept of separability (mind/body—cause/effect—mankind/nature—competition/cooperation—public/ private—man/woman—you/me) is a grand delusion of Western civilization, epitomized by the industrial age; useful in certain scientific ways of knowing but fundamentally flawed with respect to understanding and wisdom?” Hock wrote.

Hock was not a philosopher, a countercultural icon like Stewart Brand, or some theorist at the Santa Fe Institute (although he did speak there). He was the first CEO of Visa, which he called a “transcendental organization linking together in wholly new ways an unimaginable complex of diverse institutions and individuals.” It did this by emptying out the old idea of money as “hard” currency, bills and paper checks and gold, subbing in a new definition of money: “alphanumeric data in the form of arranged energy,” bits in a computer. And using this idea, Visa built a new standard for computers to talk about money—now known as ISO 8583. Like Internet Protocol or containerization, this low-level agreement on how to move things around the modern world came to organize vast swaths of economic activity. Put all three of these late 1960s innovations together and you have the infrastructure of globalization.

“Visa provides an infrastructure … in which multiple competing financial institutions can cooperate, just enough, to provide a service that none could have realistically provided alone,” Stearns wrote. “In short, Visa makes money move.”

Visa wasn’t the only such organization. A different consortium of financial institutions banded together into Master Charge, which became Mastercard. Then those systems learned to work together (perhaps too well, according to retailers who have long-running antitrust litigation against the companies).

But there was one other key step in creating the modern point-of-sale system. Flip your card over now. Take a look at the magnetic stripe toward the top. It’s what made your card machine-readable. The system was developed by IBM in the late 1960s, and according to one of its architects, “The original information standards—the way the data is physically laid out on the mag stripe—has survived every migration of transaction media, from mag-stripe cards to smart cards, from smart cards to smartphones.”

The stripe itself is not unlike the tape in the cassettes you put in a boom box. But instead of encoding music in a form that can be played back from your shoulder, that little strip of iron oxide contains your account number. Swiping it through a reader plays it back. That’s why Square’s original card reader was designed attached to the headphone jack: The whole device merely sent the signal from the audio read head to the mic input, and then the app could take it from there. (Some beautiful nerds took advantage of this capability and converted the Square reader into a kind of instrument.)

“The payment card is merely an access device, a means for identifying the cardholder to the vast electronic financial network that lies behind it,” Stearns wrote in an essay in Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff. Your card is a fob for walking into the vast digital storehouse where the “alphanumeric data” formerly known as money is kept.

From the very beginning, American credit cards have been relatively insecure. If Square can build a dirt-cheap way to read your credit card, so can fraudsters who built devices called “skimmers” which can steal the data off cards, reencode it onto a new one, and, voila, someone is swiping their way around with your account. You might think your signature is a security measure, but it’s basically theater. The only real security in the system is on the network level, where banks process transaction data to look for “suspicious activity.”

Chip-card technology—known as EMV in the industry—is more secure. The data can’t be easily skimmed from the chip, as it stores important information in an encrypted format. For these reasons, it’s been standard in Europe for more than two decades. But not in the United States.

Paying with a chip card (Michalis Karagiannis / Reuters)

Some of that was timing. One, if you installed a brand-new system in the 1970s, you probably didn’t want to buy all new hardware in the 1980s. Two, swiping is super fast and super easy. “Swiping is a really good experience,” said Jesse Dorogusker, the head of hardware at Square. “It sets a really high bar for convenience and speed.” Even if Square can spend the development resources to get its chip-card processing down to three seconds, other systems might take much longer—try counting, you might get to 10 or even 12 sometimes. “It makes for an inconsistent ecosystem,” Dorogusker said. Three, IBM, the developer of the mag-stripe card, was in the database business, so promoting more back-end data processing seemed like a good idea to them.

And so, authorization and fraud detection took place in the bank’s mainframes, while the reader and the card were basically dumb access devices hooked up to a network. This was convenient for customers, but if you were a merchant, not only did you need a special account with a bank that allowed you to transact with cards, but you also had to deal with the whole front-end to that system. As Lana Swartz, a media-studies professor at the University of Virginia and the co-editor of Paid, said to me, in the era before anyone was on the internet, accepting cards required “putting a modem in your shop, maintaining this dial-up thing, maintaining swipe equipment, dealing with errors.”

This gave rise to the POS industry as we now know it. The banks were not going to develop and service the ecosystem of hardware and modems necessary to accept credit cards, and so a whole constellation of businesses rose up to offer these services to mom-and-pop players. Over decades, Ingenico (mostly in Europe) and Verifone (mostly in the U.S.) came to dominate the actual payment hardware, and different point-of-sale hardware and software systems took over different niches. Then middlemen called Independent Sales Organizations, or ISOs, popped up to simplify the complexity of this world for someone who just wanted to sell futons or run a hamburger shop. They created whole packages of card-processing machines, POS systems, and accounts, which they’d roll up into a “solution” for individual merchants, and they also become responsible for assuming the risk of bad transactions. In other words, the ISOs are the complex, sometimes essential, sometimes shady layer between your corner bodega and the world of global finance.

The point of sale, to this day, is shaped by what these companies offer. Philip Parker, who runs, has dedicated the last decade of his life to figuring out what a merchant should do, faced with these realities. When he was in college, he got hired by an ISO, and when he started going into stores, he’d get run out by merchants angry at the last ISO guy who screwed them. “These business owners would be yelling at me, ‘I’ve already been burned by you guys one time!’” Parker told me. Basically, if you got laid off from the used-car-sales lot, this industry might be your next gig.

Parker has now reviewed dozens of different card-payment systems from all kinds of different companies. There is huge variability in the fees that merchants have to pay, he told me, not just based on their systems but the cards that customers use. According to Cayan, a provider of point-of-sale equipment,there are “more than 700” different rates for different cards, transaction types, retail environments, and other factors. “My belief is that the confusion and complication are there on purpose because it allows these financial institutions and ISOs to make more money and charge more without anyone understanding what’s happening,” Parker said.

It’s dizzying. The contracts ISOs have merchants sign also slow down the speed at which restaurants upgrade their equipment. They can get locked into multiyear leases on the one hand, and on the other it can be such a hassle to get the point-of-sale equipment set up that once it’s working, they don’t want to mess with anything.

Josh Bays, a San Francisco resident, has worked in retail and restaurants for the past decade. One place he works uses Square. The other uses a legacy system that runs off Windows 95. “It runs about as slow as you’d expect,” Bays told me. “It’s a four-hour ordeal to add potato salad to the menu.”

But the owners don’t want to change that system out for something new and potentially better. “They know it will continue to work for as long as the hardware does,” Bays said. Whereas with a new system, they’ll be on the hook for a lease. “It’s kind of analogous to how Adobe doesn’t sell Photoshop anymore. They sell a license,” he said. “You never actually own anything.”

Even the chip readers, which would presumably reduce fraud, don’t always seem worth the investment to small-business owners. “There is nowhere I’ve ever worked where the management says, ‘I want to invest in infrastructure,’” Bays said. So they do it when they have to or when they finally get around to it.

The point of sale at Macy’s (Andrew Kelly / Reuters)

There are now dozens of point-of-sale systems offering different kinds of payment integrations and experiences. At their best, they integrate a whole restaurant’s or store’s business. They make it possible to take online orders and simplify accounting. They can keep track of important customers and offer them incentives. At worst, they present unwanted complexity, new problems, and the disruption of systems that worked.

“It’s all kind of a complete mess,” said Maurer, the anthropologist. “There are so many different systems. So many different POS manufacturers each promising different services. So many different payment systems and protocols.”

It’s not just outside scholars who have taken this position. The Aite Group, a financial-services research firm, found in a 2017 report that the POS is moving from “a highly concentrated industry” into one that’s wilder, a “new reality of an open ecosystem facilitating innovation and competition.”

Even the legacy industry-standard POS system for restaurants, NCR’s Aloha, would like to be known as something more. “The way we’ve been talking about Aloha in the last few years is as a platform of sale,” said Jon Lawrence, a senior director at NCR. “It’s more than a play on words: If you think about what Facebook has done, or Uber or Airbnb, these are software platforms that have helped transform industries.”

This is a crazy world that requires hundreds of thousands of small businesses to work through hundreds of vendors to reach thousands of banks. Every company is trying to extract some bits (of data, of money) from every single transaction, building fortunes out of pennies. That’s why Google Pay and Apple Pay didn’t take off like Facebook or Uber. There are just too many human hands reaching for pockets that need to get on board.

And it’s into this environment that Silicon Valley companies—and other VC-backed start-ups like Boston’s Toast—have plunged. Square could hack the technology of the credit-card reader, but the greater system’s complexity affords no elegant solution.

So, the next time you’re waiting for the chip-card reader to beep at you, consider that money has been data for a long time, arranged energy, but like every other part of the world that software is digesting, the gap between the mega-trend and the lived reality is where the money is made.

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3 Ways to Celebrate National Small Business Week

3 Ways to Celebrate National Small Business Week

By Brooke Preston, Manta Contributor – April 22, 2018

3 Ways to Celebrate National Small Business Week

The SBA’s annual celebration is your chance to share with customers what it means to be a small business owner.

More than 50% of all Americans either own or work for a small business, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, and they create two out of three new jobs in this country. Now that’s something to shout about! The SBA’s annual National Small Business Week — April 29 to May 5 this year — is your chance to celebrate the big impact small business owners have on the economy, the job market and your customers’ daily lives.

Here are three easy ways your business can participate:

Shop Local

It’s a simple step with a big impact: Shop at locally owned small businesses, hire local contractors, and support your peers in the local business community. Not only will you be helping their businesses, every dollar you spend in your own neighborhood gives your local economy a boost, which can only help your own business.

Spread the Word

Let your followers know it’s Small Business Week with relevant posts to your business’ social media accounts. Get creative! You can host a live Twitter chat with your customers; post an update on Facebook saying how much it means to you to be a small business owner in your community; or offer a special sale or promotion to your loyal local followers. Tell your social followers about other small businesses you partner with or love—they’re likely to return the favor! Don’t forget to use the SBA’s official hashtag, #smallbusinessweek, so your social media content shows up in user searches.

Sharpen Your Business Skills

Whether you participate in one of the week’s official events or sign up for a local workshop, use Small Business Week as an opportunity to learn about the trends, technology and marketing tactics that can help take your small business to the next level.

If an official event is not being held in your town, consider hosting your own open house or networking get-together for your local peers. It can be hard to step away from the daily demands of running a small business — use Small Business Week as an excuse to take a little break and connect with fellow small business owners.

For a complete schedule of the week’s official online and in-person events, visit the SBA’s National Small Business Week website.

Signing Off On Signatures

Is the End of Credit Card Signatures Here?

ig-webfeat-mobym70-launch-643x483Credit card signatures are going away. You may have seen many articles delivering this news, and might wonder if it matters to you as a merchant. Ultimately, the decision on whether or not to accept signatures is up to you, so it’s important to understand the benefits of each option. In this article, I provide some insight into how and why credit card signatures are being phased out. Let’s start with the basics.

What’s happening?

Effective in mid-April, it will be optional for merchants to capture a signature on receipts in card-present retail transactions. This means that merchants won’t need their customers to sign any paper or digital receipts to complete a transaction. The rules vary by card brand, but they generally apply to transactions on the Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover networks.

This may raise several questions for merchants:

Why are card brands doing this?

The payments industry has been re-examining the value of signatures for several reasons.

Over half of card-present transactions are already being processed without signatures under small-ticket card brand programs. For higher ticket items, the original idea was that merchants could compare the signature on the card with the signature on the receipt to validate that the cardholder is the actual owner of the credit card. This put an unfair onus on merchants, as they are not handwriting experts, and customers often sign in a hurry on credit card receipts, making comparisons unreliable.

As technology advanced with options such as electronic signature capture and NFC/contactless on customer-facing devices, managing both paper receipts and digital signature images became cumbersome and problematic for merchants. Over time, it became clear that this unreliable and inefficient process was not meeting the needs for which it was intended.

How are the card brands implementing this?

Before we get into the “how” question, let’s look at what purpose these signed receipts have for both the customer and the merchant. The customer’s signature on receipts serves two functions:

1. For the consumer, it is an acknowledgement that the merchant’s receipt is accurate.

2. For merchants, the signed receipt provides “insurance” against a potential chargeback from the card issuer in cases where the consumer disputes the transaction.

All the card brands are implementing this in slightly different ways. American Express is removing signature requirement all over the world, whereas Visa is making it optional only in the U.S. on chip-enabled devices. Mastercard on the other, is only removing signature requirement from U.S. and Canada and Discover is eliminating signature requirements in U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.

The card brands are also removing the ability for issuers to chargeback based solely on signature validation. Other chargeback reasons remain unchanged.

Can merchants still collect signatures if they want to or if needed for other business reasons?

Yes, merchants can still collect signatures if they need to for any other business reasons. Some merchants, such as lodging, car rental and dining businesses, as well as merchants that integrate sales contracts into their receipts, may choose to continue collecting signatures. However, they no longer have to accept them specifically for chargeback protection.

Do merchants have to change their payment applications?

In the long term, merchants should update their payment application to allow the option of not printing or displaying a signature line on receipts. In the short term, they can just tell customers they don’t need to sign.

4 Things to Do Before Starting a Business

4 Things to Do Before Starting a Business

eCommerce Solutions |

Credit: Arseniy Krasnevsky/Shutterstock

Starting a business requires many steps, and it certainly doesn’t happen overnight. As an entrepreneur, you must be willing to dedicate most of your time to the process.

“The first thing to do when contemplating starting a business is to understand the commitment required,” said Todd Rhoad, managing director of BT Consulting and partner with Peachtree Recovery Services Inc.

To make sure you’ve covered all your bases before opening your doors, Business News Daily asked experts for their best advice on starting a business.

You want to make sure you understand the industry you’ll be involved in so you can dominate. No matter how unique you might think your business idea is, you should be aware of competitors, said Ian Wright, founder of British Business Energy.

“Just because you have a brilliant idea does not mean other people haven’t also had the same idea,” said Wright. “If you can’t offer something better and/or cheaper than your competitors, you might want to rethink starting a business in that area.”

You should also consider your target demographic, which will be the driving force in each decision you make. You can’t earn a profit without your consumers, so make them your priority.

“It is crucial to make sure you are delivering what your customer wants, not what you want,” said Sonia F. Lakhany, attorney at Lakhany Law. “This will give you insight into your customer’s buying decision and save you lots of experimenting down the road.”

One of the first steps you should take in starting your business is choosing its legal structure, said business attorney Mason Cole of Cole Sadkin LLC. According to Cole, the most common structure is a limited liability company (LLC) because of its flexibility and the protection it provides owners from personal liability.

“It will dictate the taxes, paperwork, liability of the owner(s) [and] other legal aspects, as well as whether or not the company can have employees,” he said.

Additionally, you should acquire proper registration from the government to open your business.

“This means the entrepreneur will need to create the articles of incorporation, obtain an employer identification number and apply for necessary licenses, which will vary by state and industry,” Cole added.

Starting a business requires money that you likely won’t have right away, which is why it’s encouraged to seek capital.

“Most entrepreneurs start a business with a very limited amount of capital, which is a large hurdle to many,” said Cole. “However, there are plenty of options available to a budding business owner. The first and most common place to seek capital is with friends and family. If that is not enough, expand the search to angel investors and venture capitalists. Should these options not provide the amount needed, then apply for business loans through banks and small business associations.”

You don’t want to start your business with poor credit. Make sure your score is as high as possible, considering it won’t be once you open your company.

“You will probably get into a lot of debt starting out,” said Marc Prosser, small business expert and co-founder of Fit Small Business. “So, you’ll have to be able to finance [your personal life] through your own savings. If your credit score isn’t so great, you’ll [only] be able to borrow less money at higher interest rates. If you want to start a business, increase your credit score so you have a [greater] ability to borrow as much as you need.”

Travis Sickle, certified financial planner of Sickle Hunter Financial Advisors, advised entrepreneurs to be organized with taxes and fees. There are multiple payments you’ll need to make, and you don’t want to file late for any.

“You have to figure out how much your payroll is going to be in order to make your tax payments timely,” said Sickle. “The timing can vary depending on your payroll. You also have to figure out other business taxes, such as city, county and state.”

Starting a business should not be an independent journey, no matter how tempting. Hiring help along your journey will set you up for success. Ben Walker, founder and CEO of Transcription Outsourcing, said that the No. 1 piece of advice he’d give business owners is to have a coach or mentor.

Another smart hire is an accountant. It’s nearly impossible for one person to handle every aspect of a company, and above all, your finances should not be put at risk.

“I had a full-time job as I considered starting my own business in 2009, but I did a lot of groundwork before I started, and bringing on an accountant was an important step,” said Sarah Burningham, president and founder of Little Bird Publicity. “It helped me understand what I needed to do to make this work from a profit standpoint, [as well as] the ins and outs of state, federal and local taxes.”

It’s important to have assistance on the legal side of the business especially, ensuring you are protected and going about the process the right way.

“We often make the assumption that legal counsel is for when we get ourselves into trouble, but preventative and proactive legal preparation can be the very best way to set your business on the path to long-term success,” said Katy Blevins, co-founder and CEO of Modern Femme. “When you call on legal counsel after you’ve run into a problem, it’s often too late or could critically impact your business in both the short and long term. Investing in their insight at the start of your business can pay a huge return later on by keeping you out of trouble before you even get into it.”

For a step-by-step guide to starting your business, visit this Business News Daily article.

Additional reporting by Business News Daily staff.

What Merchants Should Know About the UX Journey

Rik van ‘t Hof •  •

ingenico-rik-mobile-online.jpgIn the past, my family used to have a single computer that we all shared. My wife, kids and I used it for everything: doing homework, watching videos, catching up on work, etc. Now we all have our own devices, and it’s rare that my family members use my laptop or phone, and vice versa. Our devices aren’t communal anymore – they are personal, and have greatly impacted our individual user experiences.

eCommerce is getting personal

Roughly 60% of the global population now uses smartphones, a figure which rises to roughly 80% in some of the tech-savvy countries around the world. Technology is getting more personal, and by extension, so is eCommerce. Consumers are interacting with money in ways that never existed before. When combined with personalization and advances in financial technology, powerful opportunities arise for both businesses and consumers who want to connect in new ways.

It’s already possible to create accounts with certain supermarkets, order groceries online, and confirm your order with a thumbprint. The entire process can happen within minutes on your mobile phone, and the more often you use it, the more customized it becomes with relevant suggestions and personalized information. Now imagine a world where grocery stores can identify your shopping habits with such precision that they anticipate when you will run out of items in your home. Already today, Amazon’s Dash Replenishment Service enables your connected devices to monitor usage of basic staples and automatically orders them as needed.

These offerings may seem futuristic, but we are already getting close, thanks to some technological advancements:

  • Personalization – new technologies have led to a world where mobile devices can be used as an extension of the individual. Biometrics, such as thumbprints, iris scanning and even Apple’s enhanced facial recognition, all offer authentication possibilities that make purchasing quicker and easier.
  • Digital marketing and tracking technologies – companies can now gain a deeper understanding of their customers’ preferences and online behaviors. By analyzing data, companies can pinpoint what people actually want and develop more personalized offers and incentives. This in turn increases brand engagement, drives more mobile transactions and leads to higher conversion rates.
  • Social apps and social commerce – social apps have led to increased usage of mobile devices, especially among millennials. These platforms open up new channels for brands to engage with their customers and offer tailored product recommendations.

Consumer expectations keep evolving

Today’s consumers are using a combination of devices to make purchases, both in-store and online. In fact, a 2016 study showed that nearly 100% of millennial shoppers checked prices or compared merchandise on their smartphones before making in-store purchases during the holiday season.

Imagine that you buy something online from your favorite brand, but it doesn’t fit and you have to return it. In today’s world, you could either mail it, or go to a store and deal with the hassle of the checkout line. In the future, you might be automatically identified upon entering the store, and your phone could send you a notification with the location of the same item in a different size. Or perhaps you will place your thumb to the fitting room mirror and the item will be automatically purchased and sent to your home.

The bottom line is that brands need to be anywhere and everywhere their customers are and facilitate easy journeys across all touchpoints. On and offline borders are blending, and are rapidly changing consumers’ expectations of a good shopping experience. As we move closer to an omnichannel world, a smooth and consistent journey will be a big differentiator.

Nothing happens without trust

Retailers can now truly get to know their customers and create individualized purchasing journeys, but none of this is possible without a strong sense of trust between the customer and the company. Establishing trust, especially when it comes to online payments, is critical. People need to feel secure and confident that their personal boundaries won’t be crossed or their information misused.

Companies that create safe and trustworthy environments when asking for an online payment are much more likely to convert the sale than companies that don’t. This includes small but meaningful details, such as offering recognizable payment products, using branded URLs and activating familiar security measures, to reduce friction and build trust in the process. In fact, mobile money is actually quite safe compared to other payment methods.

Connect to future UX expectations

With so much opportunity to personalize the UX it’s surprising that so many online shopping carts are still regularly abandoned. In fact, only 37% of all transactions occur when customers browse across multiple devices, and only 31% of these transactions are actually completed on a mobile device.

The more customers use mobile devices to make purchases, the more likely they are to become repeat shoppers. Orders made with one or more mobile devices have shorter time-to-next-orders than PC-only orders. This means that as consumers continue to adopt mCommerce, their purchasing behaviors will grow stronger.

Although abandoned carts are still fairly common, potentially 60% of lost mobile sales globally could be recovered by merchants who make it easier for customers at the checkout stage. This includes offering local payment methods and currencies, being transparent about shipping costs and delivery times, and even including personalized messages and offers to recognized customers. Opportunities to expand mobile commerce abounds, especially as consumers become more assured of safety and buying experiences become more seamless.

The user experience matters more than many brands realize. As consumers, we are naturally inclined to interact more with companies we recognize and trust. Offering a smooth and engaging UX journey across all touchpoints – existing ones and future ones – is a powerful opportunity for businesses that want to exceed their customers’ expectations.

Rik van ‘t Hof, Director of Front-End Product Management, Ingenico ePayments

eCommerce Solutions |

Signatures for Payments to Be a Thing of the PAST

Mastercard, Discover, AmEx will ditch signatures

Not scribbling your name will speed checkout, won’t affect card security

John Egan
Personal Finance Writer
Writes trendy stories about credit cards.

Signature on payment slips may be going the way of the dodod

You may not be jotting your name on payment slips and checkout terminals much longer. Mastercard, Discover and American Express plan to ditch the signature requirement at merchants April 2018, and experts say Visa likely will do the same.

  • Mastercard, which announced the move in October, says more than 80 percent of the in-store transactions (also known as point-of-sale purchases) it processes now don’t need a signature.
  • Discover said on Dec. 6, that it, too, would abandon the signature requirement. “With the rise in new payment security capabilities, like chip technology and tokenization, the time is right to remove this step from the checkout experience,” Discover’s Jasma Ghai, vice president of global products innovation, says.
  • American Express announced Dec. 11 that it will drop the signature requirement globally in April 2018.

Signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud

“The payments landscape has evolved to the point where we can now eliminate this pain point for our merchants,” said Jaromir Divilek, executive vice president of global network business for American Express. “Our fraud capabilities have advanced so that signatures are no longer necessary to fight fraud.”

Jack Jania, senior vice president of strategic alliances at Gemalto, expects Visa also will follow Mastercard, Discover and American Express in ditching the need for signatures within a year.

If Jania’s prediction holds true, that would spell the end of a decades-old ritual for cardholders: scribbling your name on payment slips.

“This is a good move for both consumers and merchants, as it will speed up the in-store purchase experience,” Jania says.

And when might Visa join the no-signatures-required party?

Jeanette Volpi, head of North America communications at Visa, declined to say. She added, though, that more than three-fourths of Visa’s face-to-face transactions in North America don’t require signatures.

“Visa supports multiple technologies to bring speed, security and consumer convenience to the authentication and authorization process,” Volpi said in a statement.


‘A costly yet feeble means of securing transactions’

The Retail Industry Leaders Association and even Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, say it’s time to say so long to the signature requirement.

“Mastercard’s decision to end signature verification acknowledges what retailers have long argued, that signatures are a costly yet feeble means of securing transactions,” says Austen Jensen, vice president for government affairs at the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Discover and American Express announced in December that they, too, will eliminate requiring signatures at point-of-sale terminals.

“Going forward, the payment industry needs to focus on finding solutions to the growth of fraud both in stores and online, where current measures are inadequate for protecting consumers and merchants.”

Walmart said in a statement about just saying no to the signature:

“Removing this step at checkout will save time for our customers and decrease the expense associated with storing and presenting signatures back to the issuer, all while preserving security for customers.

“We anticipate this will result in savings that can be used to continue to lower prices for our customers.”

Is safety in jeopardy?

Industry insiders don’t think the rollout of no-signature policies will endanger cardholders’ data.

Philip Andreae, a consultant in the digital payments industry, questions whether the signature requirement for in-store card purchases really improves the security of transactions.

Why? Merchants typically don’t check a cardholder’s signature – either on a paper receipt or an electronic screen – against the signature on the back of a card, he says, and many cardholders fail to sign their cards anyway.

“If merchants were doing what they are supposed to do, then maybe it has added a level of security,” says Andreae, of Philip Andreae and Associates. “Otherwise, as it is today, there is no value.”

Gemalto’s Jania believes not requiring signatures will have no effect on card security, since existing chip technology and other high-tech tools for verification of a cardholder’s identity aren’t going away.

Laura Townsend, senior vice president of operations at the Merchant Advisory Group, agrees. In a statement, she praised the no-signature move and noted that “new and improved” digital authentication tools – such as face, voice and fingerprint recognition – will bolster the security of in-store transactions via credit or debit card.


Not a ‘radical’ idea

Mastercard describes dropping the signature as “another step in the digital evolution of payments and payment security.”

“At first glance, this might sound like a radical proclamation, especially to people who have had credit and debit cards for decades,” Linda Kirkpatrick, Mastercard’s executive vice president of U.S. market development, wrote in a blog post announcing elimination of its signature requirement.

“However, the change matches all of our expectations for fast and convenient shopping experiences.”

Mastercard says merchants such as retail stores and restaurants will be offered the option to ask for signatures, though.

Discover says the change is part of its efforts to continually improve the payment experience by speeding up the time spent at checkout all while maintaining a high level of security for both customers and merchants. Discover has already implemented a number of digital authentication technologies such as tokenization, multi-factor authentication, and biometrics that are more secure than requiring a signature and provide a more seamless payment transaction.

“As the payments industry continues to evolve and introduce new methods of transacting, we’re making sure that Discover is providing customers and merchants with a smooth and more secure payments experience,” Ghai says.

Kirkpatrick stresses that ensuring the security of credit and debit card transactions continues to be a top priority for Mastercard.

“What consumers will find reassuring is that removing the need to sign for purchases will not have any impact on safety,” she wrote. “Our secure network and state-of-the art systems combined with new digital payment methods that include chip, tokenization, biometrics and specialized digital platforms use newer and more secure methods to prove identity.”

Mastercard research shows most cardholders and merchants are ready for the signature requirement to die, particularly since that will accelerate the checkout process.

“While security remains paramount,” she writes, “we know that convenience is also a large part of what consumers want when they are shopping and paying. … The move will help merchants speed customers through checkout, provide more consistent experiences for every customer with every purchase and should decrease costs associated with safely storing signatures.”

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