Farmers markets used to be just about the produce. Now, thanks to mobile growth in smartphones and mobile payment services, new types of merchants can move into the stalls. As farmers markets and craft fairs explode across the U.S., these services are helping small and local businesses compete.
Sisters Abigail Mason and Kelly Maurer sell little-girl princess dresses at farmers markets across southern California. Their problem: Most people come to farmers markets expecting to buy fruits and vegetables not an expensive hand-designed princess outfit." Mobile payments have been their solution. The ability to accept credit cards without needing a phone line has "dramatically affected our business," Mason says, with sales increasing approximately 25 percent.
For Marett Haskins, who sells her Auspicious Miss handmade bags and accessories at craft and community fairs in the Southeast, "there would be no business without mobile payments," she says. Most of her sales come from in-person sales. She augments those with a website and an Etsy shop.
For businesses like Mason and Maurer's A Day at the Ball, Auspicious Miss and other artisans, farmers and small retailers who sell their wares outside a traditional retail venue, the rise in mobile payment options represents a huge increase in market potential. And for residents who frequent local craft fairs, art events or farmers markets, it's easier than ever before to make a purchase on a whim.
During the past few years, "mobile payments have blown the doors off traditional card acceptance methods that use expensive, bulky and dedicated point-of-sale solutions," says Nish Modi, vice president of product at SecureNet, a mobile payment solution provider. For vendors, many such solutions offer simple signup processes and no-contract fees, along with the ability to convert a mobile phone into a point-of-sale device.In addition to SecureNet, some of the popular mobile payment providers include Isis, Paypal and Square. Some of the solutions allow business owners to integrate their mobile payment apps with inventory management and real-time business analytics, so that they can easily stay on top of their business inventory and needs, as well as cash flow and profit margins.
"We live in a cashless society," Modi says. "For awhile, farmers markets and special events were solely for regular customers. Merchants were losing out on sales because those customers didn't have enough cash to make purchases, and vendors that accepted checks were taking a huge risk. Mobile payment solutions changed all that."
Today, customers can visit fairs, art events or farmers markets on a whim, and in many cases, will be able to purchase whatever items strike their interest. Not only does the growth in mobile payments attract new customers, but it also allows "spur of the moment" buying decisions by regulars, Modi says.
Vendors say that giving shoppers the freedom to use their credit cards, no matter where they are, allows them to better serve customers and boosts their sales. "We have a ton of people say, 'we don't have cash,'" says A Day at the Ball's Mason. "When we tell them that we accept credit cards, they are pleasantly surprised."As mobile payment solutions become more readily available, growing numbers of shoppers have come to expect the convenience of paying by credit card, wherever they are. Haskins says she has noticed vendors losing out on sales because they didn't offer the ability to pay with plastic. "In the past, mobile businesses and portable vendors weren't really expected to have the extra convenience of accepting credit card payments, but they're expected to now," Haskins says.