Millions of eyes will be on the Super Bowl kickoff Sunday. And there may be a kickoff of a different sort that same day, where small businesses, wrestling with the pandemic's headwinds and challenges, may begin their digital payments journeys.
As announced this week, on Feb. 7, which of course is Super Bowl Sunday, Visa’s Authorize.net will partially waive its transactional fees and completely waive its monthly gateway account fees to reduce the costs for smaller businesses based in North America that want to accept digital payments. Visa has said those costs can approach $10,000 for smaller firms.
Michele Herron, senior vice president, strategy, marketing and SMB segment leader at Visa, told Karen Webster that the promotion would help companies move more fully online to meet their customers’ payment preferences and expectations. In its announcement, the company said that, in partnership with the NFL, the payment management platform would waive the gateway fee (which is charged monthly) for the life of these new accounts, and transactional fees will be waived for the first 100,000 transactions.
The promotion comes as the pandemic has altered the very way small businesses interact with their end customers. The payments network said that 82 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses have pivoted to meet the growing demand for digital transactions, chiefly by selling online (43 percent of firms) and accepting contactless payments (39 percent).
In addition, Visa said that it had, through its Visa Street Teams, visited more than 2,500 small businesses in Tampa, Florida, to distribute contactless point of sale tool kits as part of a commitment to get 50 million small businesses digitally-enabled across the globe.
As noted by Herron, the Sunday offer comes through a combination of several factors. She said the timing is opportune, as it’s still the beginning of the calendar year when companies set their budgets and strategy for the remainder of 2021. Companies that may have had stop-gap measures in place through the last several months are now focusing on the longer term, looking to create a better experience for their customers.
Waiting For Game Time
“The NFL is our largest sponsorship in North America,” she recounted to Webster, adding that “we show up, in a big way, every year for the Super Bowl.”
Of course, small firms are encountering a different landscape than had been seen when kickoff 2020 took place. Lockdowns still dot the landscape; fans are not in the stands; and bars and restaurants are operating with limited capacity — or are closed entirely, where delivery and takeout are the only options.
This year, Visa, said Herron, “sees [an] opportunity to really support small businesses on a day which would normally be a fantastic ‘mini peak’ season.” That includes companies that might have been hosting parties at a local venue or food caterers that would have traditionally seen revenues from local parties.
“One of the things that I think has been daunting,” said Herron, “is this idea that you could be a small business — you're going to get started, you know, have a beautiful website, photography inventory management.” Yet, the payments piece of the puzzle is missing. That can hamper firms’ efforts to make it through the pandemic and capture as much business as possible.
In a bid, then, to accelerate recovery in 2021, said Herron, new Authorize.net customers get the $25 monthly gateway fee waived, along with the per-transaction fees (up to the stated 100,000 transaction limit). Herron also noted that the company is leveraging its partnership network — including social media and former NFL players (who have gone on to start their own small businesses) — to help increase the promotion's visibility and help smaller firms realize the general value of accepting digital payments.
In terms of the value inherent in signing up on Authorize.Net, said Herron, Visa is also focused on building out a set of invoicing solutions. She said that after sign-up, a merchant could be accepting and processing payments in less than a half-hour.
“Literally, all they're doing is getting into our interface and typing the details of an invoice to their customer. So when we're seeing a lot of creative uses for that application, and so it's really the focus on very simple ‘get started’ solutions all the way through the journey to more sophisticated solutions,” said Herron.
A significant number of firms that Herron said have been significantly impacted by the pandemic have been making the digital leap — including in the travel industry. B2B firms, she added, are also looking to reduce reliance on paper checks and invoices.
“We were seeing a lot of people build businesses from the ground up, whether they're making masks or coaching or offering meal delivery … they’ve created brand new careers and businesses out of COVID.”
Looking ahead, Herron said she remained “optimistic” that small business resiliency will help these firms bounce back on the other side of the pandemic — especially now that vaccines are here.
And as she noted to Webster, getting online will remain critical for smaller firms. “The digital shift is not a temporary thing that people are going to undo and unravel when the physical world reopens the way it was,” she said.