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Small Talk with Bank of America Merchant Services
News you can use for small business success

January 2019 Edition

Small Talk with Bank of America Merchant Services brings you quarterly insights on the most important payments, eCommerce and security trends. As you face business challenges and opportunities, we’re here to help you navigate it all.

Tax prep checklist

Sales person inserting card into Clover Station

It’s almost time for the yearly document dive. If you’re a small business that files your federal income taxes annually, preparation is key. Here’s a quick tax preparation checklist to help you get you ready.

Calculate your income for the year
To understand your income for the year, total your receipts from sales or services. Be sure to account for any returns or allowances to keep your books balanced. Also, don’t forget to factor in any interest you may have earned on business checking and savings accounts, since this is considered income as well.

Determine your expenses
Put together your list of expenses for the year. Expenses may include advertising, health insurance, meals and entertainment, office supplies, professional fees, transportation and travel expenses, utilities, and wages paid to employees.

Know your cost of goods sold
If your business maintains inventory, run reports to get a detailed look at your operations. If you have a Clover® device, use the tools in your Clover dashboard to create these reports. You need to know how your inventory levels and value compare at the beginning of the year and the end.

Meet with a tax professional
Consult with a tax professional before preparing to file federal and state tax returns to help eliminate any confusion with the process. They can provide guidance on new tax laws and advise you on which items you may be able to deduct. They can also aid you if your business is audited and can help make the process go smoother.

Start preparing for next year
There are several platforms and applications you can use to help you keep track of your taxes throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to stay in contact with your tax professional. They can provide support throughout the year and can advise you on ways to make the tax process easier next year.
 

We do not provide legal, compliance, tax or accounting advice. Accordingly, any statements contained herein as to tax matters were neither written nor intended by us to be used and cannot be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding tax penalties that may be imposed on such taxpayer. If any person uses or refers to any such tax statement in promoting, marketing or recommending a partnership or other entity, investment plan or arrangement to any taxpayer, then the statement expressed herein is being delivered to support the promotion or marketing of the transaction or matter addressed and the recipient should seek advice based on its particular circumstances from an independent tax advisor.


To close or not to close on major holidays?

Hand holding checklist

Many small business owners struggle to balance personal life with running their business, and holidays are always a challenge. To help you make more informed decisions about keeping your business open or spending time with friends and family, we gathered holiday sales and closure data from 2017 and 2018 across retail, restaurant and grocery.  

When making your final decision about store hours and closures, be sure to consider all the unique factors affecting your business. This information is presented for educational purposes, and every business is different.

Easter

Retail
Stores saw minimal sales increases during Easter weekend, and 29% more stores were closed on Easter Sunday than previous weeks.

Restaurant
Like retail, restaurants experienced minimal sales increases, and 19% more were closed on Easter Sunday than previous weeks.

Grocery
Sales lifted 20% on Good Friday, with minimal increases the rest of the holiday weekend. Shoppers were able to maintain their regular shopping habits, since most stores remained open, with only a slight increase in closures on Easter Sunday.

Independence Day

Retail
Stores saw major sales spikes, with 35% and 40% increases on July 3 and July 4, respectively. However, there was a 46% rise in the number of businesses closed than weeks prior, so not everyone chose to capitalize on the increased sales activity on July 4.

Restaurant
Restaurants saw modest increases, with a 33% jump on July 3 and 26% on July 4. Many restaurants chose to close during this popular cook-out holiday, with a 39% spike in closures on Independence Day.

Grocery
Sales were highest during this holiday, with a 59% lift on July 3 and 43% on Independence Day. Closures on Independence Day remained low, with 17% more closed than prior weeks.

Thanksgiving and Black Friday

Retail
Retailers experienced some of their highest sales of the year during Thanksgiving weekend. On Thanksgiving Day there was a 39% increase in sales, and on Black Friday it rose to 43%. There was a 64% rise in closures on Thanksgiving Day, but minimal closures on Black Friday and Saturday.

Restaurant
Locations that remained open saw a 46% rise in sales on Thanksgiving Day, but 59% more were closed than prior weeks, which shows that some people prefer to eat out versus cooking at home.

Grocery
Sales didn’t change much over Thanksgiving weekend, and there was a 28% increase in the number of store closures on Thanksgiving Day.

Christmas

Retail
Last-minute holiday shoppers kept retail businesses busy with a 37% increase in sales on Christmas Eve. As expected, the highest percentage of closures happened during this holiday, with 31% more businesses closed on Christmas Eve than previous weeks and 76% on Christmas Day.

Restaurant
Restaurants that chose to stay open saw some of the highest sales of the year, with an 89% surge on Christmas Day. However, most were closed during the Christmas holiday. There was a 23% rise in closures on December 24 and 61% on Christmas Day.

Grocery
Sales spiked 33% on Christmas Eve as people prepared for the holiday. Christmas also appeared to be the main holiday that grocery stores closed, with a 42% increase in closures on Christmas Day.

If you decide to change your holiday schedule, take a look at your sales data to discover what kind of an impact your decision may have. You can use your point-of-sale device to create business reports based on your personalized metrics.

If you need help meeting your customer’s payment needs on any day of the year – holiday or not – Bank of America Merchant Services is ready to assist you. Give us a call at 800.430.7161.
 

4 strategies to attract and retain customers

Woman shopping for clothes

You hear about the rise of digital all the time. If you believe the news, smart phones and social media are taking over the world. All the hype aside, the fact remains that digital technology is the easiest way for you to reach new customers and retain the ones you already have.

How do you get started? Here are a few key strategies.

1. Maintain an up-to-date website.

Your business is one click away from a world of new customers – as long as you have a website. If you’re starting from scratch, focus on the basics:
  • Essential information – Include information like your hours of operation, contact and location information, what products or services you provide, as well as other general information about your business.
  • Clear site navigation – Help your visitors find what they need quickly and easily.
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – If you haven’t already, start learning about and implement SEO best practices, which help potential customers discover your website and your business.
Another important note: In October 2016, mobile internet use surpassed desktop internet use for the first time ever.1 That means you need to make sure your website is mobile-friendly for all those smart phone users out there.  

2. Use digital marketing to promote your business.

What do we mean by “digital marketing”? We primarily mean email and social media. But don’t forget that your website is at the center of it all.

Email
Email is one of the easiest ways to communicate with your clients. It all starts with creating an email list. When someone makes a purchase, ask them to sign up for emails. Once you have a good list going, start sending out emails about special sales and offerings, event invitations or links to your social media accounts.

Social Media
You can promote products or services and encourage followers to interact with your business through polls and by sharing posts to keep them engaged. Be sure to create a social media calendar so you are aware of what you are posting and when you need to post to keep your content fresh. Check out Bank of America Merchant Services’ Promotional Ideas Calendar or other sources for your industry for inspiration.

3. Loyalty through your Clover device

While not technically a digital strategy, loyalty programs encourage customers to visit and return to your business, and they’re often easier to manage using digital tools. At their core, loyalty programs offer rewards people want and create an easy path to getting those rewards. For instance, you could give clients a discount after a set amount of purchases.

Loyalty with Clover
If you have a Clover device, you may have access to the Clover Rewards app in the Clover App Market.2 This app helps you run your own digital loyalty program by connecting you with your clients, allowing you to customize your loyalty rewards, and helping you create stronger relationships with your customers.

Marketing your program
After you have decided on a loyalty program, be sure to promote it on your website, through email and on your social media pages. The more your customers are aware of the program, the more likely they are to use it. You can also use the information gathered from your loyalty program to create tailored promotions and communications. You’ll have customers knocking at the door.

4. Accept and use digital payments.

Customers are looking for experiences that simplify their lives, and payments are no different. Digital payments are simple and convenient and don’t require customers to keep track of cash. Whether it’s an NFC enabled card, an app on a mobile device or an online transaction using an eCommerce platform, digital payments often benefit businesses too.

Customers spend more
You might not have guessed, but nearly 66% of small- and medium-sized businesses reported that customers spend more when using card versus cash.3 Who doesn’t want higher ticket amounts?

Faster check out
Oftentimes, check out with non-digital payments takes longer than with digital forms of payment. Small- and medium-sized businesses surveyed estimated that it takes 542 hours to process $100,000 in non-digital payments compared to 189 hours to process $100,000 in digital payments.4

Fewer errors
By accepting and using digital payments, your employees will handle less cash, decreasing your exposure to human error.

Using these digital strategies could put you one step closer to attracting new and loyal customers. If you’re interested in learning more about these digital strategies, read Visa’s guide “Digital Transformation of SMBs: The Future of Commerce,” which Bank of America Merchant Services was proud to promote.

You’ve got questions. We’ve got answers.

Woman shopping for clothes

In each issue of Small Talk, we answer some frequently asked questions from small business owners like you. Read on. You may learn something new.

Q: What’s the easiest way to track and manage my customers’ purchase disputes?

A: Dispute Manager is an easy way for you, the merchant, to manage and respond to sales disputes (chargebacks and retrievals) using a secure web portal. The portal provides dispute data and allows you to exchange information and documentation to efficiently respond to disputes. Dispute Manager can help you reduce the amount of non-response chargebacks and enhance your financial controls. Plus, it offers you online help with preventative practices to reduce future disputes. 

Q: How do I enroll in Dispute Manager?

A: Dispute Manager is offered to all Bank of America Merchant Services clients at no charge. You can enroll in Dispute Manager by visiting www.myclientline.net or www.businesstrack.com and selecting “Enroll.”5 If you need help, please give us a call at 800.430.7161.

Promotional Ideas Calendar

Is your social media feeling a little stale? Download this handy promotional calendar for creative new promotional ideas!
 

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