Podium, a communication and payments platform that processes payments for local businesses via text and Facebook Messenger, today launched Podium card readers, a point-of-sale (POS) device designed to collect and manage payments.
The new Podium card readers drive repeat business and enable frictionless payments via text and in-store payment channels, allowing local businesses to connect payments to the entire customer journey in one place. The readers also let local businesses continue to interact with customers after they leave the store, driving ongoing loyalty and engagement programs.
The company is targeting the 'conversational commerce' landscape that sits in between brick and mortar and e-commerce payment channels, Podium Vice President Chase Petrey told Payments Dive. Businesses can request payments via text messages while engaging a customer in a text conversation.
Podium, a Lehi, Utah-based company, aims to expand users' methods to accept payments from text, swipe, insert, or tap-to-pay.
Podium's payment channels are built on the concept of conversational commerce to reduce friction in payments. Small businesses can interact with customers via text messaging and, when it's time for payment, can send customers a link to their payment portal.
"Conversational commerce flow is where you're messaging back and forth with the business and when it's time for payment, the business sends you a payment request, just do the one-click payment, and you're off and running, effectively removing the need to take phone payments," Petrey said.
Consumers usually prefer texting people rather than calling, and Podium's text-to-pay is "trying to bring merchants up to speed with consumer preferences around communication," Petrey said.
"We aim to move away from transactional to conversational payments to drive customer payments and retention," Petrey said.
Podium currently serves nearly 90,000 local businesses in the U.S., Canada, and Australia. The company saw its customer base double over the last year as consumers and businesses alike pivoted their payment channels to those that are contactless and convenient, Petrey said.
"Local merchants, that don't usually have a storefront, like plumbers and handymen, can download our Podium app and bill customers over text messages," Petrey said. "This will not only reduce payment friction but will also help to continue the conversation between the merchant and the customer once the transaction is completed."
The payment company can also initiate ACH payments through texts. Typically, ACH payments were used as a B2B payment channel, but the speed and low transactional fee make it a preferred payment channel for local businesses that have high transactional amounts, Petrey said. Podium uses Plaid's platform to authenticate a bank account and process ACH payments.
The new hardware POS is for brick-and-mortar stores that drive their business through in-store purchases. The wireless POS model allows businesses to provide consumers with a concierge payment channel where they can walk around with the POS in the store and process a payment from anywhere rather than a check-out line. For home-services businesses, Podium launched a mobile card reader that connects via Bluetooth to Podium's mobile app for card-present payments.
"We're enabling the ability to transact super large dollar amounts for very cheap, and where it's being really used heavily as an automotive to pay for cars and in-home services to pay for large ticket items like a roofing, for example," Petrey said. "We will send you a link through text, and you can just pay the merchant through your bank right now."
Podium processed nearly $300 million on its payment platform since last March and believes the new offering will be essential for small businesses who are looking to streamline their payment channels.
The company has raised $281 million through six funding rounds.