We are all breathing a sigh of relief now that Americans are receiving Covid-19 vaccinations and cases seem to be declining (at least for now). But we’re not out of the woods yet. With new variations of the disease circulating and herd immunity months away,  the next phase of living with Covid will be with us for some time. And life in a post-Covid environment might not be much different.

According to recent articles in the ongoing column, “The Next Normal” on the CNBC website,¹ we are living in the future right now.  Work-from-home is here to stay. It’s likely that until 2022, mask-wearing and social distancing will continue to be part of our protocol to remain safe. Anything merchants can do to streamline customers’ purchases and  make their retail experience safer, faster, and easier will become the “Next Normal.”

As a brick-and-mortar cigar and tobacco retailer, you may be thinking about what steps you can take to position your business for the “Next Normal”. To accomplish this, you’ll need to find ways to enhance your customer experience, solidify your customer base, attract new customers, introduce new products, and create opportunities to upsell while allowing your customers to continue their activities from home.

All of the above can be accomplished by adding the ability to shop and pay online, with either curbside pick-up or delivery. Perhaps you’ve added a shopping cart to your website to allow customers to pre-pay with credit cards. If you have, you might have encountered an unexpected and unpleasant surprise; your merchant processor account might have been suddenly terminated without explanation. Credit card companies do not consider you a high-risk merchant if you accept credit cards in your brick-and-mortar store. However, if those same customers purchase from you online, you suddenly become a high-risk business. The reasoning is that because you can’t validate the cardholder, as in a person-to-person transaction, there is a much greater risk of fraud and chargebacks. Also, to maintain compliance, you or your processor are required to register your tobacco or cigar business with both Visa and MasterCard if you are selling products online.

As an independent neighborhood establishment, you may have become discouraged and stopped selling online. Or you may be taking credit cards at curbside pick-up, not using online sales at all. Penalizing you for online sales, especially to local clientele, doesn’t seem fair. With a suitable merchant card processor, you could sell your products online to customers worldwide as well as locally, upsell new products, and expand your online sales to keep pace with customers’ preference to shop from home.

The dawn of a new era in cigar and tobacco credit card processing has arrived, one that keeps pace with the “Next Normal”. A select number of merchant processors are willing to take on online cigar and tobacco retailers considered high-risk. But they are not all the same. Finding the correct merchant processor for you can be easier if you choose to rely on tobacco industry institutions, such as The Premium Cigar Association(PCA), the leading authority and advocate for the premium cigar and pipe retailer industry. As an option to help its members, the PCA has partnered with Premium Tobacco Payment Processing(PTP), a specialist in cigar and tobacco retailers’ processing needs. PTP is powered by Nuvo Merchant Services, a processing leader with a 35-year history of helping more than 5,000 merchants in various industries. Backed by Nuvo,  PTP can absorb a higher degree of risk. PTP’s goal is to offer PCA members the lowest processing rates for the industry, with rates and fees guaranteed never to increase. And they never require a contract or charge a cancellation fee. Your customers will be able to pay with credit, debit, or by check, both online and retail, via a reliable, secure payment processing solution.

If you are ready to expand to online sales, change processors, or would like a free audit of your existing processor, call Premium Tobacco Payment Processing at (321) 972-9838.

Source: ¹ CNBC – The Next Normal