Selling merch on the road – whether your band has CDs and shirts or you run your own enterprising business in geeky goods as our contributor Liz McLean Knight does – is a big challenge. Buying a full-blown credit card terminal is expensive. That’s why I’m absolutely with Hypebot’s Virgil Dickerson: running credit card numbers on an iPhone is a game changer.
The application in question is called Innerfence, and Apple gets it, too, as they’ve added it to a new TV ad. The app is US$49.99, pricey for an iPhone app but a whole lot less money – and a whole lot more convenient – than a big, clunky conventional terminal. Right now, you also get a $50 gift certificate to iTunes, so you can catch up on LOST and buy the new Depeche Mode and feel like the whole thing is free. The back end is powered by Authorize.net, one of the major vendors of online credit card processing. Unlike Authorize.net’s tangled website, though, this is a beautiful, polished app that works the way you want. Ironically, it puts to shame the terminals Apple employees themselves use at the Apple Store. (In fact, it sounds as though Apple will indeed — unsurprisingly — replace those Windows Mobile-powered devices with iPhones, says AppleInsider.)
There’s no physical scanner, but for casual sales that’s probably okay.
You’ll need to pay US$25 in fees monthly, though, so this is probably something you’d choose if you’re also interested in running Authorize.net on your website for CC sales. The transaction fees aren’t that bad, and you get some hard-core fraud protection features, Apple Keychain support, and all the Authorize.net features – email receipts, QuickBooks accounting integration, and the like.
Cool, but this immediately makes me wonder why we aren’t seeing more of this sort of thing. I’m a fan of apps, so to me the app here looks a whole lot friendlier than a web page. But that said, theoretically if you don’t have an iPhone or use someone other than Authorize.net, surely there’s a way to access some of the Web virtual terminals via our mobile device’s increasingly-powerful web browsers, right?
One key advantage to having an app may be that your fans would be a little less nervous watching you key in their Credit Card number, but maybe there’s a way.
PayPal and Google Checkout, I’d love to see some apps that run with this idea, too. (Google, it seems your own Android OS would be a primary target, eh? I’m hoping all those Google employees who now own G1s are starting to think about their stuff running on the phone.) The advantage of PayPal in particular – which a smart on-the-road merch seller could offer alongside a real terminal like this – is that hipster eBay addicts may already have some cash in those accounts ready to spend.
I also imagine we’ll soon see more netbooks with data plans, which will open up another way to do this. (Radio Shack has a deal with Acer and AT&T that makes the netbook cost almost nothing.) So, perhaps the follow up for this story ought to be a) how do you make some good merch and b) how do these credit card payment plans compare.
I know there are times where I wanted to buy a CD but didn’t have cash handy, so I might use this as a customer.
… Artists House Music, a great blog/Twitter feed to follow for more on making business work for music.