The Christmas trading period represents the biggest sales opportunity for around a third of Irish SMEs, but Visa warns that small businesses risk losing out on sales as shoppers move online.

Online shopping is likely to represent a higher percentage of sales compared to previous years, with 40% of Irish cardholders who didn't shop online before the pandemic now doing so, according to Visa.

Philip Konopik, Ireland Country Manager at Visa, said that while creating an online offering has never been easier, small businesses also need to consider the regulatory requirements they need to trade successfully online and in-store. 

"Businesses have the power to decide how smooth the checkout experience is for their customers and ensure that legitimate payments can be approved.

By offering them the tools and resources needed, we can empower them to maximise sales and rebuild for long-term recovery," he said.

Despite the increased appeal of online shopping, thousands of Irish SMEs also risk being unable to trade online successfully due to not having security technologies in place that meet the requirements of Strong Customer Authentication – part of the EU Payment Service Directive.

It will be enforced in Ireland from December 31, 2020, and it requires banks to check payments are being made by the correct cardholder -and not a fraudster- by asking them for two methods of identification such as a fingerprint or four-digit one-time passcode. 

Businesses that are not prepared for the regulation may find that banks will decline customer payments.

By adding these features, SMEs can help make payments more secure and ensure their customers can still make online purchases quickly and easily. 

Visa recently launched its Digital Business Kit which provides end-to-end guidance on setting up and growing a digital presence, in addition to helpful tips and guides to preparing for SCA.

These resources explain SCA and what small businesses can do to make paying and being paid easier and more secure.

It also contains materials to help small businesses make their customers aware of upcoming changes on their websites.

SMEs should contact their payment service provider now to benefit from the upcoming improvements and continue to accept online Visa payments quickly and easily.