Small businesses can be hard to reach with new payments technology, so the Small Business Payments Co. (SBPC) is incrementally adding functions in an attempt to ease automation.

Its next play is a prepaid-driven consumer incentive program that's slated for release in October. The program will also be linked to SBPC's Small Business WorkBench, a platform that has been gradually been updated with new merchant services since its release last year.

"Our job is to build bite-sized apps, or apps that are easy for small businesses to implement," said David Kurrasch, the vice president and general manager of the SBPC, the U.S. subsidiary of Acxsys, a Canadian company that offers debit cards and is the architect of Interac, Canada's national debit scheme.

Once released, SBPC's Prepaid App will enable merchants to provide a stored-value service that handles payments and incentives. The app, which costs $10 a month, does not require integration with a point of sale system; funds are transferred from a prepaid account to a sale account.

The app enables stores to send prepaid gift cards over email. The email includes a link to the app, which provides account access and payment capabilities, said Kurrasch. Purchases show up in SBPC's system, which also executes the transfer. Merchants can also offer cash-back rewards to regular customers to encourage repeat business.

The app is designed to be a competitive counter to similar apps offered by larger retailers such as Starbucks, though aimed at smaller businesses with fewer staff and less tech acumen.

Coffee shops, quick-service restaurants and convenience stores will use the app, Kurrasch predicts, though he also hopes to place the product in more nontraditional venues such as small dental practices.

"A patient may have some dental work that needs to be done. This can be a way for the dentist to get people to come in—by offering credit against some future dental work as part of a gift card," he said.

The new app will be primarily sold through financial institutions, ISOs or other merchant-service providers.

The Small Business WorkBench is a hosted software-as-a-service product that aggregates and integrates data from multiple sources to enable businesses to forecast projected cash positions. The hosted model is designed to reduce costs and programming for the user. Other payment apps on the workbench include a product that allows businesses to pay invoices with a credit card or e-check. Users generally deploy the WorkBench and related services on a white-label basis.

"No longer do things like customer engagement solutions and business analytics translate into a multi-thousand dollar investment," said Jordan McKee, a senior analyst at 451 Research. "SaaS solutions are now readily available, directly as a result of mobility, for small businesses to bolster their marketing acumen."

Small businesses are a popular target market for payment companies. Mobile point of sale players like Square, Leaf and PayPal are all active with a mix of payments, merchant services and, increasingly, lines of credit.

"In many respects, mobile has been the great equalizer for small businesses by democratizing access to marketing tools previously attainable only by large organizations," McKee said.

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