Chase Jones – The BigCommerce Blog Ecommerce Blog delivering news, strategy and success stories to power 2x growth for scaling brands. Wed, 21 Mar 2018 21:02:11 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Chase Jones – The BigCommerce Blog 32 32 How To Accept Credit Card Payments Online in 2018: What Are Your Best Options? Fri, 21 Oct 2016 21:45:10 +0000 Figuring out the best ways to accept credit cards online and choosing the right payment processor can be overwhelming at…]]>


Figuring out the best ways to accept credit cards online and choosing the right payment processor can be overwhelming at the beginning. It is the lifeblood of your ecommerce operation.

If you can not properly take payments online, you have no business.

Before we dive into your payment options and how to get started, did you know:

5%average revenue loss

The average business loses a 5% of revenue to fraud every year. Resolving fraud costs more than $114,000.

Beyond fees, fraud and conversion, your brand’s ability to expand internationally can be squandered by your credit card processing choice. Do international buyers trust your chosen solution? Does that solution work cross-borders?

Throw in each provider’s fees, contracts and fine print, and you have a wildly complex decision in front of you. You need to consider a myriad of factors, and how they affect your business. There is no right or wrong answer — only what works best for your unique set of circumstances.

Take the time to do some comparison shopping before choosing a solution to accept debit and credit card payments. This guide will walk you through the process, giving you all the information you need to find the right match for your business, including:

  • How exactly your brand gets paid and how to get started
  • How MasterCard, American Express and Discover handle fees –– and how much you can expect to pay
  • The two types of fraud activity, and how a payment processor can help prevent the issue
  • How to handle disputes, and why lowering your risk of fraud reduces your chances of chargebacks
  • How consumer financing can increase conversion –– and which payment gateways offer it
  • Tips to expanding and selling internationally and selecting a payment provider that is globally recognized

Before we begin, know that there are three types of payment processors: merchant account + payment gateway, all-in-one solutions and simplified credit card processors. Here’s a quick overview of each.

Merchant Account + Payment Gateway

The traditional method for accepting payments online has been a combination of a merchant account and a payment gateway. Providers like SecureNet (USA), Authorize.Net (USA) and eWay (Australia and UK) fall into this category.

A merchant account is a special kind of business bank account that lets you accept credit card payments.

An online payment gateway connects your store and your merchant service account, and facilitates the processing of the payment transaction between the various parties involved, including your bank and the card issuer’s bank. Think of it as the digital version of a POS card swipe machine used in brick-and-mortar stores.

There are fees associated with both the merchant account and payment gateway, but there are a lot of options out there, and some have more competitive transaction fees or don’t charge setup fees.

Payment gateways can also offer greater control over security rules and customization; they may be a better fit for large businesses needing a more tailored solution.

One thing to note about using a merchant account/payment gateway combo is that you’ll need to apply for both, usually filling out forms and providing some financial information. Processing your applications can take a few days, so you won’t be able to jump right into accepting payments. After both have been approved, you’ll need to connect your account to the gateway and then your gateway to your store. Usually this involves configuring your store with API keys, shared secrets and tokens.

The benefits to using a payment gateway are that you usually have more handholding and personalized customer service along the way because the providers are large companies with big support organizations. Often you’ll be able to get a person on the phone to answer your questions.

Payment gateways can also offer greater control over security rules and customization; they may be a better fit for large businesses needing a more tailored solution.

All-in-One Solutions

These services, including PayPal and 2Checkout, combine an account and gateway into one solution, which can make setup quicker and easier.

They allow you to take all major credit cards and usually have favorable transaction rates. Plus most don’t charge monthly or setup fees for basic accounts, although you do have to pay a monthly fee for certain added features on some services.

Services like PayPal make setup quicker and easier. They also allow you to take all major credit cards and usually have favorable transaction rates.

In the past, one potential downside was that they didn’t always offer a seamless checkout experience. Depending on how your solution was set up, your customers may have been redirected off your site to pay for an order. This is no longer true. With PayPal powered by Braintree and One-Touch technology, you, the business owner, get to decide what your customer’s checkout experience is like.

And this is important, because PayPal is incredibly popular. It has more than 100 million users and powers 60% of online transactions. We recommend combining PayPal with another service — that way shoppers who prefer it can choose it, and those who don’t can have another option.

Credit Card Payment Processing, Simplified

Services like Stripe have removed much of the complexity out of taking payments online.

From a merchant’s perspective, these are very similar to the all-in-one solutions, but they usually integrate seamlessly with your store’s checkout, meaning the shopper never leaves your site. And they can be much quicker to set up — you can start taking various payment methods in a matter of minutes.

With these simplified payment processors, there’s no need for a merchant service account or payment gateway, and that translates to fewer fees.

With these simplified payment processors, there’s no need for a merchant account or payment gateway, and that translates to fewer fees. Rates are competitive with the all-in-one solutions, and most of these new processors also don’t charge setup or monthly fees. The experience is straightforward: the customer credit card is entered, and the payment processed — simple as that.

One thing to consider before choosing a simplified processor is that you usually don’t get quite the same level of traditional support. They tend to be very easy to use, so you may not need it. But if you do run into a problem with your credit card processing company, most support is done as self service via articles or through email — many of these providers don’t even staff a call center.

10 Questions All Businesses Should Ask a Payment Provider

For those looking for a top-level view of the issue, and a speedier read, here are the most important questions to ask a potential payments processing provider before you choose to use their services.

1. Are there different rates or fees associated with different types of cards?

Some services charge different fees to process different types of card transactions –– e.g. personal, business, debit and rewards cards –– as well as for different transaction amounts. Make sure you know exactly what you’ll be paying to process each type of transaction.

2. Do you charge “billbacks,” or are all charges related to a transaction billed in the same month?

It’s not unusual for a payment processor to entice you by quoting low rates. But sometimes that low rate only applies to certain types of cards (see question one). You may only find out after the fact that many of your transactions during the month didn’t qualify for that low rate.

For example, in January, you think you’re getting a 1.7% rate on your credit card transactions, but you processed several rewards cards. Even though you processed the transactions in January, come February, your processor charges you back, or bills you back, a higher rate. Now you have two different statements with two different rates for the same transaction, which makes it much harder to figure out the actual rate you’re paying.

3. What rates or fees do you charge when I swipe credit cards, enter them manually (key-enter) or accept them online?

To compensate for the risk of fraud, processors charge different rates depending on how you process a payment. Because there is less fraud associated with  cards that are physically swiped in a terminal (after all, you check IDs, right?), there is usually a lower rate. If someone calls you to buy something and gives you their number over the phone, the chance of foul play goes up a bit, as does the processing fee.

Online purchases have the highest incidence of fraud, so payment processors cover their risk by charging a higher rate. Make sure you know what those rates are and then figure out how much of each type of processing you’ll do to get a rough blended rate.

4. Do you charge a separate fee for your gateway?

It’s pretty common for processors to charge a separate fee for their payment gateway, usually on a per-transaction basis. So in addition to the standard transaction fee –– say 2.9% + $0.30 –– you’ll pay a gateway fee for each transaction.

5. When I refund a transaction, do I get back any of the initial fees?

Most credit card processors keep all of the fees for return transactions, and will most likely even charge an additional fee to process the refund. That means you can lose money every time a customer returns something. Be sure you are clear on how this process works, as it should inform your return policy. Many merchants sidestep this cost by issuing store credit for a returned item, rather than a refund.

6. What are the contract terms and are there early termination fees?

Most credit card processors impose a contract term for a specific amount of time, often one or two years. Many times, early termination or cancellation fees are part of the agreement. That’ll make it difficult for you to switch processors if you’re unhappy with how your account is handled.

7. What fees do you charge each month?

This question is deceptively simple since some processors might provide you with a seemingly small upfront monthly fee. But be sure to dig deeper — some additional fees might be hidden in the fine print. These can include fees for batch processing or fund transfers from a merchant account to your bank account, as well as statement fees. Processors might “waive” some of these fees to get your business, but could add them back in after a promotional period.

8. Is there a monthly minimum processing requirement or fee?

Some processors charge a monthly minimum fee, which you’ll pay if your monthly transaction volume falls below a certain amount. This can be a significant financial pain for early-stage businesses with few monthly credit card transactions.

9. Is there a limit on how much I can process?

Many processors limit the amount you can process based on your initial approval with them. Obviously, this can be frustrating if your business grows quickly or has a busy season — not to mention the negative impact that turning down orders will have on your business.

10. What type of support is offered?

When your payments hit a snag, will the processor be there to support you until you’re back up and running? Further, an automated phone system isn’t the same as speaking to a live person, so make sure to ask if they have live customer support. Low rate processing fees don’t mean much if you can’t reach someone to help when you need it most.

BigCommerce Payment Processing Partners

BigCommerce offers multiple payment gateways so you can choose which is right for your business. Learn more about the most commonly used:

From who is involved in every transaction to how payments are processed to fees and policies, discover everything you need to know to get started taking payments online.

]]> 83 Payment Gateways 101: What to Know Before Choosing a Payment Provider Fri, 21 Oct 2016 12:14:27 +0000 Choosing the right payment processor for your business is one of the most important decisions you make when setting up…]]>

Choosing the right payment processor for your business is one of the most important decisions you make when setting up your ecommerce website. And once you’re up and running, ensuring you have the right payment gateway to suit your business only grows in importance.

To make an informed decision, you’ll need to get caught up on the three Ps of payment processing: players, procedures and pricing.

Who’s Involved in an Online Payment Transaction?

There are three main players when it comes to processing credit and debit card transactions, whether you sell online or in person. On one end is you, the business owner. On the other end is your customer. In between are various technology solutions that connect the two of you.

  • You, the merchant: To accept credit card payments, you need to partner with a merchant bank (sometimes called an acquirer) who accepts payments on your behalf and deposits them into a merchant account (not the same as a payment gateway) that they provide .
  • Your customer: For your customer to buy and pay for their order, he or she needs a credit or debit card. The bank that approves your customer for the card (and lends him or her the cash to pay you) is called the issuing bank.
  • The technology: In the middle are two technologies that enable you and your customer to transact.
    • The first is a payment gateway, software that links your site’s shopping cart to the card processing network.
    • The second is the payment processor (or merchant service), which does all the heavy lifting: moving the transaction through the processing network, sending you a billing statement, working with your bank, etc. Often, your merchant bank is also your payment processor, which helps simplify things.

How Payment Transactions Are Processed

As a business owner, it’s helpful to understand exactly how money moves from your customer to you.

There are two stages to payment processing: the authorization (approving the sale) and the settlement (getting the money into your account).

Here’s how this transaction occurs:

  1. Your customer buys an item on your site with a credit or debit card.
  2. That information goes through the payment gateway, which encrypts the data to keep it private before sending it to the payment processor.
  3. The payment processor sends a request to the customer’s issuing bank asking for the money to pay for your stuff.
  4. The issuer responds with a yes (approval) or a no (denial).
  5. If approved, the payment processor tells you the transaction is accepted, and also tells your merchant bank to credit your account.

This back-and-forth process all takes place within 1–2 seconds.

The second part of the process (where you get paid!) is the settlement:

  1. The card issuer sends the funds to your merchant bank, which deposits the money into your account.
  2. The funds are available. Sometimes, your bank lets you access your money before it’s even sent to them. They also might keep a portion in your account that you can’t touch, just in case there are things returned from customers later (that’s called a reserve, in payments speak).

This half of the process can take a few days.

Payment Processing Fees & Policies

Now that you understand exactly how you get your money from customers via payment processing platforms, let’s address the cost issue.

It’s no surprise that everyone who touches the transaction wants to get paid, including the issuing bank, the credit card associations (Visa, MasterCard, etc.), the merchant bank and the payment provider.

At its most basic, every time you process a transaction, you pay several fees:

  • Interchange: The issuer gets paid a pre-negotiated percentage of each sale. This fee varies depending on many factors, such as industry, sale amount and type of card used. At last check, there were almost 300 different interchange fees.*
  • Assessment: The credit card association (Visa, MasterCard, etc.) also charges a pre-negotiated percentage fee, called an assessment.
  • Markup: Your merchant bank takes a percentage cut by charging you a markup fee, the amount of which also varies by industry, the amount of the sale and your monthly processing volume.
  • Processing: The payment processor (who might also be your merchant bank) makes money by charging a fixed-rate fee every time you process a transaction — no matter whether it’s a sale, a decline or return. Plus, it can charge fees for setup, monthly usage and even account cancellation.

The above fees are often bundled together, so you can have a tough time figuring out who’s getting what amount of your money.

Beyond the individual fees themselves, there are three different ways processors can structure them as part of an overall pricing plan:

  1. Flat-rate pricing: You pay a fixed percent for all transaction volume, no matter what the actual costs are. All of the above fees are baked into this single rate. For example, you are charged a bundled rate of 2.9% of the transaction amount + $0.30 per transaction. On a $100 sale, the fee you pay works out to be $3.20.
  2. Interchange plus pricing: Your merchant service charges you a fixed fee on top of the interchange — for example, 2% + $0.10 on top of a 1.8% interchange fee. On a $100 sale, that works out to be a $3.90 fee. Remember, too, that there are 300 or so different interchange fees, so the 1.8% can vary wildly.
  3. Tiered pricing: The processor takes the 300 or so different interchange rates and lumps them into three buckets, or pricing tiers: qualified, mid-qualified and nonqualified. This makes it simpler for you (and them) to understand. However, since the processor defines the buckets however it wants, it can be expensive. As an example, the fees you pay on a $100 sale could range from $2.50 to $3.50, depending on how it has been classified.

*For more details on credit card interchange fees, read up on how Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover handle them.

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How to Protect Your Ecommerce Store from Payment Fraud Fri, 21 Oct 2016 11:06:07 +0000 According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, almost 50% of small businesses fall victim to fraud at some point…]]>

ecommerce fraud protection

According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, almost 50% of small businesses fall victim to fraud at some point in their business lifecycle, costing them an average of $114,000 per occurrence.

Aside from phishing and hacking, if you accept a fraudulent payment, you could be held financially responsible for the loss. Having to deal with a fraudulent transaction — the chargeback process, and the potential hit to your company’s reputation — is unpleasant, to say the least.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to help minimize your risk and protect yourself and your customers from digital attacks.

Below are some best practices for online businesses who want to be proactive about ecommerce fraud prevention — aka keeping your ecommerce store safe from hackers.

Two Types of Online Store Fraud

Before we talk about what you can do to minimize your risk and protect your ecommerce store from fraud, it’s helpful to understand common tactics that scammers use.

There are many types of online fraud, but they can be broadly categorized in the following two buckets:

  • Account takeover: Most ecommerce stores provide customers with accounts that store personal information, financial data and purchase history. Perpetrators often hack into these accounts through phishing schemes. In one of the most common tactics, fraudsters send emails to trick customers into revealing usernames and passwords. They then log into your customers’ accounts, change the passwords and make unauthorized purchases.
  • Identity theft: Although most businesses take many precautions to secure customer data, fraudsters still manage to hack into databases and steal usernames, passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information.

Hackers often sell credit card numbers to other scammers, who then open accounts with ecommerce merchants and use the stolen numbers to pay for purchases.

DDOS and Automated Fraud Detection

BigCommerce is a secure hosted ecommerce platform with hacker deterrent security provisioning, three redundant network architectures and hardware firewalls to protect online stores from cybercrime. For additional security, Sift Science –– the security company behind Airbnb, Uber and Wayfair –– is available for customers to install.

This type of ecommerce fraud is difficult to detect because many people don’t check their credit card statements thoroughly — and because victims typically have no idea that someone opened an online account in their names.

PCI Compliance and Your Ecommerce Store

To help businesses protect themselves and their customers from online fraud, the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) — a forum of global brands including Visa, MasterCard and American Express — has developed a set of best practices to safeguard consumer data.

Complying with these standards, i.e. PCI compliance, is not optional for online retailers and is strictly enforced.

While many of the following recommendations fall within the PCI standards, visit the PCI Security Standards website for full requirements.

Also, know that your payment processor can help you with — or completely handle — PCI compliance. Many payment processors, including PayPal and BigCommerce, build PCI compliance into the solutions they offer businesses of all sizes.

Recommended Posts

The Complete Guide to PCI Compliance

Managing Your Risk

Although the potential for fraud is high for online transactions, you don’t have to concede and accept it as a business cost.

By putting the right tools and processes in place, you can reduce your chances of an attack (especially when accepting bitcoin payments), keep both your business and your customers safe, and reduce your chances of losing revenue and drowning in chargeback fees.

Below are a few recommendations from the PayPal Security Center.

Monitor Transactions and Reconcile Bank Accounts Daily

Nobody knows your business as well as you do. You know your biggest spenders and their buying patterns. Monitor your accounts and transactions for red flags such as inconsistent billing and shipping information, as well as the physical location of your customers. Use tools that track customer IP addresses and alert you to any addresses from countries known as a base for fraudsters.

Also, check to see if your customers are using free or anonymous email addresses (such as Gmail or Yahoo), as there’s a much higher incidence of fraud coming from free email service providers than from paid. For more information, check out the FBI’s Common Fraud Schemes.

Consider Setting Limits

Based on your order and revenue trends, set limits for the number of purchases and total dollar value you’ll accept from one account in a single day. This can help keep your exposure to a minimum should fraud occur.

Use the Address Verification System (AVS)

Address Verification Systems compare the numeric parts of the billing address stored on a credit card to the address on file at the credit card company. AVS is a fraud tool included in most payment processing solutions but check with your payment processor to be sure it’s supported.

Require the Card Verification Value (CVV)

You’re most likely familiar with this three- or four-digit security code printed on the backside of credit cards. What you might not know is that PCI rules prevent you from storing the CVV along with the credit card number and card owner’s name. That’s why the CVV is so effective. It is virtually impossible for ecommerce fraudsters to get it unless they’ve stolen the physical credit card. Most processors include a tool to require CVV as part of their checkout templates. Use it.

Get Tougher with Password Requirements

Align with PayPal — The Safer Way to Sell

PayPal thinks shopping should be fun — and fraud-free. Learn more about how PayPal helps keep consumers and businesses safe.

Hackers employ sophisticated programs that can run through all the permutations of a password. It won’t take them long to crack a simple, four-character password (such as “abcd”). Best practices these days call for at least an eight-character, alphanumeric password that requires at least one capitalization and one special character (for example, “P0r$che9!!”). Your customers might grumble, but it’s better safe than hacked.

Let your customers know exactly why you require better passwords, and it’s likely you’ll gain some loyalty points for being upfront and customer-focused. A little extra messaging can go a long way toward building customer lifetime value.

Keep Platforms and Software Up to Date

Make sure you’re running the latest version of your operating system, as providers continually update their software with security patches to prevent fraud and protect you from newly discovered vulnerabilities, as well as the latest viruses and malware.

Likewise, install and regularly update business-grade anti-malware and anti-spyware software to prevent attacks that exploit outdated software vulnerabilities. Free, limited-feature and consumer-strength antivirus software are not sufficient.

Note: If your site is hosted on a managed solution, such as BigCommerce, automatic security patches help ensure that any vulnerabilities are quickly resolved.

Now that you’re educated on credit card fraud and ecommerce fraud prevention, it’s time to dig into chargebacks.

Photo: Flickr, Yuri Samoilov

]]> 1 International Ecommerce: 3 Steps to Global Expansion Fri, 21 Oct 2016 09:00:49 +0000 Cross-border ecommerce is rapidly growing and is expected to be a key growth engine for online retailers in the coming…]]>

international ecommerce selling

Cross-border ecommerce is rapidly growing and is expected to be a key growth engine for online retailers in the coming years. If you have any doubts that international ecommerce and selling globally is a significant opportunity for your business, just look at the numbers.

A recent McKinsey study estimated that 1.8 billion people will enter the consuming class by 2025, annually spending $30 trillion. With broader internet availability, buyers will have better access to businesses all over the world — businesses just like yours.

1.8 billion people will enter the consuming class by 2025, annually spending $30 trillion.

First Things First: Put a Plan in Place

Before you open your doors to the world, you need a plan.

If you’re new to the international ecommmerce game, you may want to start small by selling a few items in a few markets. Once you’ve tested some key products and markets and feel ready to expand, you can invest more heavily.

Whatever your starting point, here are three critical areas of planning, along with resources that can help you prepare.

1. Find Your Target Markets

Like any new venture, it pays to do your homework. Your first step is to learn about who your international customers are, what they buy and how they shop.

Gather Market Intelligence

Start by looking at your internal data to see from which countries people are already buying your products. Try further expanding your reach into these markets, even if only to test selling specific products.

You can also leverage research tools available from government agencies like the U.S. Small Business Administration and Both offer free planning tools and downloadable templates to help you find the best markets for your products, develop pricing strategies and more.

Research Demand and Local Buying Trends

To help develop your target markets, research the top countries that have strong demand for your products or niche specialty. Is there demand or a gap in the market? While you’re at it, try to learn as much as you can about consumers’ spending patterns and from which countries they typically buy. For instance, online shoppers from smaller countries are probably more likely to make international purchases, and they’ll likely spend in larger international markets like the U.S., Canada and Australia.

A helpful resource is PayPal’s PassPort site, which has a wealth of information about global buying trends for specific countries.

For instance, you can see top shopping categories, how often shoppers purchase from countries like the U.S., buying motivations and potential barriers by country. It also summarizes the local customs, trends, taboos and even holidays of each country so your brand offers a truly localized shopping experience for customers.

2. Consider Different International Payment Methods

With your initial market research out of the way, start thinking about how you’ll accept payments.

This is an important step because checkout is the point at which international shoppers tend to abandon their purchases — either because their preferred payment method isn’t available or because they don’t feel confident their payment will be handled securely.

Research Local Buyers’ Preferred Payment Methods

These vary significantly depending on the country, and it’s important to find out what’s best for the markets in which you’re selling. For example, 60% of payments are by direct debit in the Netherlands, while Germans make 46% of payments by online bank transfer.

60% of payments are by direct debit in the Netherlands, while Germans make 46% of payments by online bank transfer.

In general, people prefer paying in a familiar currency, ideally their local currency. Some global payment providers will let you list products in a number of different currencies. If that’s a tool your provider offers, use it. If you’re not offering payment in local currency, make sure to give a currency conversion so customers can see what they’re paying.

Choose a Payment Provider with a Reputation for Security

Look for a payment provider with a strong global reputation. PayPal, for instance, consistently ranks among the top payment methods for international payments because of its security, purchase protection and ease of use across multiple devices.

PayPal gives businesses access to local funding methods without the hassle of opening multiple merchant accounts overseas. You can take payments from over 200 markets in 25 currencies. And it’s already built into the BigCommerce platform, so setup is easy.

3. Plan Your Market Entry

You have a couple of options for entering a new market — from starting small on an existing online marketplace to optimizing your current website or setting up a local web presence in particular countries.

Start Small on an Existing Online Marketplace

Established sites like eBay can often give you better reach for lower cost. They allow you to test demand for your products before committing a large sum to redeveloping your existing site. Also, consider other online marketplaces that may be popular in your target market.

Optimize Your Current Website

A slightly more advanced option is to optimize your existing website for international buyers. You can start by simply highlighting your ability to accept international orders with information on countries served and the shipping costs.

Once you have more experience, you can look into listing your products in local currencies for shoppers with non-U.S. IP addresses, and maybe eventually install a multi-language toggle for your website.

Create a Custom Website for Certain Markets

The most advanced option is to build a website designed to appeal to specific overseas customers.

This can include investing in a local domain name.

The products and strategies that work in the U.S. may not necessarily work in other countries, so a targeted website gives you full flexibility to try out different items and presentation. If you take this route, just remember to test and optimize the experience so you can make sure that elements like text translation, currency conversion and delivery cost calculation work correctly.

Your Future Customers are Waiting

Like traveling abroad, selling abroad is an adventure that has the potential to be transformative to your career and your business. It will expose your company to new countries, cultures and, most importantly, customers. So don’t be afraid to take your first step in selling across international borders.

]]> 2 How to Prevent, Dispute and Reconcile Chargebacks for Online Businesses Fri, 21 Oct 2016 08:05:50 +0000 The majority of sale transactions happen smoothly, working much like this: the sale is authorized by the customer’s card issuer,…]]>

prevent chargebacks

The majority of sale transactions happen smoothly, working much like this: the sale is authorized by the customer’s card issuer, you ship the merchandise to them and get paid.

Once in awhile, though, the customer may file a dispute, asking their credit card company to reverse the transaction.

Why does this occur and what can you do to either prevent the issue or turn a frustrated customer into a repeat buyer?

Below are the details behind what is most often a misunderstanding between a buyer and a brand, and how to turn a mistake into a learning opportunity.

Why Do Payment Disputes Occur?

A buyer may file a dispute for one of three reasons:

  1. Item not received: The buyer claims they ordered and paid for an item but didn’t receive it.
  2. Item significantly not as described: In this type of claim, the buyer says the item they received is significantly different than they expected, based on the seller’s description. For example, maybe the buyer ordered a red sweater, but received a blue one instead.
  3. Unauthorized transactions: A buyer claims that a purchase was made without his or her knowledge or consent. Or the buyer was charged twice for the same item.

When these things happen, buyers may take action by opening a dispute and asking their credit card issuer to reverse the charge.

This process is referred to by credit card companies as a chargeback. The credit card company will contact your merchant bank, who’ll ask you to clarify the dispute.

Tips to Prevent Disputes and Chargebacks

There are several things you can do to help avoid disputes and chargebacks from happening in the first place.

Below are the industry best practices to avoid and handle disputes.

  • Provide contact information: Buyers may not resort to a dispute or chargeback if they can talk to you directly about an issue. Provide an email address or phone number, or even call buyers in advance if you’re selling higher priced items.
  • Be responsive: No one likes to wait, so do your best to respond quickly and professionally to all reasonable buyer inquiries.
  • Suggest dispute resolution: If a customer tells you that they intend to file a chargeback with their credit card company, try to resolve the issue first. Some processors like PayPal offer a resolution center where buyers can open a dispute, giving you a forum to work with the buyer so the issue doesn’t escalate.
  • Provide a clear return policy: Make sure your return and refund policies are easy to find and understand. If customers claim they couldn’t locate the return policy, it can be to your disadvantage, not theirs.

Beyond these industry best practices, there are additional methods for offering customers a positive brand experience when something goes wrong with an order.

Try the easy steps below to provide excellent customer service in the face of disputes or chargebacks.

Preventing “Item Not Received” Chargeback Claims

Here’s how to avoid or minimize losses when your customer doesn’t receive an item.

  • Give buyers realistic delivery dates: Realistic dates can help prevent customers from prematurely filing disputes.
  • Ship with online tracking: Use a shipping service that provides online tracking to help confirm that an item was delivered. Standard shipping receipts only show that an item was shipped. If the total sale is over $200, require a signature to confirm that your customer received an order. The nominal expense is well worth it.
  • Order shipping insurance: Too many things can go wrong in transit. That’s why it’s important to purchase shipping insurance for items that are fragile or expensive. You’ll be covered if an item is lost or damaged, plus it includes tracking and delivery information so a customer can see that the order is en route. Insurance will also alert you when a package is delivered. In case of a shipping problem, just file an insurance claim with the shipping company.
  • Be aware of insurance exceptions: Liability for loss or damage may be limited depending on the type of package, the declared value and/or the shipping company. Talk to your shipper to ensure proper coverage.
  • Delay shipping high-risk orders: Delay the shipment of new orders that are expensive and in demand for 24 to 48 hours, especially when shipping internationally. Use caution when shipping overnight. Scammers will often ask for overnight shipping so they can resell expensive merchandise as quickly as possible.
  • Let customers know when something is out of stock: If an item is out of stock, remove the listing or update it to reflect the out-of-stock status. Provide an estimated in-stock date or clearly indicate that customers who choose an out-of-stock product are placing an advance order. Likewise, if you learn of an issue that might affect shipping times (such as bad weather), let customers know as quickly as possible. That way, they can find answers to questions without even initiating a dispute or calling you.

Prevent “Significantly Not As Described” Claims

Here are a few things you can do to help make sure that items meet buyers’ expectations.

  • Provide pictures and detailed descriptions: Take photos of products from various angles. Add accurate, detailed descriptions so customers know exactly what they’re buying.
  • Give adequate disclosures: If you’re selling used items, clearly disclose any functional defects or cosmetic damage.
  • Answer any questions promptly and clearly: If a buyer does contact you with an issue, being helpful and keeping a positive tone may prevent a small problem from growing into a larger one.

Prevent Unauthorized Transaction Claims

Buyers may open a dispute or request a chargeback when they believe that their credit or debit card was used without their permission. Sometimes this may be a simple mistake or misunderstanding, e.g. the buyer forgot they made the purchase or a family member authorized to use the account made the purchase.

On rare occasions, this may be an indication of fraud. If so, be sure to follow fraud detection best practices to help keep both your customer and your store’s data safe.

In most cases, the easiest way to settle a dispute is to work with your customer to figure out what happened. Begin the conversation with an open mind, listen to what they have to say and stay focused on a solution. It’s a chance for you to provide great customer service, prevent a possible escalation and turn them into a repeat customer.

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16 Ecommerce Website Tweaks to Do Today to Prepare Your Business for the Holiday Season Thu, 24 Sep 2015 18:12:23 +0000 It’s never too early to get your business ready for the upcoming holiday selling season. Planning ahead is the key…]]>

It’s never too early to get your business ready for the upcoming holiday selling season. Planning ahead is the key to profitability. Here are some tips to help make sure you’re prepared when shoppers arrive looking for holiday deals.

Optimize Your Site for Mobile

In April of this year, Google changed the way it ranks websites in searches from mobile devices. The change boiled down to how well your site is optimized for mobile viewers. If it isn’t, your site might now rank lower in mobile searches. Given that nearly half of all ecommerce browsing and purchasing research occurs on mobile, if you aren’t ranking well or aren’t catering to that audience, you are losing out in the consideration process altogether. For the 2014 holiday season, ecommerce sites saw an average of 33.7% of traffic coming from smartphones, and another 12.4% from tablets.

For the 2014 holiday season, sites saw an average of 33.7% of traffic coming from mobile.
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Here are a few ways to ensure your online store is mobile-optimized for the holidays:

  • Ensure your mobile experience is in fact mobile-optimized: Don’t just assume that your desktop website works just as well for mobile viewing. Pick up your phone and tablet and see how user-friendly your experience is. Ask friends to do the same. Google Developers even has a mobile-friendly test you can take.
  • Take the responsive approach: While there are various ways to configure your site for mobile, the simplest is responsive web design. Fluid page layouts, images that resize and media queries give you a site that looks great no matter what device it’s viewed on. For a new business, responsive web design is the most cost and time-effective option.
  • Checkouts need to be as mobile-friendly as the rest of your site: One of the most important features of your mobile-friendly site is an easy-to-use checkout process. Ensure the “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” buttons, as well as your shopping cart icon, are easy to find and read. Keep image use to a minimum because load time affects site abandonment. Use large buttons that can be tapped easily on a small screen Put your phone number at the top of each page. Ask for as little new information as possible from existing customers. They should be able to check out with just their username and password.

Get Your Site in Shape

Just like any brick-and-mortar store, your website must be ready to shepherd a crowd of shoppers through your front door, down the aisles and to the register. For a website, that means quickly loading pages, intuitive navigation and a secure checkout.

  • Test your infrastructure: Do a round of load testing to ensure servers can handle increases in traffic and transactions. Remember, page load time impacts not only the current visit, but future visits as well — not to mention your search rankings.
  • Clean up your site: Do a survey of your website to ensure there are no broken images or hyperlinks. Use 301s to redirect any 404s.
  • Add acceptance and trust marks: Put these marks in easy-to-see spots on your website. An example is the PayPal acceptance mark. Seeing it can help instill confidence and allay customers’ security concerns about payments.
  • Have an emergency plan: Make sure you have the phone numbers of your hosting and shopping cart providers, development team and credit card processor.
  • Don’t mess with success: Don’t push your luck messing about with your website the day before Cyber Monday. Unless something is broken, put a “code freeze” in place a few weeks before Thanksgiving.

Tee Up Your Holiday Sales Strategy

Preparing for holiday sales is about more than server capacity and navigational flows. Make sure you leverage your marketing efforts appropriately, as well.

  • Do your homework: Review your sales from last year. What were the big sellers? Don’t know? Make it a priority to install tracking codes and capture those metrics this year.
  • Beef up inventory: You know better than anyone else about lead times, especially for items coming from overseas. Place your orders now, so you’re well stocked for the holiday rush.
  • Optimize for search (SEO): Update your keywords for better search engine optimization, adding any product or category keywords you know will be hot sellers this year.
  • Create “quick navigation” paths: It can be especially profitable to include navigational “quick links” on your home page, linking shoppers directly to seasonal bestsellers.
  • Build buzz with social media: Prepare a holiday promotion to launch on your Facebook page and Twitter account, offering discounts for people who follow your social efforts.

Think Globally

“It is a small world after all” has never been more relevant than it is today. By leveraging free online tools and research on global trends, even SMBs can find success selling internationally.

  • Do more homework: Learn the customs, duties, taxes and regulatory requirements of your targeted sales regions, which can allow you to position your products effectively and appropriately. Plus, stay on top of the product categories and brands that are hot overseas.
  • Keep shipping costs low: 47% of all online shoppers say that free shipping would make them more likely to purchase from another country. Consider the trade off between incurring shipping costs and the lifetime value of a new customer.
  • Consider how customers want to pay: Research local buyers’ preferred payment methods, which vary significantly depending on the country. If you can’t offer payment in local currency, at least provide a currency converter.

Even though there are several months until the holiday sales season is officially underway, tackle several of the items on this list now so that you’ll have time to spare. You don’t have to do everything we recommend. Accomplishing even just one or two of these marketing initiatives can help make this a more successful shopping season.

Want to learn more about how to increase your brand awareness online once you have the non-negotiables in place? Join Paypal, Bigcommerce and Harvard Business Review in a webinar on Tuesday, October 13. Sign up here. 

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Ecommerce Financing: How to increase AOV 15% with Consumer Credit Options Tue, 10 Mar 2015 14:49:36 +0000 If you’ve been to a big-box retailer lately, you’ve likely noticed how heavily they market their consumer credit products. It’s…]]>

If you’ve been to a big-box retailer lately, you’ve likely noticed how heavily they market their consumer credit products. It’s nothing new. Offering financing is an option that large retailers have used for years to give their customers more purchasing power, encouraging larger average order value (AOV) and thus increasing revenue for the brand.

Unfortunately, smaller businesses haven’t enjoyed this same advantage — and the same goes for ecommerce financing. Why? Because they haven’t had the means to set up a program, lend the funds, take on the additional risk and comply with consumer credit laws. As a result, they lost out on potential sales.

93% of first-time consumer credit users said they would use consumer credit again.
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In fact, average order size increases 15% among businesses that offer consumer credit and 93% of first-time consumer credit users said they would use consumer credit again. For large ticket items, consumer credit can be the difference between a conversion or an abandoned cart. After all, 30% of shoppers using consumer credit said they wouldn’t have made the purchase at all if it weren’t for the six month financing offered.

The numbers are stark, and it’s time that small businesses compete with legacy brands when it comes to offering consumers financing options that make sense for both the customer and the retailer. Below, the latest information on consumer credit offerings small businesses can use to close the AOV gap and increase revenue via customer loyalty.

How Consumer Credit Works

New consumer credit products work a lot like credit cards. They extend a line of credit that consumers pay off over time. At checkout, customers simply select this alternative credit option instead of fishing out their credit card.

The retailer typically receives 100% of the sale funds within a few days.
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The first time your customer chooses to pay with the credit option online, he or she is asked a few approval questions, and the lender gives him or her a decision. If approved, the transaction is processed and the sale is completed. The retailer typically receives 100% of the sale funds within a few days. From the merchant’s perspective, you’re done. The financial relationship exists directly between your customer and the lender.

Offer Ecommerce Financing and They Will Come

All the benefits of old-school consumer financing hold true for online businesses, namely enabling customers to purchase an item and pay it off over time. For example, customers can use consumer credit to pay off large ticket items or a holiday shopping spree over the course of a couple months rather than in one lump sum.

The world of consumer credit comes with additional benefits, as well, for both the consumer and the merchant.

More Sales, Larger Orders

Giving customers access to credit, including special financing offers, like “No Payments + No Interest if paid in full in 6 months,” at online checkout not only gives customers more purchasing power, but also drives sales and increases purchase value. A recent Forrester study found that offering a credit payment option can result in a 17%  increase in incremental sales and a 15% increase in average order value.

Offering a credit payment option can result in a 17% increase in incremental sales.
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100% Upfront Payment

Even though your customers have time to pay for their purchases, you, the merchant, still see your money upfront. It’s a win-win situation for both the customer and the retailer in question.

Enticing Offers

Beyond just an extension of credit, some lenders will help retailers sell even more by offering their customers enticing incentives. Examples include special financing offers on purchases above a certain dollar amount and monthly payment options over a period of time, typically six, 12 or 18 months.

Free to Offer

While some lender programs might charge the business a monthly fee for offering credit, others are free. PayPal Credit, for example, is free to offer. You just pay your normal per-transaction fee as you would for a regular sale.

Lenders typically structure credit terms with the shopper to its own advantage.
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If you do find a fee-based service you’re interested in, think carefully about signing up. Lenders typically structure credit terms with the shopper to its own advantage. Yet, as the retailer, you are offering the lender access to a customer base in which the lender wouldn’t have otherwise gained brand exposure. Retailers here have the upper hand. Think twice about using lender programs that charge a fee.

With an average online shopping cart abandonment rate of 68%, there’s a lot at stake for online businesses to improve conversion. Giving customers the flexibility to buy now and pay later can mean the difference between a successful sale and an abandoned cart. Just remember to do your homework when choosing a credit-lending partner with whom you’ll offer ecommerce financing.

Photo: Flickr, andrewarchy

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5 Small Checkout Improvements to Relieve Customer Anxiety and Reduce Cart Abandonment Tue, 03 Mar 2015 18:01:51 +0000 Shopping cart abandonment remains a significant cause of heartburn for just about every online business — from the smallest storefront…]]>

Shopping cart abandonment remains a significant cause of heartburn for just about every online business — from the smallest storefront to the largest mega-retailer. In fact, an average of 68% of all online shopping carts are abandoned.

Why do shoppers fail to complete a transaction? There are several causes, including cost, security and the website experience itself.

The Impact of Trust on Cart Abandonment

One big reason is trust — the perception by visitors that your business is legitimate and reputable. A lack of trust in a site and its ability to safely handle credit card and other sensitive information accounts for 21% of all checkout abandonment.

To establish trust, you need to show customers that they’re transacting with a reputable business. After all, they’re about to give you, a complete stranger, their sensitive information. There are several things you can do to help build trust with prospective buyers:

1. Display Trust Seals

Trust seals have been proven through countless studies to help reduce shopper anxiety and improve confidence — yet only 35% of brands display security or trust information during the checkout process.

Only 35% of brands display security or trust information during the checkout process.
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The seals come in a variety of flavors and can be placed where they can be seen throughout the site, such as in the header or footer. Here’s a breakdown of each type:

Privacy Seals

Privacy seals are granted by companies after they verify that you have a robust Privacy Policy and that you strive to meet it. Of course, this means that you must actually have a robust Privacy Policy and that you take steps to follow it.

There’s an application process (and cost) to get a privacy seal and a verification process. You’ll need to disclose your policies on customer information collection, like how you:

  • Collect personally identifiable customer data
  • Use it internally
  • Share it with credit bureaus and third-party companies

Examples of companies issuing trust seals include Norton, McAfee and TRUSTe.

Business Seals

Business seals verify that you’re the owner of your company and your domain name, and they verify your reputation as a responsible and honest business. To be accredited, you must demonstrate sound business practices and meet their accreditation standards.

The Better Business Bureau is the most well-known grantor of business seals. The process is lengthy, but the cost is mainly one of your time and effort.

Security Seals

If your website needs an SSL/TLS certificate, you’ll get a security seal from the company selling it. The security seal tells customers that:

  • You’re the rightful owner of the domain they’re visiting.
  • Their personally identifiable information is secure.

Of course, some security seals (and the Certificate Authorities that grant them) are more recognized than others, so expect to pay more for brand-name recognition.

Examples of Certificate Authorities include Symantec, GoDaddy, and DigiCert.

Secured by PayPal Seal

PayPal offers several trust seals, including the Secured by PayPal seal. In addition, they give you the opportunity to become a PayPal-verified seller, so you can show shoppers that you’ve passed key security checks and completed an identity verification process. It’s free of charge and involves a minimal amount of time and effort. For more information about being verified as a seller, click here.

2. Provide and Display a Satisfaction Guarantee

Satisfaction Guarantees reassure shoppers that you’re willing to accept returns for items that are defective, or, since they can’t be fully inspected online, that customers simply decide not to keep.

Your Satisfaction Guarantee seal doesn’t have to be fancy — there are thousands of them available free online. Put it where the customer can see it on every page, such as the global footer of your site.

Make satisfaction guarantee information readily available to build trust among consumers.
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Also, add a link to your return policy. It helps customers see “what they’re getting into” when they do business with you. Making this information readily available will help build trust among consumers — even if they’re not happy with the policy itself.

Finally, let customers know about the security measures you take to protect their sensitive information. Add it as a callout on your checkout overview page or as a separate “Security” page.

3. Don’t Hide Your Customer Service Contact Information

Nothing is more frustrating than having an unanswered question about your product or service. Your shopper is displaying an interest in your goods and wants to find out more — alas, she’s unable to.

If you just don’t have the staff to handle an inbound 800-number, consider outsourcing to a third party. Also, consider implementing a real-time communication app, such as LiveChat.

Note: FAQs don’t solve the problem. Not only are you making the customer search for her question, odds are it isn’t covered. Questions are as individual as the people asking them.

4. Post Customer Testimonials and Create a Social Media Plan

The less well-known your brand, the more important it is to establish credibility. Customer testimonials help verify your trustworthiness. Post short comments on strategic parts of your website.

Customer testimonials help verify your trustworthiness.
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How to get them? Follow up with shoppers and ask for their thoughts on the key parts of the sale (the checkout, the product, the price, the delivery) — they’ll be thrilled that you cared to ask. You’ll not only have a new quote, but also a return customer.

Likewise, create a social media plan. It can be as simple as a Facebook page. Post new products, talk about sales and add testimonials. Yes, you must update it often, but it gives you valuable social proof that’ll build trust.

5. Choose Your Words Carefully

Be particularly careful about your word choice within the checkout process. For example, a “checkout” can be a “secure checkout” (if it’s truly secure!). Ask customers to “verify” email addresses, not “re-enter” them. Picking the right words might seem small, but it’s an important way to relieve anxiety during checkout.

Ask customers to “verify” email addresses, not “re-enter” them.
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Following the above recommendations is a great start. The most powerful changes occur when you combine multiple small improvements, all of which help to decrease your abandoned cart rate. To further decrease this rate, check out our post on crafting effective abandoned cart emails to bring your customers back.

Disclaimer: Links to third-party websites are provided for informational purposes and in no way represents an endorsement or approval by PayPal Inc.

These recommendations aim to promote ways for merchants to establish trust in their online business. The information it contains is offered as a guide only and should not be treated as a full statement on the subject.


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6 Best Practices to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Cart Tue, 17 Feb 2015 18:31:39 +0000 It’s the biggest problem when selling online: getting customers to complete the purchases they initiate. The numbers are stark: one…]]>

It’s the biggest problem when selling online: getting customers to complete the purchases they initiate. The numbers are stark: one study calculated consumer cart abandonment at more than 67%.

The good news, though, is that there are several things you can do to improve your online checkout and turn more shoppers into buyers.

Put yourself in your customer’s shoes.

Too often, businesses develop websites without experiencing the checkout process from the customer’s point of view. However, doing so can be illuminating. Processes that seem logical from your point of view can frustrate or confuse customers.

Do some user experience testing. It doesn’t have to be professional: ask friends and family — ideally people who know nothing about your website — to try to buy some products. Watch them as they shop and note where they hit snags. Just five or six “testers” can help uncover your biggest problem areas.

Streamline your checkout process.

The more steps in your checkout process, the higher the likelihood for cart abandonment. What may seem to you like a small additional step can be the trigger that causes a buyer to abandon her cart. Weigh your need for data against your desire to complete the sale. Review each field and ask yourself whether it’s essential to complete the purchase.

Weigh the pros and cons of forcing shoppers to create an account.

Requiring a shopper to create an account before making a purchase can stop a sale before it begins. First-time shoppers want instant gratification — and everyone is weary of remembering another account ID and password.

Think mobile.

Today, 1 out of every 3 shoppers uses their mobile phone as part of the purchasing process. Unfortunately, the factors that drive cart abandonment are intensified for mobile: 75% of smartphone users abandon sites that aren’t mobile optimized.

Make sure your site is mobile‑friendly:

  • Accommodate small screens: Ideally, your site’s design should adapt to the device it’s viewed on, working on smaller screens as well as it does on larger ones.
  • Use larger fonts (14 pt. or higher) and bigger buttons: Place call-to-action buttons (like Add to Cart or Check Out) at the top and bottom of each page.
  • Test: There are services that show you what your site looks like across multiple operating platforms and devices. Choose ones you think are most important and make sure your website is optimized on them.
  • Use PayPal to streamline the checkout: PayPal account holders can check out using only a mobile phone number and 4-digit PIN. The experience is optimized for mobile devices — with fewer clicks and less typing.

Keep customers informed.

Giving customers the right information at the right time can minimize confusion and set expectations. To do that, follow these two steps:

  • Eliminate surprises: When a shopper adds a product to the shopping cart, display the description, price, shipping cost, and tax. This gives visual feedback that the transaction is proceeding properly.
  • Provide a map: A flow diagram or numbered steps (e.g., “3 of 4”) can help situate customers, reducing anxiety and frustration.

Offer PayPal as a payment option.

Customers love choice when shopping online. Offering PayPal as a payment method gives your customers a fast, easy and secure way to pay on desktops and mobile devices. And showing shoppers you offer PayPal can have a powerful effect. Customers who use PayPal tend to follow through, too: PayPal transactions have 70% higher checkout conversion than do non-PayPal transactions*.

  • Take advantage of the strongly positive association shoppers have with PayPal: Add the PayPal acceptance mark on:
    • Your home page, ideally “above the fold” so the viewer doesn’t have to scroll down to see it.
    • Product pages, since many customers land on product or category pages via search engines, bypassing your home page.
    • On the checkout page of your shopping cart to reinforce the PayPal association at the time of purchase.
  • Promote PayPal Credit**: Let customers know they have access to financing by placing PayPal Credit banner ads on pages where customers make purchase decisions. It can help drive an 18% increase in sales***.
  • Take the express route: The Check Out with PayPal button gives customers a shortcut, making cart abandonment less likely. Place it next to your standard checkout button on your cart/checkout page.

Boosting conversion rates is a concern for businesses big and small. Luckily, it’s a concern you can address. While businesses tend to see the most positive results when all checkout processes are optimized to work together, the above recommendations can be adopted individually, as time and resources allow.

*PayPal study conducted by Nielsen Buyer Insights in Q3 2013. The study examined online conversion rates for PayPal transactions versus non-PayPal transactions across 11 categories for 34 merchants.

**PayPal Credit is subject to consumer credit approval, as determined by the lender, Comenity Capital Bank.

***August 2013 commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of PayPal titled “The Total Economic Impact of PayPal’s Bill Me Later Financing Banners.” (Bill Me Later is now PayPal Credit.) Data reflects a composite organization’s online incremental sales and a 3-year, risk-adjusted return on investment, based on the organizations interviewed for the study.

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16 Mobile Checkout Optimizations & Best Practices that Dramatically Improve Conversion Rate Tue, 10 Feb 2015 17:22:12 +0000 Mobile commerce continues to break records. On Black Friday 2014, shoppers snuck their phones and tablets under the Thanksgiving table more…]]>

Mobile commerce continues to break records. On Black Friday 2014, shoppers snuck their phones and tablets under the Thanksgiving table more than ever before to shop online. PayPal reported that online purchases on Black Friday resulted in a 62% increase in global mobile commerce volume. A few days later, Cyber Monday broke $2 billion in online sales, with mobile commerce increasing at 53%, a much faster rate than desktop commerce growth.

There are four interesting facts driving the current increase in popularity of mobile commerce.

  1. Viewing habits: People are spending more time on their phones than ever before –– at an average of three hours a day, which is more than they spend watching TV.
  2. Increased comfort: Consumers are — for the first time — spending nearly as much on mobile orders as they do on desktops, as a result of a growing sense of comfort with mobile shopping.
  3. Build it and they will come: Most of the major retailers now have mobile-optimized ecommerce apps and/or mobile-responsive shopping experiences.
  4. Reinforcing behavior: Most retailers are training customers to shop mobile with earlier access to deals and even better discounts than online or in-store offers.

So, how can you get in on the action? Lessons from retailers who already have mobile-optimized experiences can help the rest of us still on our way to the promised land. Below, a few takeaways from the retail industry leaders when it comes to mobile optimization — checkout, landing pages plus everything in between — and what is now being called m-commerce.

Ensure a Mobile-Optimized Experience

Don’t assume that your desktop website works just as well for mobile viewing. While online business owners naturally gravitate to general ecommerce optimizations, it’s easy to forget about how your store looks on different devices. Pick up your phone and tablet and see how user-friendly your experience is. Google Developers has a mobile-friendly test you can take. Ask friends and colleagues to do the same. You can uncover many big issues with as little as 3 to 5 people. Not only will this help you optimize for experience – it will also help you with mobile SEO rankings.

Configure How You Optimize for Mobile

There are three ways to help configure your shopping and checkout to ensure the best possible experience for mobile shoppers:

  1. Responsive web design: Probably the simplest approach, your goal here is to build one website (that is, one URL, one set of HTML, etc.) that looks great no matter what device or size screen it’s viewed on. Tools used in responsive web design include fluid grid layouts for your pages, flexible images that resize and media queries that trigger different CSS style rules.
  2. Dynamic serving: This takes the above one step further by actually serving up two sets of code (essentially, two different websites) depending on the viewing device, for an even more mobile optimized experience. Your domain name (URL) stays the same.
  3. Mobile website: Mobile websites use a different domain name (and HTML) for mobile shoppers. If you’ve ever seen a URL like “,” you’re on a mobile site.

Each approach has its pros and cons, mainly with regard to development and maintenance costs and time. In general, for a small online business, responsive web design is the most cost and time-effective approach. SaaS ecommerce platforms such as BigCommerce are built for mobile conversion, so your store is optimized for a beautiful responsive experience.

Mobile Experiences Aren’t Less Than, So Don’t Cut Out High Value Features

It’s tough to have a great mobile-optimized experience that has all of the functionality of your desktop version. You’ll have to make decisions about what features aren’t as important to include. For example, adapting your site might require you to drop Flash™ demos or other features that make your site appealing and enjoyable.

Just remember: mobile shoppers expect to be able to use nearly all of the same features as desktop shoppers, including access to high-value features including discount codes, shipping offers and return processing. In fact, you might want to reward your mobile customers and keep them coming back by offering unique mobile-only perks like special discounts and flash sales.

6 Tips for Mobile-Commerce Optimized Checkout

One of the most important features of your mobile-friendly site is an easy-to-use checkout process. Create a mobile-friendly checkout experience with the following:

  • Ensure the “Add to Cart” and “Checkout” buttons, as well as your shopping cart icon, are easy to find and read. Place them at the top and bottom of every page, or on a sticky navigation bar, which sticks to the top of the screen when the customer scrolls down the page.
  • When a customer is researching a product, include all extra charges (shipping, tax, etc.) upfront to help ensure the shopper clicks through to the final conversion step.
  • Keep image use to a minimum because load time affects site abandonment. Or, ensure all of your photos are optimized for the web. You can do this in photoshop, or use one of these tools for jpeg or png optimization.
  • Use large buttons that can be tapped easily on a small screen.
  • The simpler the process and the less data entry required, the better the conversion rate. In short, fewer checkout steps mean fewer abandoned carts.
  • Ask for as little new information as possible from existing customers. They should be able to check out with just their username and password — don’t ask them to re-enter their credit card, shipping and billing information. PayPal’s payment processing, for example, does exactly that: customers log in with their PayPal credentials — and their payment and shipping information is already stored in their PayPal account. They just confirm the order and click “Buy Now.”

Know Your Audience

Finally, learn what you can about both your mobile and your desktop customers. You might be surprised to find out your mobile shoppers are unique and different than your traditional online customers. You might want to consider crafting an experience that’s more relevant to mobile shoppers. For example, changing what you sell, how you talk about your products and even how you design the shopping experience.

Pieces of this blog post were taken from Inc.’s byline by PayPal’s Dan Leberman: Mobile eCommerce is Here to Stay. Is Your Business Ready to Take Advantage?

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