Date Published: 1999-12-19
by Michel Fortin, Ph.D.
In today's fast-paced world, e-commerce is growing at an explosive rate and most e-businesses know
that offering visitors the ability to buy online is becoming essential. The Internet is a direct marketer's
paradise -- no, make that an impulsive shopper's paradise. And when customers can buy on impulse and do
so in the privacy and convenience of their own homes or offices, the likelihood that more sales will
be generated will definitely be higher.
Since most impulse orders are processed by credit cards, then having a merchant account is one of the
key ingredients to a thriving online business if not an necessity. But if your site is
e-commerce-enabled and you do accept credit card orders, your marketing communications should therefore
include that availability, especially if you accept most major brands.
There are many reasons for this. Aside from informing clients that they are able to conveniently
shop from your web site and process their orders expeditiously, the perception of added value will also
increase. Your company and products gain instant credibility by merely "piggy-backing" on brand name
credit cards -- even though the two are completely unrelated.
Give Your Customers Credit
When people are offered the benefit of both convenience and immediacy, the quality of your
service will perceptually increase. According to research, options and value were key factors
in the decision to buy from one company over another -- price and quality were at the bottom of
the list. If you offer the same product that a competitor does for instance, and if in addition
you provide different payment options, you will undoubtedly be in a much stronger position.
However, obtaining a merchant account and administering an e-commerce enabled web site require
a great investment of both time and money. Many businesses would love to skip the hassle and
expense of offering online credit card payments, and others do so for those very reasons --
even when they are fully capable of accepting credit cards.
Moreover, many banks turn down online merchant applications since the Internet is regarded as
an increased risk (i.e., the lack of signatures heightens the risk of chargebacks and fraud). In
addition, the greatest portion of online commerce is made up of small businesses -- many of
which are incapable of obtaining merchant accounts. Fortunately, there are solutions.
You Can Leave Home Without 'Em
Some companies now offer alternate e-commerce solutions where even the single-person business
can profit from the web. They act as resellers or third party billing companies that, for an
additional fee, will process orders for non-merchant client businesses. Some of these companies also
offer a variety of online tools, such as administrative functions, shopping carts, scheduled
payouts, and seamless, secure transactions -- often at no extra cost.
Their transaction fees may be substantially higher than those of standard merchant accounts
(anywhere between 8 and 15%), but keep in mind that most of them do not require any setup
fees, expensive software, equipment leasing, or security deposit. Such companies include:
However, while many people own credit cards there are many others that do not (for one reason or
another) or others that will simply refuse to buy online because of security concerns. These potential
customers, while a minority, are often ignored as a result. It therefore makes perfect sense to offer
clients several payment options -- the more the better.
For instance, some companies offer the ability to accept online checks (or what banks call "demand
drafts"). Similar to credit card orders, online checking allows visitors to supply their checking information
online (or even by fax or e-mail). Once entered into a specific program, checks are then printed out and
then deposited like standard ones. They include:
Did You Make Your 1-900-PAYMENT?
In addition, some companies grant businesses the ability to process payments by phone where charges
are applied to their clients' phone bills, such as with those infamous 1-900 pay-per-call
lines (http://www.web900.com and
http://www.echarge.com). Customers simply
dial a specific number assigned to a specific product and the amount of the purchase is
charged by their telephone company, which is then responsible for collecting the money.
While these alternate payment processing services may seem particularly appealing to those having problems
obtaining or setting up merchant accounts, they shouldn't be discounted by those already accepting credit
cards online. With the skepticism around online security, offering more payment options will likely
increase potential sales let alone credibility.
Nevertheless, the underlying benefit of the Internet is the speed at which people can obtain information
let alone products or services. Therefore, don't let the lack of it hinder your sales. The way to profit
more quickly from the Internet is to be able to process orders more quickly.
[This article has been condensed in great part from
"101 Power Positioning Tips For Turning
Your Business Into a Powerful Magnet.".
Michel Fortin, Ph.D. is a consultant dedicated to helping businesses turn into powerful
magnets. Visit http://SuccessDoctor.com to receive
a free copy of his book, "The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning." He is also the editor of the
"Internet Marketing Chronicles" e-zine -- subscribe free at