Charge that credit card, get paid and have your e-commerce web site up and running at a decent cost so it can support itself and bring some green. The idea behind an e-shop is to have the conversion from visitor to buyer done fast and in the most secure way so that it happens over and over again.

There are literally thousands of solutions out there for building or hosting your e-commerce. Many of those solutions are free or come with your hosting subscription. If you are a programmer or can get a hold of such an individual you can download and customize code and have your own solution in very little time. It all ends up in the checkout process and here is where all the lines in the water lie.

Having a simple low-cost solution that provides state-of-the-art security and service is not impossible by any stretch of the imagination and many of the most respectable companies out there offer easy to set-up solutions for decent fees.
The things that make me think twice when I look for a service, though, is the nickel-and-dimes type of deal. And when you’re dealing with credit cards and other type of payments, reading the fine-print is a prerequisite. And in that fine-print (that often stretches over several pages) you may find that the service provider can change the contract at any time, for any reason.
Do not build your e-commerce around a checkout solution before you make sure you can use it. I’ve heard a few disappointed voices in Canada that enthusiastically built their web sites to use Google Checkout or certain versions of PayPal just to find that they’re not available in Canada .. yet. It’s not obvious information since the focus on those sites (as it should be on yours) is conversion.
What payments would you need to Accept or Manage, and don’t be afraid to think ahead:

  • Credit Cards, Debit, Email Invoices, PayPal (when selling single or multiple items)
  • Recurring payments (like a monthly fee.. subscription)
  • Promotions (eg. 15 $ first 3 months and 99.99 $ after)
  • Shipping and handling
  • Bonus points and point partnerships (eg. Travel miles, Bank percentage rebates…)
  • TAXES
  • Contributions (donations)
  • Gift certificates and Coupons

Major sites like Amazon have their own secure systems to store credit card numbers and shipping addresses, but this article is for the rest of us who need security and fraud protection while selling to buyers who are shy of leaving the credit card number all over the place. EBags’ Peter Cobb said that “retail is about overcoming objections” as the point here is to enable that transaction and get the money. Big players spend big to lure customers their way. Google offered a fee waiver through the end of the year in their move to take some market off PayPal’ hands. But we are not talking from the customer’s perspective here, as much as it is a crucial factor in completing the sale and it should not be overlooked, are we?
In the end, if we need to spend hundreds of dollars to integrate some system and pay ridiculous fees on each sale, it’s going to kill your infant business before it can build you the income you’re doing it for.
So here is a list of the most interesting and capable players I stumbled upon (I urge you to comment on it and add to this list)

  • Google Checkout – offers a decent platform for decent fees and comes backed by Google’s name. It’s not available everywhere though.
  • PayPal – much more widely spread and used but I feel the fees are a bit to the upper side of the ladder. I simply don’t like paying “one-time installation fees” I guess. Still, a solid and reputable name in the business.
  • Amazon FPS – Flexible Payments Service is “designed from the ground up specifically for developers”… Or you can simply create a PayNow Widget and … Amazon takes care of the rest.

There are others like Payjunction, Card Payment Solutions, Wells Fargo, VersaPlay, CollectivePosDriveIt and all have a twist that make them attractive for a certain market or the other. Personally I look at the reliability of the company and I simply hate two-hundred pages contracts you can’t keep track of.
From my point of view, those services should empower my business not suck it dry when the “exceptional case you find on page two of the fine-print” happens.

2 replies
  1. Bogdan Badulescu
    Bogdan Badulescu says:

    Hi Auro, and thanx for visiting,
    Subscribe to my newsletter to keep in touch.

    I am currently working on a project that requires a low cost reliable checkout that works with various currencies and I believe PayPal “Website Payments Standard” is the solution I will use.
    You have to weigh the reliability of the checkout service provider and the the fees. Make sure the service allows you to grow from the first stage to the next (entry level fees are simply too costly for high-volume selling websites, there are other products all checkout providers offer to suit all those needs). Google would be the most trustworthy in my eyes based on the amount of phishing and spam that attacks PayPal accounts. PayPal is very active in fighting those pirates and quite responsive in protecting customers. Google Checkout is not available in France.
    So, here it is, I would use a PayPal solution for a small-medium site in/for France.

    Let me know what challanges you encounter in your projects and what technologies you use, if you don’t mind.

    I am also restarting the LynXBoX series sometime in march, do you want to contribute with links to “Top interesting sites of the week/month” or “Top dull designs of the week/month” ?

    Regards,

    Bogdan

    Reply

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