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Online ‘spring cleaning’: effectively invest in and deploy e-commerce payment methods

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More choices are coming to small businesses with an explosion in the types of payment methods consumers are supporting, as well as a growing and increasingly competitive market in the industry in general, such as the growth of online wallet providers.

The guiding principle for businesses looking to refresh their online offering is to examine whether you let shoppers pay in the way they want to pay. A good way to get a sense of this is to look at the figures around cart abandonment: high volumes could suggest that the customer experience isn’t working well.

If you’re still in the camp of just taking card payments online, then now is a good time to start thinking about online wallets. As the market gains strength, you will start to see more card issuers backing new solutions. For example, we’ve launched a new wallet service called V.me by Visa. One of the benefits some businesses working with us have found is that their customers’ wallet IDs are automatically created by the card issuer, making the checkout process for these customers even easier.

One of the challenges we often find when speaking to small businesses is the question of cost: why pay for additional payment methods when that’s actually going to cost you more to process? But you can’t look at cost in isolation. If you’ve done the homework around how the website figures are shaping up, you’ll have a view on potential transactions that may have been lost. Set that against the fees, and you might see a different picture.

If you already accept online wallets, is it time to think about switching or adding a cheaper alternative? Some of the new providers in the market offer more competitive pricing, comparable even to debit and credit card handling charges.

Most providers are on a fairly even keel around pricing when dealing with high volumes of transactions. But if you’re a small business that’s just getting things started, you might find a particular provider has a package more suitable to the traffic you expect. Another area to look out for is the pricing plans; each of the wallet providers have different charging structures. You need to ensure that you don’t get stung by high prices further down the line and where possible, think in the long-term about that pricing decision. A good way to reduce cost may be as simple as offering customers a choice at checkout

But payment methods are not the only way small businesses can get better value from their e-commerce sites. It’s also worth taking a step back and looking at whether your website helps customers through the sales process.

As more people are looking to buy online, and particularly through their mobiles, it’s even more important to try and avoid cluttering your web pages with too much text or information. Visitors should be able to find and buy what they’re looking for at a glance with the minimum amount of clicks.

A search box is another easy win, helping customers find what they’re looking for and increasing the likelihood that browsers will become buyers. Easy navigation is also key. ‘Breadcrumb trails’ and ‘back out’ links show users where they are on your website and how to get between different sections of the site.

And as a final tip, all of us like a good deal, so grab your customers’ attention with information on special offers and best-sellers.

Having the equivalent of an online spring clean can put you in the best position to capitalise on the growing use of e-commerce in the coming year, and a review of your payment methods are a vital part of this process.

Jayadeep Nair is VP of Small Business & New Markets at Streamline, part of the WorldPay Group.

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