trends

The Anonymous Consumer

Stewart Tongue
When Internet commerce first started allowing consumers to purchase items online, most people entered their payment information into seemingly trustworthy forms without considering any unintended consequences. As the online industry has evolved in mainstream and adult, the willingness of consumers to provide personal information to merchants as part of the purchase process has steadily declined. Now, a number of companies are attempting to overcome these obstacles by increasing the credibility of merchant sites or by entirely removing the need for personal information to be part of any transaction.

Customers have become frustrated with the "Wild West" billing practices used by a small but rampant group that engages in spam emailing, card banging, and a variety of other unethical tricks or schemes designed to bilk naive consumers out of their money. The answers from business owners who operate in that manner all seem to point back to the ideology that there's a sucker born every minute and ecommerce can safely rely on scamming the new suckers long after the existing ones have been burned.

"One of the biggest challenges we have created for ourselves within the online adult industry is consumer satisfaction, because some continually and purposefully deceive consumers through the billing processes and we potentially lose those customers forever," Vegas Ken of TheBestPorn.com said. "We have been getting more and more feedback from our users that security certifications and anonymous billing methods are important to them. They want to join sites and feel protected. They are looking for sites that are willing to show them that they can be trusted by using such tools as certification from WebsiteSecure.org or anonymous billing options like Trust Cash and Net Cash."

In the adult market specifically, where free content sites have started to provide many of the same services that paysites promise, but without any up front costs involved for the consumer, a strong argument can be made that scams and tricks used by paysites are accelerating the acceptance of stolen content tube sites by consumers who would rather not steal entertainment.

More importantly, the unilateral decision by some business owners to behave in this manner undoubtedly casts a dark shadow on all online businesses no matter how ethically they may choose to operate their own billing apparatus. Once a customer gets burned by a paysite it involuntarily becomes the obligation of honest paysite owners to find ways to prove their sites are ethical as part of any purchase process.

"NetCash is the oldest and largest anonymous billing provider online," NetCash President Peter K. told XBIZ. "We offer complete privacy through our patented anonymous billing model with several options for consumers interested in purchasing products or services online. Customers who want the peace of mind of knowing that their purchase information will remain private can purchase memberships or products from any participating site through our secure payment form. We accept payment via all credit cards, U.S. ACH, EU Debit, Click and Buy or stored value cards. We also are a fully registered IPSP in the U.S. and the EU."

"Since 2005 we have simultaneously been helping webmasters earn more sales simply by helping consumers maintain their privacy. There is no downside to offering NetCash, in fact our merchants report an immediate lift in business anywhere from eight to 11 percent from day one," Peter K. added. "Our system is fully integrated with NATS and MPA3, allows recurring billing and every other aspect of standard credit card processing with the added incentive of securing your customers against identity theft and unauthorized transactions. More importantly, when your potential customers feel safer, they buy more and our client conversions ratios repeatedly prove that point convincingly."

"Consumers who purchase online porn memberships don't mind using their credit card online; they just don't want to give their credit card information to sites who will abuse them," Vegas Ken offered. "Processing solutions that give the consumer the sense of being safe and anonymous provide that extra layer of security that these consumers are looking for. Certifications and anonymous billing are some things that all sites should look into offering. If you don't have these options, I am sure you are losing out on some potential sales."

Website Security firms including McAfee Secure, VeriSign and others have built large businesses by providing a technological layer of credibility for commercial websites. Showing consumers that the sites are properly encrypted and routinely scanned for malware, third party hacks and other nefarious scripts that had plagued consumer computers with everything from malicious viruses to devious adware installs.

Certification companies like WebsiteSecure.org, TRUSTe and the Better Business Bureau have each added additional layers of protection for consumers by certifying inspected sites and monitoring their ethical standards for consumers. The results have been effective, but only for sites that choose to participate in having their sites inspected to become accredited by these institutions. Also, while fear of unethical billing is one major reason for a consumer's desire to keep their identity undisclosed, it is far from being the only reason.

Adult companies take the step of using harmless billing descriptors so that their porn paysite customers will not face embarrassment by seeing hardcore terminology printed on their credit card billing statements. However, a nosey spouse or other individual can still determine what was purchased with each dollar spent in most cases. As an increasingly large share of adult commerce moves toward non-digital goods and services like adult dating, confidentiality and trust are becoming much more important elements of success than scene counts and resolution sizes for many forward-thinking business owners.

"We believe there will always be a place for adult commerce online, however it is also obvious that the way adult commerce is defined changes over time," Holly Moss, the sales and marketing manager for Trustcash, said. "Socially problematic purchases like adult dating memberships and classified online advertisements can pose problems for consumers who are already married, or who simply do not want anyone able to determine how they spend their leisure time."

"Utilizing a system like Trustcash does more than protect a consumer from unwanted charges; it also allows customers to avoid unwanted attention," she added. "There is a good reason many things offline are still paid for with cash and those desires don't change just because someone uses their keyboard instead of their wallet to make a purchase."

"As an added incentive for merchants, the potential chargeback rates with Trustcash are much lower than they would be for a merchant accepting credit card payments directly," Moss concluded. "Since the payment is made to Trustcash and often a single deposit covers multiple online purchases, consumers do trade off some of their ability to void direct transactions by opting to do business anonymously online in this way. Also, a unique feature of Trustcash is that we can provide a true private label checkout process that is fully integrated within any client join page. Trustcash is PCI compliant, accepts all major credit cards and ACH with Euro Debit processing coming soon."

Having your spouse find out that you enjoy subscribing to BDSM paysites might be a source of new found compatibility for a couple, but having a spouse find out that you have active accounts on Fling.com, AshleyMadison.com and Escorted.net is more often going to result in divorce or worse.

While online gambling has been outlawed in the United States, it is still a multi-billion dollar digital business and attracts customers from all over the world. Websites like Ukash.com provide anonymous payment services for consumers and allow credit to be purchased with cash at many offline locations — including 15,000 new Canadian retail shops added in a recent deal.

By clicking the "Where to Spend" button at the top of their site, consumers are directed to an entire category of online casinos where they can presumably gamble anonymously and collect their winnings without anyone becoming the wiser about their winnings and expenses.

For decades there have been groups predicting the elimination of cash in offline purchases, and anyone living in this era is well-aware that people carry less cash with them and rely more heavily on plastic to pay for things. However, even as payments become increasingly electronic, the key aspect of cash that nobody seems to want to give up is the privacy it offers. Perhaps the eventual method of payment used by consumers will become a digital hybrid capable of combining the security and easy convenience of ecommerce with the prized anonymity of cash transactions.

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