Billing a Better Rev Stream

Stephen Yagielowicz

There’s more to online billing than meets the eye. For example, a paysite operator with a typical old-school approach where tour pages lead to an IPSP-provided join page, while enjoying a proven strategy, may be leaving money on the table. While the details will vary from company to company, the upshot is that even the most time-honored strategies for turning website visitors into paying customers requires a fresh look in 2012.

Consider the current value of pre-billing data mining, where a multi-step “join” page first requests that the user enters a desired username, password and valid email address, before sending the customer to the page where billing data (name, address, credit card information, etc.) is entered.

Whether you use a third-party IPSP for billing, or your own merchant account for tighter control, ensure that your website offers a truly mobile-friendly join page option.

This technique is commonly used to harvest email addresses for follow-on marketing, but some webmasters have reported a more than 50 percent drop-off in traffic between these two pages; meaning that around half of the prospects that wanted to pay to join and provided their contact info, were stopped at the next page, ending their sales transaction — that extra page being an additional hurdle the prospect felt was “too much bother.”

They say every click you put between the prospect and the sale hurts your transaction volume and this is a dramatic example. If you are using this multi-page technique and not tracking the drop-off, then you should start tracking it now — the percentage between the two is the percentage of income you’re losing.

Of course, a poor quality site that won’t be getting any rebills may find the e-mail list handy, especially if using a third-party processor which doesn’t provide this information, but that’s a poor replacement for a better offer.

So-called “limited trials” are a popular way for paysite owners to provide a variable amount of access to prospects wanting to see inside the members’ area, without making the commitment of a full-monthly or recurring subscription purchase. By limiting access, for example, not allowing downloads or restricting video playback, paysite owners hope to not give away the store. Disallowing auto-downloading software is also typical of the restrictions imposed by the limited trial model.

While prohibiting download managers from trial memberships is a smart move, any scheme that provides a watered-down version of the actual product may be one that is well worth re-evaluating: if you have quality you can stand behind, then perhaps limiting trial access based on time — say a 24-hour pass — with full access, may increase sales.

Premium up-sells are great ways to monetize otherwise free sites; such as tube sites that offer free, low resolution video clips (perhaps limited in quantity, for example, three standard definition clip views daily), with a paid-version offering unlimited viewing of HD video clips and other desirable features. If your billing infrastructure allows, this is a great application for an alternative to a monthly membership subscription: for example, using tokens or another billing mechanism to provide ala carte “clip store-style” access.

When it comes to the question of billing mobile users, SMS, one-click billing options and the tsunami of approaching near-field communication (NFC) systems that will allow consumers to pay for products by swiping their Smartphone over a point-of-sale terminal, seem to get most of the attention; but there are other things to consider.

For example, many standard websites may receive more than a quarter of their traffic from visitors on mobile devices — visitors that may wish to join or make a purchase — but are they actually able to?

Whether you use a third-party IPSP for billing, or your own merchant account for tighter control, ensure that your website offers a truly mobile-friendly join page option. You don’t have to get all crazy and push the limits of mobile device capabilities, trying to reach “dumb phones,” or make use of all the latest features, but your join page should be available to mobile Android and iPad or iPhone users at the very least.

If your billing provider does not offer a functional mobile join page option, then you should consider either switching billing companies, or use a mobile redirect to send those visitors to a sponsor that can monetize them.

The range of issues covered in this brief examination of current adult billing solutions and different ways in which they can be combined and integrated into various site types is only the tip of the iceberg; with your own operational experience showing the way to new considerations as your empire grows.

It’s vital for webmasters to pay attention to the options they use and the strategies they employ. Even if you work as an affiliate, use that critical eye on your sponsor’s billing practices — it could lead you to finding someone more profitable to work with — and that’s all just money in the bank.