trends

Taking a Look at Alternative Billing Systems

Stephen Yagielowicz

The rapid advance of technology is driving innovation in the online billing process, which is leading to refinements in the existing models, while spurring the development of alternative billing tools.

Among the benefits of being an online merchant is that there is a wide world of opportunity beyond the borders of the U.S. or their home country — including regions where MasterCard, Visa or debit cards are not the payment method of choice for many consumers, who often prefer to pay by using a wide range of “alternative” billing systems.

Alternative payment solutions are increasingly in demand, and becoming a vital key to the direct success of many internet businesses that are looking for serious growth in the European market. —Eva Zankel, Webbilling.com

These alternatives to credit cards can range from traditional methods such as check, debit card, and phone billing, to in-app, one-click purchases, and cross-sales between merchants. Add in contactless payments, cryptocurrencies, electronic wallets and the next generation of “pay” services beyond PayPal, such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Google Wallet, which make it clear that alternative billing continues to fragment into specialized services — bringing choice to consumers and competition to the industry.

Digital wallets and other stored value systems, such as token based payments, are particularly appealing for adult content sales, such as for cam communities and clip stores, where an initial payment (perhaps made by credit card) can be divvied up into pseudo micro-payments on a per-clip or per-minute basis.

XBIZ World wanted to know the latest info on adult-friendly billing options and the various trends that are driving today’s alternative billing scene so it sought out the expert opinions of top billing companies — here’s what they had to say:

For his part, CCBill’s Gary Jackson told XBIZ that he never understood the term “alternative billing.”

“It seems to denote that there are primary payment types — but that assumption is U.S.-centric,” Jackson, CCBill’s managing vice president of sales, explains. “They are all payment types, and depending on the location or region, they can all be considered ‘primary’ by someone.”

Harmik Gharapetian, Epoch’s vice president of sales and marketing, told XBIZ that the company offers the largest collection of payment types in the industry (some of which it is the exclusive provider for), saying that its clients “safely complete more sales from more consumers throughout the world,” and underscoring the importance of offering alternative billing methods today.

These include around 60 currencies and 40 payment types available through Epoch’s LogoGPS feature that automatically offers customers the ideal payment methods — relying on localized options such as debit cards that target users in specific regions or using specific languages, among others.

Eva Zankel, Webbilling.com’s B2B sales manager, agrees that offering alternative payment solutions is a must for any international business, especially those benefiting from continued growth in European e-commerce spending, and increasing cross border transactions.

“With merchants [increasingly] targeting the booming European market and exploring different opportunities for additional revenue streams,” Zankel told XBIZ, “alternative payment solutions are increasingly in demand, and becoming a vital key to the direct success of many internet businesses that are looking for serious growth in the European market.”

“Offering a recurring option and allowing cross-border transactions within Europe,” Zankel adds, “payment methods such as SEPA — Direct Debit and SOFORT are definitely Europe’s top methods next to credit cards.”

Inovio’s Conal Cunningham says that while many merchants have known the benefits of ACH and SEPA (formerly EU Debit) for quite some time, the company is seeing an increase in the methods that are used in other regions.

“[This includes] Boletos in South America and Brazil, as well as carrier and SMS billing in Europe and Asia,” Cunningham explains, noting that “Many customers don’t have a card, or are more comfortable with these payment types, which they normally use on a regular basis, so being able to accept them increases the monetization potential in those countries and regions.”

Alternative payments are also expected to grow in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and in other emerging markets that do not rely on traditional credit card processing. That last part is key to profitably using alternatives to credit cards: experts say that they are best used when targeting a specific market or offer when traditional debit or credit processing is not available.

Emerging nations, with their rising fortunes and growing access to technology, have become a profitable audience for many adult content companies, but merchants need a way to profitably bill their customers and this is leading to new payment systems. While experts laud the level of diversification underway in the billing space and note how fine-tuning the process can help merchants grow their businesses, other billing methods tend not to be as popular or profitable in established markets as are credit card services.

The bottom line to all payment processing is that merchants want to accept payments as effortlessly, inexpensively, and as safely as possible — regardless of the payment method. After that, it’s a simple matter of choosing the right tool for the job.

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