As the digital media industry races headlong into a future full of new technology, one vital underpinning — the ability to easily, profitably, and safely process payment transactions — is taking a more measured approach to its technological evolution, yet evolving nonetheless.
Unlike other tech sectors, the vibrant billing arena is more heavily impacted by laws and regulations that among other things, govern how merchants can separate consumers from their cash. Keeping on top of this changing environment takes a significant commitment of resources that naturally increases the cost of these services, making billing expenses the second largest variable cost following traffic for numerous adult website operators. The trick for merchants is to turn this expensive line item into a profit center, and technology is the way to do it.
Mobile billing has replaced the traditional laptop/desktop initiation of transactions [and] faster, more secure transaction times are key, along with one-click stored transaction data. -Karen Campbell, Orbitalpay
From chargeback management to gateways for processing cryptocurrency transactions, technological innovation on the billing front makes it easier for merchants to accept payments simply and effortlessly and is driving demand for new services. These include data-based personalized shopping experiences, dynamic billing descriptors and pricing, enhanced fraud protection and customer verification, plus card tokenization and more, with billing companies rolling out additional gateway features, new reporting functions, customer support chat services, and enhanced support for affiliate platforms, shopping cart systems, and more.
To help clarify the current options and opportunities, XBIZ World recently asked some of the industry’s top experts what they see as the latest tech advances on the billing front, and how today’s top players are addressing these developments.
“OrbitalPay is a not only a merchant account and gateway provider, we are also a financial technology company which enables our organization to stay on top of billing trends and advancements,” explains OrbitalPay Vice President Karen Campbell. “Mobile billing has replaced the traditional laptop/desktop initiation of transactions [and] faster, more secure transaction times are key, along with one-click stored transaction data.”
Eva Zankel, Webbilling’s B2B senior sales manager, told XBIZ that billing is becoming more integral to merchants’ marketing strategies, where it closes the circle when it comes to targeting and converting customers.
“Tracking consumers’ buying habits and geographical aspects, is a big part of success,” Zankel explains. “Therefore I believe the need for tracking, reporting and individual monetization of each consumer is becoming more advanced and used in more areas of our industry.”
Zankel says that knowing and understanding consumers’ buying mentality and habits depending on their origin is one of Webbilling’s core competencies.
“This is also one of the reasons why we are specialized in the European market,” Zankel adds, “and are able to support our merchants by targeting their traffic better and increasing their conversions.”
For many operators, advances in billing technology are improving the mobile checkout process.
“At the risk of sounding like a broken record, mobile optimization for content delivery and secure payment processing!” Mobius Payments’ President Mia Hyun exclaimed. “We’re seeing more and more business conducted on mobile platforms (cellphones and tablets) than ever before, so ensuring your site is optimized for both content delivery and completion of the transactions is paramount for success.”
The dynamic nature of advertising and content presentation today is augmented by dynamic billing — the new “ABC’s of Dynamism” for adult webmasters. As with ads and content, the right product offer and matching price point can make a world of difference to a site’s bottom line. This can include specials such as discount coupons and renewal bonuses, and goes beyond mere personalization, using the power of AI to create a much more contextual experience that can lead to greater sales.
It is one more example of how merchants are fine tuning their billing options for the best conversions, and another indication of how traditional billing is revolutionized by big data, creating considerable new opportunities for those who are able to make the most of the information available at their fingertips.
Some of these opportunities may be quite appealing for tech companies to take advantage of, but the possibilities of new players entering the adult billing space are becoming increasingly remote, placing the burden of innovation and technological development on the industry’s current powerhouses.
Between card association rules, corporate policies, international laws, and PCI compliance issues, there are enormous barriers to entry into today’s adult billing arena, which make it difficult for new solutions to become viable. This creates a marketplace where competition is both balanced, yet intense, forcing billing companies to take a long-term view, and invest appropriately in new features and payment types, along with internal hardware and software systems, while providing the best customer service possible.
Mainstream e-commerce options tend to surpass those of their adult brethren due to fewer restrictions and may offer inspiration for better checkout functionality and other features that could be adopted by adult merchants so innovation is only a matter of market sense. From offering additional payment types and retention offers to card updater services and freshened backend systems with better reporting and more flexible account setup, billing companies continually evolve their internal processes.
Forward-looking billing companies focus on developing and implementing the latest technologies, using artificial intelligence to crunch the massive amount of data acquired before, during and after transaction processing, which can be used to deliver dynamic pricing and to foster retargeted offers. This can help merchants increase profits enough to drastically reduce or even eliminate the cost of its billing services.
Another major billing-related cost center for adult merchants, especially website operators and others offering digital downloads, is chargebacks. The problem is most acute for content sites because there is little time between the placement of the order and the receipt of the product (this has traditionally hurt online checks as a payment method, for example), and once the product is downloaded, “returns” are not a practical option, and without any type of DRM protection, this inventory has been stolen from you — “shrinkage” as it’s known in the world of physical goods.
Billing technologies such as 3-D Secure can help merchants fight chargebacks by more closely confirming the authenticity of a disputed charge, while third-party service providers can leverage their own tools to help merchants mitigate losses due to fraudulent chargebacks.
One such company serving the adult industry is ChargebackHelp, which can help merchants reduce their chargeback ratios by up to 30 percent while providing clients with collection resources in more than 100 countries across Africa, Asia, the Americas, Europe, and Oceania. ChargebackHelp also offers decline salvaging and digital device fingerprinting services for more ways to help clients protect their business.
Raja from ChargebackHelp told XBIZ the company is particularly interested in the latest antifraud tools for analyzing transactions and enhancing authentication for merchants.
ChargebackHelp is an example of how services and technology are extending traditional billing systems and making them more profitable for merchants. With all of this talk of billing technology, however, it is important to note that focusing on fundamentals such as consistent reliability and responsive customer service is vital for billing companies and merchants alike and transcends any technology when it comes to bolstering the bottom line. It’s all about finding the right balance between proven practices and new opportunities — and not just adding new features for the sake of adding new features.