opinion

For Online Merchants, the First Step to Success Starts With Billing

For Online Merchants, the First Step to Success Starts With Billing
Gary Jackson

When a company is preparing to launch a new website, considerable thought can go into ways to make it profitable.

Typically, an online merchant will think long and hard about a site’s design, the type of content that will be offered, the site’s target audience, marketing and promotional strategies.

Even if a site has five-star content and five-star design, the merchant might have a hard time closing the deal if the buyer experience during the payment stage is difficult or cumbersome.

But all too often, the one thing that they don’t think about until their membership, paysite or webcam site is ready to launch is how their customers will be paying — and when merchants, webmasters or even their developers consider billing as an afterthought, they just might be leaving money on the table.

Payment processing is not something that merchants should start thinking about when a site has already been designed and is about to be launched — it is something to think about from the very beginning, even when a site is in the planning stages.

In fact, putting together a strong payments/billing strategy, should receive as much careful consideration, as content, design and other things that are important to a site’s success. Instead of thinking of billing as something separate from a promotional and marketing campaign, merchants should approach billing as an integral part of it.

An online merchant’s ultimate goal is to maximize conversions, and the easier it is for consumers to pay, the more likely a site is to convert. Even if a site has five-star content and five-star design, the merchant might have a hard time closing the deal if the buyer experience during the payment stage is difficult or cumbersome — and for that reason, payment features need to be meticulously built into a site’s design, not added at the last minute.

Let us say, for example, that a company is getting ready to launch a new paysite and is analyzing the markets in which the site is likely to convert. The company realizes that Germany (the largest country in the E.U.) is a robust market for their new content offering and they are hoping to attract an enthusiastic German following.

In that scenario, it is crucial for German consumers to be able to pay for the content as easily as possible using the currency and payment methods that they are the most comfortable with — and if paying becomes a hassle, the site might have difficulty converting in Germany, no matter how appealing its design and content are.

By consulting with a knowledgeable payment service provider prior to the site build, a merchant can discuss their company’s marketing/promotional plan and identify the payment solutions that will make it easier for their site to convert in Germany or any other market that is likely to be receptive to the site.

When it comes to building robust payment processing features into a site’s design, online merchants can learn a lot from the online gaming sector — which was way ahead of the curve in that area. Gaming sites have a long history of working out their billing/payment strategies even when a site is in the early planning stages.

This approach can serve companies in our industry as well — especially if they are working with a “payments-as-a-service” platform provider who understands all the intricacies of billing for memberships, subscriptions, live entertainment, e-stores, or any product or service that will help maximize their revenues.

Online companies not only make money from recurring monthly membership billing or live webcam performances — but much more money can be made from upsells and cross-sells, not to mention affiliate marketing. An experienced payment services provider will take all of those business and selling models into consideration.

Many companies offer payment processing for websites, but it is vital for online merchants to choose one that offers a platform of tools and technologies to help automate their billing, while building a wealth of consumer-friendly payment and support features into their site’s design from the get-go.

In choosing a payment services platform, merchants should ask: does the provider offer software that can help to maximize upsells and cross-sales? Does the provider offer merchant connect software? Does it provide affiliate-tracking software? Does the provider offer payment tools that can be integrated into a site’s structure?

Does the provider’s payment software make it easier for loyal customers to upgrade to a premium subscription? In addition, for cam sites, does the payment services provider make it as easy as possible for customers to purchase additional tokens? The right payments-as-a-service platform can offer online merchants all of these features and more.

In 2017, membership sites and live cam sites are being viewed on a variety of devices in a variety of countries and being paid for in a variety of currencies — and sites need a payments-as-a-service platform provider who can help them maximize their reach.

The time to devise a multicurrency, multidevice, multicountry payment/billing strategy is not when a website is ready to go live, but when a site is in its embryonic stage. And merchants need to know that their site will easily convert whether customers are paying with U.S. dollars, euros, U.K. pounds, Swiss francs or Swedish kronas.

Whether the customer chooses to pay with a credit card, direct debiting or another method, online merchants must realize that payment preferences can differ considerably from one country to another — and the more payment options that are offered, the better off a site will be from a conversion standpoint.

Ten years ago, websites offering content were designed primarily to be viewed on desktops and laptops. But, in 2017, smartphones and tablets are commonly used for the consumption of online entertainment. A desktop iMac user might also be an iPhone user; consumers who are using a Windows-based desktop or laptop in the morning might be using Google’s Android operating system on a smartphone in the afternoon.

Today, all e-commerce websites need a payment-friendly design that can enable them to bill quickly and easily on many different types of devices. This is something to consider as early as possible in a site’s planning process.

Payment services providers should be utilized as a business resource for online merchants. When a website is being constructed, all of the site’s expenses — from models and content creation to advertising — should be viewed as not only overhead, but also, as wise investments that can help make the site profitable.

Hiring an experienced payments-as-a-service platform provider is no less important an investment for an online merchant, and planning out payment processing strategies from the beginning, increases their chances of not only making it to second or third base, but hitting a home run.

Gary Jackson, managing vice president of sales at CCBill, brings nearly two decades of experience in the online media and commerce markets to the industry. Since joining CCBill in 2006, he has been a champion for CCBill’s business expansion for merchants and partners of CCBill, as indicated by the launch of a number of pioneering software innovations and traffic tools, including FlexForms, Merchant Connect, Integration Partners and the industry’s first stored payment service, CCBill Pay.

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