The Risky Business of Mobile Security and Holiday Shopping

Secure credit card processing

E-Commerce has seen continuous growth for over a decade now and 2013 worldwide business to customer sales amounted to more than $1 trillion. Same as regular shopping, e-commerce sales record a huge increase during holiday season. Other than holidays that boost brick and mortar retail stores’ sales, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Black Friday, bigger e-commerce stores also create special offers for a few unique online shopping holidays. These include:

  • Cyber Monday– this is the first Monday after Black Friday and it’s coming with the same shopping fuss all around the internet. Some retail chains continue offering discounts, even after this day and extend their offers to the whole week (Cyber Week).
  • Single’s Day – last year we witnessed new shopping phenomenon when one of the biggest Chinese online stores decided to turn minor Chinese holiday into the biggest shopping day in the world.

E-commerce entrepreneurs have a lot of work during these holidays, mainly due to increased traffic on their websites. Since smartphones are becoming more popular than ever, holiday sales growth is the most visible in mobile shopping statistics. Comparing to last year, number of mobile purchases doubled, while purchases from tablet devices quadrupled during this year. Some predictions even say that in the end of 2015, number of mobile and tablet purchases will reach 18 million. High holiday traffic means more security risks. In this article we presented several effective ways for e-commerce website administrators to protect their and their customer’s sensitive data from cyber criminals.

Identify Fraudulent Visitors

E-commerce administrators should take precaution measures before the holiday season starts. They should:

  • Spoofers – They should search for visitors who are trying to spoof mobile devices. These are more likely to have malicious intent
  • Jail broken iOS devices – these phones are either stolen or hacked so they can download paid AppStore apps. Users with jail-broken iOS, are also much more likely to commit acts of cyber crime
  • Android users with mini browser alternative – these are often used by the hackers to show a US based IP address, while communicating from elsewhere
  • Track consumers – Use advanced tracking and keep all data, in order to recognize and block users who try to apply malware software, like: man-in-the-browser and man-in-the-mobile Trojans

Apply Security Measures

Security should be tightened while waiting for the holiday season. These are some of the measures e-commerce administrators should apply:

  • Mobile app security testing – security should be the highest priority during all app building cycles. Apps should be customized to come with security strategies that are able to answer the latest mobile security challenges, rather than having generic and outdated solutions
  • SSL and PCI compliancy– admins should use strong Secure Socket Layer authentication and run frequent PCI scans
  • Don’t store sensitive data – customers’ credit card and personal data shouldn’t be stored on company servers. Data breach doesn’t happen when there’s no data
  • Address and Card verification systems – these systems should be applied in order to reduce fraudulent attempts
  • Set up alerts– alerts should turn on in case several suspicious transactions or data breach attempts are coming from the same IP address. These alerts should be connected with admin’s smartphone
  • Introduce remote software systems– when cyber-attack occurs, website and app administrators need to react fast, which is why remote server monitoring systems are very useful
  • Patch regularly– security systems should be patched, the moment new versions are released

Educate Customers and Employees

Both customers and employees should be educated about safety measures and precaution. This education should include:

  • Employee’s security training – all company employees should be introduced to cyber security, especially if the company is working on BYOD bases. They should know about safe use of e mail, text messengers and social media accounts
  • Require strong passwords from customers – strong passwords, especially passphrases are harder to break
  • Customer education– add mobile shopping security articles to company’s blog, send them over newsletter and provide links to them on product pages.

With e-commerce being such a competitive niche, only companies that enable customers to shop freely and without fear can stay competitive, especially during those shop-till-you-drop holidays.

 

Guest Author: Nate M. Vickery

Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He is mostly engaged in providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with management and marketing advice. He is also the editor in chief on Bizzmarkblog.com.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

 

* Secure credit card image sourced from Perspecsys Photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

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11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts
What’s worse than not getting enough users to your e-commerce site? Losing out the ones that do visit your site thanks to a slew of abandoned shopping carts.

Abandoned shopping carts cost e-commerce companies trillions in lost sales every single year. The fact remains that nearly 69% of all shopping carts are abandoned by would be shoppers. While the reasons for shopping cart abandonment are many and varied, the solution is simple. Think like a customer when building your checkout process. The lower the easier it is to shop on your site, the lower will be the likelihood of vanishing would-be customers. Here are a few tips on getting those users to stick around longer and buy more.

1. Shorter, Quicker Checkout

Going by the attention span figures we saw earlier, another key takeaway is that your checkout process needs to be short and snappy. Research shows that the average number of steps in the checkout process of the top 100 e-commerce sites came in at 5.08 steps. Try and stay under that number – the shorter, the better.

Data proves this. Online travel giant Expedia grew their profits by an incremental $12 million in 2011 by simply deleting one single field in their checkout process. Sounds tempting now, doesn’t it?

2. Allow Guest Checkouts

Among the many reasons that make me such an Amazon junkie, is how much I hate creating a new profile on new e-commerce sites and remember the new username and password for each new site. It’s just easier to stick with the first profile I ever made – my Amazon one. I’m confident there are definitely tons of people like me out there who do not bother shopping on new e-commerce sites for identical reasons.

Don’t let your shoppers’ inherent laziness prevent you from bagging more conversions. Allow users to check out as guests on your site and save them the torture of compulsory registration. You can always email your users an auto-generated password to go with their email ID after they complete the transaction, if you must have a registered account for every user.

3. Collect Only Necessary Data Via Forms

Collect Only Necessary Data Via FormsSome businesses need more user data than others as a matter of fact. Buying an insurance policy online will obviously entail giving a lot more information regarding your health as compared to buying a digital camera. However, many e-commerce businesses do not realize how cumbersome it is for users to provide answers to endless questions on their forms and go ahead with monster sized online forms anyway.

Avoid this fundamental mistake. Ask only for information that is absolutely essential for you to process the transaction. Asking users to part with unnecessary data only makes them part with your site at double speed.

4. Autofill in Forms

Steve Krug’s iconic tome on usability ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, talks about reducing the effort a user needs to put in to complete any task on your website. The lesser the effort needed, the higher are the resulting conversion rates.

Apply Mr. Krug’s advice to your checkout forms. Autofill content wherever possible to make the process quicker and smoother for the user. If the user is signed in, autofill his name, address, phone number, even credit card details if you have them on record. That is not to say that you do not allow users to modify these details for each transaction if they choose so.

5. Checkout Completion Bar

Have you noticed that it is easier to complete tasks when you have the end in sight than those where you have no clue how much more time or effort you’ll need to put in? Yes, the anticipation of a result makes us move quicker and distances seem shorter.

Incorporate a task completion bar near the top of your checkout process indicating the user’s progress. As the user gets closer to completing the purchase, the progress bar lights up accordingly showing the user that the destination is just a step or two away.

6. No Hidden Costs

The single biggest reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts is when they are faced with sudden unexpected costs at the payment stage. This could be shipping fees, taxes, services charges or the like that make a user stop short in their tracks.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by displaying clearly all the involved costs upfront within the shopping cart at the very beginning. Leaving a user feeling cheated is the worst thing you can do for your brand.

7. Product Reviews and Ratings

Research by Nielsen has shown that word of mouth advice stands out as the biggest factor that convinces a user to buy a product or service. Buyers tend to believe the words of other buyers like themselves instead of believing the marketing spiel from the brand itself, as they see through the vested interests involved there. Factor in this insight when you design your product pages on your e-commerce site.

Users don’t have the luxury of touch and feel when they buy a product online. All they have to go on are product descriptions from the manufacturer (which they would normally discount) and reviews by other users. A product that has multiple reviews from existing users has a far higher chance of being bought than one that has none. Actively solicit product reviews and ratings from past customers. They will help you reel in new ones in the future.

8. Free Shipping

Free Shipping
E-commerce has a huge edge over brick and mortar stores in that they save on rent, utilities, overheads, warehousing and more, thanks to the absence of a real storefront. Conversely, the absence of a storefront means, users have no choice but to pay extra for shipping the products they buy online to their doorsteps. As a shopper yourself, you obviously know how much any shopper hates paying extra for anything in their purchase process. In fact, expensive shipping is among the biggest reasons for shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.

Get over this bump by offering your users free shipping wherever you can. Amazon has recently started offering free shipping for small, lightweight items with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a smart step to fend off competition from the online versions of Walmart and Target, which allow users to pick up items bought online from their physical locations for no fee at all. You may not be Amazon, but working out at least a free shipping option above a certain minimum purchase amount will not only benefit users; it will also push your average order value higher as users try and qualify for the free shipping offer.

9. Editable Shopping Cart

How many times have you gone back to the rack where you picked up an item in a store and exchanged it for another one before heading to the cash register? If you’re an indecisive shopper like me, multiple times would be my bet.

Not every shopper knows exactly what they want. Sometimes they’re just browsing and might change their minds halfway through the shopping process. Recognize this fickle nature of the average shopper and allow them to go back and edit the contents of their cart without having to redo the entire purchase from the beginning. A shopping cart that allows edits till right before the payments stage is one that loses much fewer shoppers than one that does not. Opt for the sticky version for your online shopping cart.

10. Multiple Payment Options

Multiple Payment Options
Imagine going into a candy store, picking out your favorite bits of candy, handing over your cash to the nice lady at the register, only to be told that your cash is no good. You need to pay for your candy in cowrie shells.

That’s kind of what happens to a shopper when your online store does not support the payment option that your user would like to use. In spite of wanting to complete the purchase, the user has no choice but to leave their shopping incomplete thanks to restrictive payment conditions. Stop frustrating potential shoppers and extend your payment options to include the most popular payment methods. Not only will your customers thank you for it, your bottom line will too. A shopping cart like ShopIntegrator allows you to offer users a variety of payment options ranging from debit card, credit card, bank transfers to PayPal and offline payments.

11. Security Labels

It is not enough to merely accept a variety of payment options on your website to convince users to buy from you. It’s equally important to assure them of the security of your site and the fact that their payment details and personal information are a 100% safe with you. This has become even more critical in the last few years thanks to all the cases of data theft that have come to light with large retailers like Target and eBay.

Besides displaying your returns and refund policy prominently in your checkout process, also make it a point to display security labels like VeriSign or McAfee Secure on your payments page. Familiar and trusted security symbols reassure users that they are shopping on a safe site and there’s no danger to their financial information. Making sure that your checkout process is hosted on an HTTPS protocol is another important step in this direction.

Conclusion

Improving checkout conversions is not a quick fix that you implement in one go. It’s a process that evolves with your website and changes based on your audience’s preferences. From helping users with live chat to displaying customer care numbers prominently, to even rewarding users for a completed purchase, there are multiple steps that you can take based on your reading of your users’ behavior on your site.

Remember, reducing cart abandonment is no one-size-fits-all formula. Once you get the basics described here in place on your site, incremental growth comes from understanding your users and modifying your approach accordingly.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4)

8 Tips to Select a Payment Processor for Your Online Store

8 Tips to Select a Payment Processor for Your Online Store
Setting up a business these days does not require nearly as much legwork as it did just five years ago. Even a blog or a plain website can be transformed into a full blown commercial site, capable of handling e-commerce transactions with a simple shopping cart plugin like ShopIntegrator. However, that’s the easy part.

To a layman payment happens in either cash or on-cash modes. In cash payments mode, you need to have physical outlets that can collect payments before releasing the items purchased. In a non-cash system, users swipe credit or debit cards on your site to transfer cash from their bank accounts to yours. Alternately, they pay via a service like PayPal where no cash changes hands, no cards are swiped, instead the user’s bank account is charged for a product they bought and transferred into PayPal’s account. Till the product gets delivered to the buyer, the amount does not get transferred to your bank account.

By and large, e-commerce stores in the developed world, only accept non-cash payments. Even after you pick your e-commerce template or shopping cart plugin, you still need to make one final choice before the money can start rolling in – choosing your payments processor. Here we shall go a little further in depth on how to pick the perfect payment processing service for your new store.

Processing an Online Payment

A non-cash payment online requires three basic entities to be processed.

a. The payment gateway
b. The payment processors
c. The merchant accounts

The payment gateway is like a fact checker that sits between your site and the customer. It verifies the authenticity of a user’s payment method and allows the transaction to proceed.

The payment processor does the actual transfer of money from the user’s account into the merchant account.

The merchant account holds cash that is transferred from the user’s account before it is moved into your bank account.

Typically, payment processors and merchant accounts come bundled together, while payment gateways are separate. However, lately there has been the emergence of three-in-one accounts that bundle all three entities into a single consolidated service. Services like Stripe or PayPal are examples of consolidated payment services. However, this convenience comes at a cost. These consolidated payment services typically charge the merchant a much higher per transaction fee, which can add up to a lot once you outgrow your startup status and start having some real good transaction volumes.

Once your business starts growing bigger and bigger in terms of revenues and transaction volume, it makes financial sense to switch to having your own merchant account and payment processor combination separate from the payment gateway.

Considerations While Selecting a Payment Processor

So you decided to go the route of a separate payment processor and merchant account to save some much needed extra cash. But what do you look for in a good payment processor before you make the final call? Here are the key factors that you ought to consider.

1. Security

With the spate of data breaches that online retailers have suffered in the last couple of years, your number one concern while picking a payment processor has to be security.

a. Data encryption is a basic must have for a payment processor, where user data is encrypted into uncrackable codes before it is transferred from one party to the other.
b. PCI Standards compliance or Payment Card Industry Security Standards compliance is a must have to be able to compete effectively in the modern e-commerce space.
c. Verisign SSL certificate tells you that the payment processor offers your users SSL security for payment transactions. In other words, payments sent over an SSL connection are doubly secure than regular connections.
d. Address Verification – Payment processors ask for billing address for a credit or debit card from a user to verify it against the actual billing address listed against said card. This minimizes the risk of fraudulent transactions and protects user data.
e. CVV2 verification refers to the three digits that appear alongside the signature panel at the back of a credit or debit card. Asking for this number ensures that the user actually has physically with him / her and is not misusing a credit card number found accidentally on a credit card statement or other such correspondence.
f. Reputation – Finally, check for the reputation of a payment processor before you commit to one. A quick online search with keywords like ‘data breach’ or ‘security lapse’ accompanied by the payment processor’s name will give you a wealth of information about whichever processor you may be considering.

2. User Friendliness

When a user is mid-transaction on your website, even a small hitch in payments or page load time or even unexpected shipping charges is enough to scare them away into abandoning the cart altogether. Hence, the best e-commerce sites seek to minimize friction in a user’s experience, especially in the checkout stage. Having a payment processor that handles the transaction as smoothly as possible plays a huge role in ensuring that the user experience remains exemplary.

a. Onsite vs. offsite processing – When payment data is collected and processed in a single flow without the user ever having to leave your website, you have onsite seamless processing. While this may be great from a UX perspective, it puts the liability of data security, firewalls and more squarely on your shoulders.

The other option is offsite processing, where the user is taken to the payment processor’s site and any financial data is handled directly by the payment processor, thus vastly reducing liability on you as a website owner. The other benefit of offsite processing is the fact that users are usually familiar with processing companies like PayPal and trust them implicitly. So even if you are a new startup, by offering processors that are reputed and trusted, you earn some of that user faith by association.

Incidentally, ShopIntegrator offers offsite processing to ensure peace of mind for all its users.

b. Analytics – Many payment processors offer customer data to the websites that they service. Detailed analytics like purchase frequency, average order value and more can be available without you running a single report in your own analytics software. An added bonus that verifies your numbers is always welcome.

c. Multiple cards supported – Look out for processors that can support multiple types of cards and payment modes. A potential customer who does not see his preferred payment mode supported is bound to drop off your site leading to a lost opportunity. Check whether your payment processor covers the entire gamut from Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Diner’s Club to digital wallets like PayPal.

d. Mobile Payments Supported – With more users now accessing the internet via their mobile phones than PCs, it is imperative that your payment processor support mobile payments. Top e-commerce sites in emerging markets like India have over 50% of their total transactions coming from mobile platforms. The growing popularity of Apple Pay and consequently the renewed focus on Google Wallet and other mobile wallets like Venmo, make mobile payments support even more critical.

3. Fees

A payment processor will let your users transact via their existing infrastructure, but these services come at a cost. Many e-commerce sites make the mistake of picking the processor with the lowest fee, without balancing those out against the services that they render. Avoid this trap of opting for the cheapest service out there, but simultaneously don’t forget to keep close tabs on the cost of associating with your chosen payment processor. I say this, because it’s not one, but a host of fees that a typical payment processor will charge you. These include:

a. Setup Fees – Usually a one-time fee at the time of registration.
b. Variable Fees – These are fees that depend on the transaction volumes on your site as well as the types of services you opt for from the processor, e.g. per transaction fees, authorization fees, address verification fees, and more.
c. Recurring monthly / annual fees – Recurring monthly or annual fees are levied when you’re not charged a per transaction fee. This works well for larger e-commerce sites where the transaction volume is high and a per-transaction fee would not be cost effective.
d. Extras – These are fees that pop up, often unexpectedly. They’re rarely advertised on a payment processor’s website, usually finding their home in the fine print of some contract that you click ‘I agree’ on. Make sure you check upfront with your payment processor about these very specifically, as many processors attempt to make a quick buck out of these vague fees like cancellation fees for transactions that were cancelled by a customer. When a user’s details entered during the transaction do not match their real details, a transaction can be labelled ‘disqualified’ and your site gets charged an ‘unqualified transaction fee’.

4. Currency Support

The USP of having an e-commerce business is having the ability to sell to any one, located anywhere in the world. Most leading payment processors like FirstData, PayPal and Stripe tend to offer support for multiple currency types. This ensures that your user does not have to face the complication of currency conversions at the time of payment, leading to a lower chance of cart abandonment. However, multi-currency support comes at a price. Many processors (not all) charge a currency conversion fee for cross border transactions.

But offering multiple currencies on your site has more upsides to it than downsides. Multiple currency support means your site can even cater to visiting foreigners who might only have credit cards in their home currency. Moreover, the fact that your site already supports multiple currencies makes it easier for you to officially make a foray into new countries, opening up new avenues for your business and its revenue generating potential. Always a great thing to have!

5. Country Support

You might think I’m being repetitive here, but I’m actually not.

While people can pay with multiple currencies while still within the geographical boundaries of your home country, having multi-country support is a completely different ballgame. Most payment processors allow users to pay from different geographical locations as long as they pay in just a handful of supported currencies. While having limited currency support can be a limiting factor, not having multi-country support means your loyal customers can’t use your services anymore if they decide to travel or move away from home base.

6. Platform Support

Is your payment processor compatible with your e-commerce platform? However awesome a payment processor maybe, if their technology does not match up to that of your platform’s there’s not much you can do about it. Since both payment processing and overall design, layout and functionality are key factors that affect the success of any e-commerce site, it makes sense to first do your research about all the various e-commerce platforms you like and match them up against the payment processors that these can work with, before you make the big decision of building your site with any one platform.

I’m going to make your life easier by offering you a handy peek at the various payment processors that ShopIntegrator works with, just in case you’re shopping around for a reliable and functional e-commerce platform!

7. Business Support

So you’ve finally narrowed down your payment processors to a handful. These are not too expensive, are secure, are easy to use, are compatible with your e-commerce platform and more. You’re all set, right? Wrong.

Even if a payment processor ticks off all the boxes in the list above, it still needs to fulfill one critical condition – whether it supports your business or not. Confused? Allow me to explain. Many e-commerce sites deal with products that may or may not be endorsed by all payment processors for various factors ranging from moral reasons, to health reasons, to riskiness of the venture. If your e-commerce site sells items like tobacco, arms and ammunitions, adult toys or content etc. there is a good chance that you may either get rejected by the payment processor you approach or may be stuck paying much higher fees than businesses that operate in less ‘risky’ sectors.

8. Customer Service

Just as your users expect great customer service from you, you have a right to receive professional customer service from your payment processor. Check whether the processor you’ve shortlisted offers round the clock customer service. What languages do they offer support in? Are they at least available during the time the majority of your users are online? How proactive are they at fixing potential problems? Do they need to be chased continuously and hounded down for basic troubleshooting services? All these are legitimate questions that you ought to have answers to before making such a large commitment. Remember, a failure on the payment processor’s part can result in a negative user experience for your own customer, usually for no fault of yours at all. You don’t want to lose customers or be constantly on the backfoot with a payment processor who is highly unreliable.

As before, you can either Google this info or visit forums that offer inside news about individual payment processor. Better still, if you personally know someone who has used their services in the past, it’s a good idea to pick their brains before embarking on a partnership with a new payment processor.

In Closing

These pieces of advice are just an aggregation of my personal knowledge about the payment processing industry, its players and their relationships with their merchant partners. By no means is this an exhaustive list. However, it does give you an idea of what to expect once the deed is done. Choosing a payment processor is like choosing a spouse – preferably a once in a lifetime event that has a whole lot riding on it. Don’t hurry this decision. Weigh all your options carefully and then go with what makes most sense taking all possible aspects into consideration.

Image Source: (1)

How smartphones have brought credit card acceptance within your reach

 

Guest Post: First Data Merchant Solutions

First Data Merchant Solutions LogoNew smartphone and Bluetooth technology has enabled very small businesses, such as mobile hairstylists, gardeners, plumbers or electricians to accept credit and debit cards easily and affordably.

Richard Simon from First Data Merchant Solutions, which provides special rates for card services to ShopIntegrator members, explains how small businesses can use the new technology to ensure they no longer have to turn away customers not carrying enough cash.

He said: “Traders can now buy a pocket sized card reader that can be easily attached via Bluetooth to their smartphone. Once you’ve downloaded an app to your phone, you are ready to start accepting card payments.

“These mobile card systems are more cost effective for very small businesses as they require less up-front investment than traditional card terminals like the ones used in shops.”

“First Data is a global expert in card acceptance,” explained Richard, “and we have recently recent launched Pogo> which enables you to accept mobile card payments with your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch® or Android™ device. It’s fast, secure and easy to use with no contracts, fixed fees or minimum usage agreements.

“In the UK it’s still early days for mobile POS. Research suggests of Britain’s 4.9 million[1] small businesses less than a half accept card payments[2] and could be losing more than £800m[3] of sales a year as a result.

“This could be about to change as strong demand for mobile POS is predicted from both micro merchants and large merchants driven by growth in online trade, a rise in smartphone usage and card penetration. [4]

“Consumers increasingly expect to be able to use their cards whenever they wish. For the trader, mobile POS can mean never having to lose a sale because the customer doesn’t have the right amount of cash and less chasing of unpaid invoices.”

For more information about Pogo> please visit First Data Merchant Solutions

 

First Data Europe Limited is authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Service Regulations 2009 for the provision of payment services (FCA register No. 582703).

[1] http://www.fsb.org.uk/stats

[2]http://forum.vendorcom.com/media/RBTE2013/120313%20Worldpay%20Retail%20Presentation.pdf

[3] https://www.paypal.co.uk/blog/do-you-accept-cards-the-ps800-million-question-for-smes/

[4]http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mobile-pos-technology-market-and-social-commerce-impact-on-consumer-goods-industries-analyzed-in-new-research-reports-204335361.html

 

How to change your online shop without changing your website platform

online hopping cart iconsWhen first starting out many small businesses utilise the basic online store provided by their website platform as it can offer a simple simple way to start selling online. But, what happens when your business grows and its needs change? You may well come to the point when your current shopping cart no longer provides you with the ecommerce features you need in order for your business to move forward.

Don’t let your business stall due to the limitations of your online store

For example, perhaps you require better product and order management capabilities, you’d like to offer multiple currencies as your customer base becomes more global, you require more advanced shipping calculators, you are thinking about starting to sell digital content, you’d like to offer your customers a wider range of payment options  or introduce special offers using discount codes and e-vouchers.

However, surprisingly often small businesses end up remaining with the initial online store that came with their website platform for far longer than needed, simply because they’re not quite sure where to start, are worried about how much technical know-how is involved or are concerned that if they change their online shop they’ll have to change their website platform.

The upshot is you can end up feeling tied to your existing online store putting limits on what your business can achieve.  But actually, changing your online store to a shopping cart with more advanced features doesn’t have to be difficult or costly if you consider a hosted, third party ecommerce solution.

shopping cart selling digtal downloadsBenefits of moving to a hosted, shopping cart solution

There are some excellent third party shopping cart solutions available that are quick and easy to integrate, don’t cost the earth and require very little (if any) technical knowledge but, have the benefit of being able to offer a wide range of advanced ecommerce features.  Lets begin with dealing with a couple of common concerns that can make a small business reluctant to upgrade their current online store.

Q: I want to stay with my existing website platform but need more advanced ecommerce features

Changing your online shop doesn’t mean you need to change your current website platform or  remain tied-in to your website builders own online store. You can choose a hosted, third party ecommerce solution that can offer easy integration with your existing website builder. Look for a shopping cart that can integrate with any website, whether it is HTML , a CMS (Content Management System) such as Drupal, WordPress or DotNetNuke(DNN) or DIY site builder such as Weebly, Moonfruit, Yola, Webs, SiteJam, 1&1 MyWebsite, Vistaprint, Webnode and 123Reg.

Q: I’m concerned that changing my online store will be technically complicated and time consuming.

Many small online business put-off changing to a more appropriate shopping cart solution because they are concerned about the level technical knowledge that might be required and the potential disruption it may cause. This needn’t be the case if you opt for a straightforward point and click system where you can simply copy and paste ecommerce buttons and widgets into your website to create an online store.

Or even easier choose a third party solution like ShopIntegrator that has the capability to drop a complete, fully functioning online store into your website within a few quick and easy clicks. This enables even complete novices to be set up a fully functioning online store quickly and easily – requiring little, if any technical knowledge.

Key things to consider when choosing ecommerce solution

So what are the key things to consider when looking to replace your existing online store? Thinking about each of the elements below will help get you on the road to choosing the solution that is most suited to your online business.

Features: It is important to think about your current and future business requirements. What are your existing business needs? What might they be in three or five years time? Choose an ecommerce solution that is flexible enough to adapt and change with your business. There are some fantastic ecommerce features out there, which you may not be able to take advantage of with your current shopping cart. For example, advanced features may include more sophisticated product and customer order management, high-capacity cloud storage for selling digital downloads, the ability to take donations and ‘pay what you want’ sales, advanced shipping plan creators, international tax such as VAT and regional tax such as US State sales taxes, and shopping cart design customisation. Take some time to think about what features could help you free up valuable time and move your business forward.

Pricing:  Higher costs don’t automatically reflect a better product. Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of features you are looking for then hunt around for competitive prices. And, don’t rule out smaller providers as they can often offer exactly the same features and capabilities as the bigger guys – but at better prices. Consider different pricing packages as this will give you the flexibility to grow your online store and take advantage of features only as you need them – rather than paying for features your business doesn’t yet require.

Ease of Integration:  Look for straightforward, easy to use solutions that take the headache out of changing your online store. Choose a solution that is compatible with any HTML website, CMS or DIY site builder. Tutorials and platform specific integration guides can be a real help when you integrate, as they can walk you through the process step-by-step – so it is worth checking out if these are available.

Payment Processing. Offering a range of payment options to your customers makes good business sense, since limiting payment choice could potentially mean the loss of a sale at the checkout.  Look for a shopping cart that includes a good  choice of pre-integrated payment processors and offline options such as ‘pay by cheque, ‘pay on delivery’ ‘pay by phone’ or ‘pay by bank transfer’.

Support: It is really important to choose a provider that you feel can offer you good customer support. Don’t forget it is in your providers best interest to ensure that your business is a success. Take a look at their support page to make sure they offer a comprehensive support system.

So you’ve done your research, you know the main features you are looking, so how then do you narrow down your choice?

Check out reviews and feedback:  – Take a look at independent reviews  and feedback from other users. An easy way to do this is to visit the business Facebook page and take a look at the comments.  It’s a good way to get a feel for what other users think.

Take advantage of a free trial. This is a great way to test drive your online store. You get a good feel for the product and its services before committing.

Contact the service provider.  Contact the service provider and discuss through any concerns about suitability you may have – a good provider will be happy to help. This is also a good way to get a taste of their customer services and the support you are likely to get once you are signed up.

Good luck. And remember, moving from your existing shopping cart provider needn’t be a headache and can really help you move your business forward in the way you need in order for it grow.

Shopping carts image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave us a comment.

The ongoing battle against fraud: How to protect your business

Guest Author: Amy Monro

Sage Pay payment processor

Amy Monro is the PR and Social Media Manager at Sage Pay.

Sage Pay is the UK’s most recommended payment gateway provider, helping over 45,000 customers process payments in the UK and Ireland.

The ongoing battle against fraud: How to protect your business

Big brands and those selling luxury goods might seem the most obvious targets for online fraud, but almost all Internet businesses are faced with a degree of risk that simple tools and processes can help to mitigate. Below we’ve put together a guide to the most popular fraud screening tools available to help you protect your business and clear up any confusion about what they are and how they work:

AVS/CV2

secure online paymentsThe address verification system (AVS) and the card security code (CV2) protocols were introduced by the banking industry to help combat growing issues around verifying the cardholder’s identity.

These tools check the address entered at the time of purchase, along with the CV2 code (the three digits on the back of the card) to verify that the cardholder has the card with them when they are authorising the transaction and that it is registered to their delivery address.

The Benefits

  • These checks help to combat unauthorised card use due to cloning or theft. -These tools are checked in real time so you receive the results at the same time as the authorisation result.
  • Most payment service providers enable these tools on your account for free and with some, for example Sage Pay, you can create rulebases to automatically accept or reject transactions based on the results so you don’t have to keep a manual check on them.

The Limitations

  • AVS is a UK scheme only, which means that it’s currently not possible to check these results for overseas orders.
  • Only the numerics of an address are checked. The non-numerical characters in the first line of an address are not verified which means that is possible to receive a false negative result if the shopper does not enter a house number but a house name.
  • The protocol is unable to check either AVS or CV2 results on company cards
  • The AVS checks are not separated out between address and postcode so if either part is not matched, the entire check will fail.

3D Secure

3D Secure is a fraud prevention initiative launched by Visa and MasterCard to provide a more secure method for authenticating that the shopper is the rightful cardholder at the time of the transaction. When submitting their card details, depending on the type of card they have entered, customers will be asked to enter their previously created 3D Secure password or have the option to create one if they haven’t already.

The Benefits

  • 3D Secure can induce a liability shift of card fraud back to the card-issuing bank. In other words if you as the vendor process a transaction that has been fully validated by 3D Secure, it cannot be charged back to you if it is found to be fraudulent. This won’t happen in every case as that is at the discretion of your merchant bank.

The Limitations

  • It is worth noting that the current system is perceived to be unfriendly to buyers, as it involves an extra step in the payment process, which can result in delays and increased dropout so the payment pages. This however, is just a matter of customer education and we advise companies selling products and services online to clearly signpost in the e-payment process what customers need to do and why.
  • Not all cards are part of the scheme

Beyond the usual tools

Of course, it’s always a good idea to keep a manual eye on things as best you can and below we offer some basic tips on other things to look out for:

  • Check the telephone number and delivery address against the billing address. Call the number to check that it’s genuine and for landline, check the area code matches.
  • Always be wary of a low-cost transaction followed by several high-value ones. Fraudsters use this method with stolen cards to check there are funds available and whether the card has been blocked.
  • Be cautious of ‘high-risk’ countries
  • Check the email address to make sure it’s valid and be suspicious of free or anonymous email addresses
  • If you’re still suspicious, consider sending goods by registered post to ensure you get a signature and avoid non-delivery claims.

There is, of course, no magic wand to eliminate fraud, so e-tailers need to be on their guard for the signs and the above tools used correctly should provide a good level of cover. It’s advisable to use all these tools in conjunction rather than be solely dependent upon any one and your payment service provider can help configure your settings to get optimum results and should be happy to discuss suspicious transactions with you.