North American Bancard Blog

The Essentials of Accepting Online Payments

Posted by Nancy Bakanowicz on

online paymentsAs an online business owner, your checkout page is critical. It’s where window shoppers become paying customers – the place where they hand over their payment information and purchase their carefully selected items.

Or not.

Customers can be turned off – and abandon their carts – by any number of things, chief among them a complicated checkout process. It is imperative that you make it as easy as possible for your customers to part with their hard-earned cash and buy some of your goods. Below are some tips that will help you make your checkout process fast, easy and convenient for your customers, which can turn into more sales – and a better bottom line – for you:

Offer multiple login options. Some online merchants these days require that customers create an account before purchasing the merchandise they’ve selected. While many are willing to go through this step, there are some who aren’t, and if account creation is the only way to checkout, then you’ve just lost a customer. Giving customers options, such as checking out as a guest (without creating an account), or even logging in with a social account like Facebook, opens the door for more customers and makes the checkout process much faster.

Offer several payment methods. Many online merchants offer PayPal as a payment type because it’s easy to set up an account and it’s secure. But there are other ways to pay for online purchases. Credit cards are always an excellent option, as most people have at least one. Mobile payments, like Apple Pay which recently announced it can be used online, may be an option for you, as well. Looking at your target audience to see which payment methods they use will help you determine which ones to accept.

Keep your page design consistent. Nothing is more jarring than a checkout page that looks completely different from the shopping pages. Not only does it send a red flag to the customer, making her wonder if it’s even part of your site, but it delivers an inconsistent branding message, causing you to lose out on a brand recognition opportunity. Even if your online payment provider has a frontend ready-made for your site, you can still control its appearance, so make sure the look and the messaging is consistent with the rest of your site.

An SSL certificate is a necessity. If you sell merchandise and take payments online, your website needs an SSL certificate to protect the personal and credit card information of your customers. SSL, which stands for secure sockets layer, ensures all data passed between a web server and a browser remain private, keeping it safe from hackers and would-be cybercriminals. Online shoppers can tell if your website is secure by the “S” in your site’s address – “https://” vs. “http://.”

Offer easy returns and refunds. Let’s face it – buying items online can be a bit of a crap shoot. Your customers don’t get to touch, feel or see the product in person before purchasing, and in the case of clothing or shoes, they don’t get to try it on. Having an easy return and refund policy can help mitigate the nervousness some customers may feel about purchasing items they can’t try on, and by making it part of the checkout process or putting it in the footer of your website (or some other place where it’s easy to find) can go a long way toward easing their minds about it. Make sure you clearly define the parameters of the policy – refund or store credit, timeframe, return shipping fees – so if a return has to be made, there will be no questions.

Provide clear contact information. Should a customer need to ask you a question, she will need your phone number or email address. This information should be readily visible on your site, along with the available hours, street address and social media accounts, so customers have a clear path to your contact information, should they need it. Without contact information, they may hesitate to buy from you or feel that if something goes wrong with the product, they cannot contact you with questions. You want your customers to feel as if you are their shopping partner, ready to help them whenever and wherever they need it.

Send a confirmation email. When a customer purchases something from an online retailer, she does not get a receipt. One may come with her merchandise, but between the purchase and the delivery, she needs something to show what it is that she’s spent her money on. Enter the confirmation email, which acts both as a receipt and a proof of purchase for the merchandise. It should, at minimum, include the date of the transaction, the order number, the items purchased, the total price (with tax and shipping), the payment method used, and the return policy, just in case it’s needed. There should also be a contact email address and/or a toll-free phone number, in case the customer has questions about her order.

Utilizing these tips can help make the online shopping experience an enjoyable one for both you and your customers – decreasing shopping cart abandonment, providing incentive for your customer to return for future purchases and increasing your sales.