When Payment Alone Just Doesn't Cut It Anymore

By Michael Ni, Chief Marketing Officer, Avangate

The days when websites were all about marketing are gone. Today, in a world where customers are comparison shopping online and reading peer reviews on social media even while walking around at a store, companies have access to technology that helps turn all these points of engagement into places to drive customer decisions and sales. 

With the shift to digital goods and services, where you can order a car, arrange for a cleaning service, or read an article from your online subscription, the ability to service the customer and monetize each touch point is critical. But a dilemma still exists - how can websites/touchpoints serve as a sales channel, as much as a marketing channel? We read about the many solutions out there, including the rise of new payment providers, but here are hidden challenges with those systems that you need to address.

The Hidden Challenges In Payments

Online payment companies like Stripe, Braintree (now PayPal), are growing fast in this environment and raising money at all-time highs under the guise that all you need to successfully sell online - is a basic shopping cart and a processor to help you collect all that money you are going to make. 

At the same time, logic and the recent articles around Square's burning through their VC round and the rapid investments these payment processors are making in "add-on" capabilities, point to the fact that payments alone are not enough - whether to manage multi-channel sales and support, simplify and scale operations, or expand globally. 

Many companies under-estimate the complexity to wiring not just their website, but their support call center and sales with the ability to complete an order for a product, extend a subscription for a month, or to even provide a 20 percent discount on the next three months of subscription...and to do so consistently as the pace of new product releases accelerate. 

This "do-it-yourself" work only gets worse as companies now look to expand globally as regional boundaries no longer apply to goods sold online - opening the need for local entities, regional tax and compliance, not to mention the basics of providing local payment methods that go beyond Visa and MasterCard. New regulations like the upcoming SEPA rules can quickly derail your global commerce efforts, let alone compliance. And even if you understand the differences in European currencies and credit/debit payment processes, getting this right can easily lift conversion by over 30 percent. 

Moving Beyond PayPal

Often, companies start with PayPal or a local payment processor, but as those companies grow, they find that the burden of building and maintaining multiple components atop and around a payment processor slows them down ... a killer in this fast-paced, hyper-competitive world. 

While always a component of a mature commerce environment for any website, payment-centric solutions fall short in time to market as selling complexity grows - going beyond just taking a sale, but optimizing conversion and retention across the many points of servicing a customer, making it easy to define new products and pricing plans that can then be easily fulfilled and billed.

To add to this further, trial, paid or time-based, usage-based, or sharing-oriented business models, supporting the self-service upgrade of a subscription, putting a subscription on vacation hold, or even handling a service discount all become layers of complexity. 

Branching all this logic for supporting your international customers beyond simple branded cards and wallet multiplies complexity. Then, wiring all the front-end experiences to a flexible product catalog, fulfilling first time and renewal orders appropriately to the back-end makes most question why they are spending all their time building commerce systems rather than focusing on their products and the experience they want to create for their prospects and customers.

Succeeding With Simplicity

The good thing is that companies today have a lot of options  Payments-only is a common way to get started, but many are recognizing the rise of a new class of commerce solutions to simplify what is rapidly becoming a commerce hairball of required systems, integrations and compliance. 

In fact, Gartner recently said that this new class of Digital Commerce solutions will be 10X the size of the older "Ecommerce" market. Commerce will serve as a layer enabling companies to quickly define, deploy and test, fulfill, and manage the customer lifecycle helping to orchestrate the website, as well as ensure consistency with the other customer channels and touch points. 

This provides the ability to accelerate time to market and experimentation with products/promotions/billing models, increase conversion and retention with integrated marketing, A/B testing tools and smarter payments. In addition, there are classes of commerce platforms that also provide global payments support and customer support, further simplifying any issues with how to sell globally - eliminating complexity, and ensuring compliance with regulatory environments.

Ultimately, companies can choose to buy pieces such as payments, commerce and distribution separately, or try to build an integrated system themselves. Either way, this approach will require an additional integration layer, adding to the complexity of the system. However, by choosing a comprehensive solution provider, all of these components operate together under a single platform that integrates seamlessly with existing business systems. 

Companies selling digital goods and services need to understand the full commerce picture - that when integrating payments, commerce and distribution - the results are stronger and will lead to greater profitability.

Michael Ni brings over 20 years of experience to Avangate as a marketing and product executive in bringing successful innovation-driven businesses to market - from start-up to fortune 500 companies.