“Usability” is a catch-all word that we throw around to describe why the Apple iPad is better than the Motorola Xoom, or why WordPress is easier to use than Typepad (in our opinion). It looks and feels better, it’s more intuitive, and our expectations – aka our mental models – are satisfied when we engage with it.
Similarly, the checkout process of any e-commerce site runs the risk of poor usability, which can ultimately affect whether a customer completes a purchase or not. Last summer, we performed a major overhaul of the PhotoShelter shopping cart which was designed to make the process of shopping easier. This included things like:
The proof is in the pudding. We saw a 200+% increase in successful checkouts since the release, so we empirically know that improving usability translated into a better bottom line.
But we were unable to affect one key component: the actual payment mechanism. There are two main categories of payment types: 1) integrated and 2) redirected.
An integrated payment solution is the one you’re most familiar with from online shopping. You click “checkout,” enter your credit card number, and the authorization and success message occur within the website. This is ideal because it eliminates steps, maintains branding, and matches the expectation of the user (imagine if you went to the Gap, were ready to pay, and they told you to go across the street to the deli to complete your sale). Our integrated payment solutions include Netbilling and Authorize.net, two trusted companies that can provide you with a merchant account. The downside is that there are monthly charges associated with these offerings, and so they are only appropriate for high volume sellers, and not transient sellers.
PayPal is a redirected payment mechanism, whereby your customer must be bounced over to PayPal to complete the transaction. PayPal offers a free account option which is great for most photographers who don’t have regular online sales. But the problem comes at the POS (point of sale). When your customer tries to pay, they are redirected to PayPal. And although your customer doesn’t technically need a PayPal account to complete the sale, they make it really difficult to understand that.
Because most of our photographers use PayPal, most of our photographers’ customers encounter this issue. And quite honestly, it sucks from a usability perspective.
So we were psyched to find Stripe, which is a cool start-up offering an integrated solution. Here’s the dealio:
The day we launched this offering, dozens of photographers switched over to Stripe (including me), and started selling. Photographer Jon Longo shared his experience:
“Setup was straight forward. I like the fact the there was no waiting period prior to processing the first transaction. I am not real keen on the 7 day waiting period but its really not than big of a deal. I was using paypal before and never had any issues with them directly but I can tell you for a fact that I have lost a large amount in sales because people think they have to have a paypal acct to purchase. I would think that this happens with other photographers as well.”
Waiting to Get Paid
Jon’s comment about the 7-day waiting period is relevant, and merits discussion. There are a lot of photographer sales websites out there, but many of them act as the “merchant of record” when you make a sale. This means that they collect the proceeds from a sale for you, then disburse them to you after 30-days or when you hit a certain threshold (e.g. $100).
When we were researching photographer sales many years ago, it became clear to us that cash flow was a major concern for photographers. Work could be sporadic and seasonal, and some editorial clients don’t pay for 90 days. So while a photographer’s income might be strong, they could be in a crunch for cash more often than they’d like. Therefore, collecting cash at the point of sale is hugely important to business continuity.
This is why when you sell with PhotoShelter, you are the merchant of record. Granted, Stripe holds your money for 7 days, but this is still much better than waiting for 30 days, or having to request that they transfer what should be your money. The point is that when you’re evaluating e-commerce features, make sure that you’re investigating the factors that actually affect your business, and not just the bells and whistles that are nice-to-haves.
To learn more about Stripe and how you can easily set it up on your PhotoShelter account in 3 minutes or less, visit “PhotoShelter Introduces A New Way To Get Paid”.
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