Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sean's Photos

Male CardinalDowney Woodpecker Warns BluebirdBluebirdFox SquirrelRed-headed WoodpeckerRed-headed Woodpecker
Icy SituationWild GeeseYellow BirdWoodpeckerCardinalCardinal in Landing Pattern
WoodpeckerWoodpecker in Pine TreeCardinalPine WarblerSunsets over snowy pasturesBird in the Yard- Minolta Rokkor 135mm Lens- Nex-6 Body
Joplin PorscheRexCriminal Carriagescriminal_executionerPOMPEII_OCEAN_Bbremen_windmill

Some photos I take with various cameras including 1970's lenses and camera phones

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Getting Paid - Payment Ideas For Your Small Business

Make Payments Easy

Nobody wants to work to complete a transaction.  Parting with one's money is much easier when it's painless and quick.

Keep this single point in mind when designing your web site or app and when choosing your payment methods, your customers will be much happier and you will be more profitable.

How Do You Do Business?

How and where you do business matters when thinking about getting paid.  Different payment systems are easier to implement or cost more or less depending on what you do and where.

Do you operate online, in a physical location, or both?  Do you take payments by phone, in person, in the field, on a web site, or in a mobile app? Do may even have a physical goods store setup on a eCommerce hosting platform like Big Commerce or Shopify.

Your Future Plans

What are you planning to do in the future?  Are you going to change web hosts, develop a mobile app, start selling at events?  Keep your future business goals in mind when evaluating your payment choices.  You do not have to be married to one method of payment processing forever, but sometimes you can use one service provider in different ways.

Types of Payment Systems To Consider

I use and recommend a number of payment options to my clients depending on their budget and technical capabilities.  I personally use several at once.

My Criteria For Choosing a Payment Solution :

  1. Must have good security
  2. Must be easy for customer: This increases sales by reducing transaction friction...aka 'abandoned carts'
  3. Must be relatively simple for me to implement (less important than #2)
  4. Customer support provided by payment company must be good- good documentation and quick response times on issues are very important.
  5. Solution cannot cost too much (least important of all)- Many options are similarly priced and more sales will hopefully make up any difference in cost per transaction.

Converting Visitors to Buyers

If you want to make the most sales for the largest dollar amount, you cannot simply pick a payment system like Paypal, plug the button's html code into your site, and check the task off your list as done.

Reading the works of academics who study behavioral economics (Dan Ariely is a good one), we find that people will behave differently when in buying mode based on what is offered to them.  For example, given only one method of payment, customers are less interested in completing the transaction.  Sometimes its because the one method you gave them is not their favorite.  Psychologically, however, it turns out that 2-3 payment choices translates into more sales.  Going over this number gets too complicated so buyers abandon their cart.  Provide at least two different payment processing options such as credit card and Paypal.

How Payments Used To Be

The brick-and-mortar and online digital-only payment systems are evolving and the line between them is blurring. In the earlier days of the web, many small businesses accepted payments online with Paypal and had a credit card reader provided by their local bank in their physical place of business.  If you were a larger business you might have an online merchant account with your bank also.  More established providers are offering more features and interesting new companies are coming online quickly.  It's finally becoming a buyer's market for merchants.

Traditional Merchant Bank/Gateway Setup

I have implemented traditional merchant bank account solutions with a gateway (  They are expensive and complicated for many small businesses.  The merchant pays monthly transaction fees, report fees, bank fees, gateway monthly fees, and have account setup fees.  After a year the contract expires and must be renegotiated.  No fun to setup and operate, but a little cheaper if you do a lot of business.  Many small businesses do not do enough volume to pay all the fees.

Use Cases

Small businesses should look at the new choices for taking payments.

I currently like Square for getting payments quickly while mobile. Many businesses have also been using them as in-store terminals (Starbucks).  Square is useful when I am in the field at an event.

Stripe is good for credit card payment processing on mobile apps and web sites.  Stripe also integrates with some hosted shops like Big Commerce and Shopify.  They do require a secure server (security certificate) which can be had from these e-commerce hosts as well.  I use Stripe for a Big Commerce site, my own mobile apps, and web site payments on my own server where I maintain a digital security certificate.

Paypal is an option to add a second payment choice, but there are other like Dwolla to consider as well.

If you are going to develop a mobile app, there are other considerations.  Native Android and iOS apps require use of their respective mobile platform's payment processing system.  Apple and Google want their 30% cut on every sale.  This is true for digital goods and services but not for physical items.

If you decide to make a web app (not in the app stores) then the merchant keeps all of the payment without paying 30% to Google or Apple.  That is of course, less the typical processing fees.


Digital currency like Bitcoin will likely become a strong payment method on the future.  There are a lot of obvious benefits to using digital currency.  Mostly freedom from dealing with bank rules and fees are the main benefits.  Unlike when using a credit card, a Bitcoin buyer cannot dispute the 'charge' and get their money back.  Bitcoin sales are instant and final and the merchant gets to decide whether it will make good on any transaction problems.

There are already U.S. based Bitcoin solution providers (Coinbase) who can give you the html button code to plugin in to your site for taking payment in Bitcoins.  More people need to use Bitcoin before this can be a mainstream payment option.

The Right Payment Solution Makes Life Easier

I find that all payment solutions have their strengths and weaknesses.  Stripe is a little more work to setup but I have had great luck with them. I have heard of merchants having problems with Square and Paypal because they sometimes appear to side with buyers in charge disputes in unfair ways.  I have not used Square enough to experience this, but I have had issues with Paypal.  For physical goods sellers, this can be an expensive problem.  Fairness and other problems like these are often not the fault of the technology, but rather the customer service provided by the payment solution provider.

There are always new entrants to the payment solutions market which I review as they become available in case a better options comes along.  Hopefully my current list helps you make some decisions related to your business needs.