A free iPhone app for users
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009 has recently launched a free iPhone application.  Transfs is a web site auction site for credit card processing services.  The way it works is a merchant fills out a bid form and submits it.  Then the processors TransFS has in its system evaluates the customer’s processing information, such as volume and makes a bid.  Once the auction has ended, the merchant then selects the processor they want to do business with.  The chosen processor is then given the merchant’s personal contact information to continue the setup process.

Transfs has now released an iPhone application that merchants can use to utilize their web site and their services.  I find the whole concept of their service interesting as I have always had a difficult time explaining the Interchange plus pricing program to most merchants and that is what their entire service is about, Interchange plus pricing quotes.  It is indeed the best pricing program for any merchant, but many cannot grasp the concept of it and many times still prefer the 3-tiered pricing model for it is easier to grasp and understand.

Merchants are turning to cash advances
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

Many small businesses are turning to cash advances to satisfy their funding needs.  Many small businesses are unable to get loans from banks for the funding needs they have,  such as expanding, covering holiday inventory purchases, etc.  Banks are even more stringent with their money with the tight economy.  Therefore, a lot of merchants are turning to cash advances from their credit card processing provider.   The way it works is a merchant is advanced a certain amount of cash that is then repaid back through their credit card charges & deposits.  For example, a recent restaurant owner needed money to expand his building by a 100 sq ft.  He was able to get a $100,000 cash advance from his processor, EVO.  Typical advances range from the low 10,000 to the high 80′s.  The maximum that most cash advance companies will do is $250,000.

OfficeMax is getting a piece of the entire pie
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

OfficeMax is your standard merchant with credit card processing fees.  The other side of the table they are now getting into is the issue end.  When it comes to processing a transaction, there are several parts of the whole process.  It starts with banks issuing out credit cards.  They are referred to as issuers.  Visa/MC are the association that is tied to that particular card or bank.  You then have the merchant account provider that processes the transactions for the merchant and assumes risk.  Lastly, you have the sponsoring bank, where all merchant accounts must be sponsored by a bank.  However, they receive such a small piece of the pie, it isn’t worth considering.

Now, as a merchant, they have a cost of accepting a credit card, which has its own benefits that comes along with it.  On the flip side, they are now issuing branded Visa Cards.  I assume they have some type of agreement with a bank where they get a kickback on all transactions their customer’s process.  So now they are now not only getting the benefit of accepting a credit card, but are getting a little something back on the card issuing side.  This ultimately reduces their costs to run those particular transactions that are associated with those cards.

Merchants, credit card fees & having surcharges
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 18th, 2009

In generally, businesses cannot add a surcharge to a credit card transaction for the convenience of the customer using the card.  When a merchant signs up for a credit card processing account, they are agreeing to a merchant agreement that states this is completely prohibited.  The rule is coming from Visa/MasterCard directly.  Their theory is they do not want their customers to be penalized for using their service.  In generally, I think it is a bad idea anyways.  Consumers expect merchants to absorb the cost like any other business expense.  I see a lot of places in my area that do this and if their processor ever finds out, they would immediately terminate their account.  They would then have an almost impossible time getting another one.

There is one exception to the rule. That is government agencies.  V/MC have allowed these types of organizations to add a convenience fee to the transaction.  Most government agencies are now accepting credits and many of them charge a 3 to 4% surcharge.  In my opinion, that shouldn’t be acceptable as they are now charging more than what it actually costs.  If their costs is that high with their provider, then they should get their fees reduce as Interchange tops out at just a little over 3%.  This shouldn’t be an area that generates revenue for them.

Don’t let holiday shoppers walk away
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

During this economy, shoppers are looking for discounts from Internet merchants and if you don’t provide them, they may abandon their cart.  Here are some ways to utilize tools & techniques to prevent this with discount offers.  For starters, you want to make sure you reiterate your special offer or discount throughout the web site and not just the homepage.  If you do not do this, the consumer may lose interest or forget about the offer before checking out.   For example, if you are offering free shipping on all orders over $50, place some type of message or image stating this at the top of all pages on the site.  Payment choices – it is best to offer multiple payment choices besides a credit card processing option.  Such as a bill me later type of service, checks or gift cards.  Avoid the gotchas with sales tax & shipping charges being added later in the check out process.  Always have this displayed and showed before checkout, when they view their cart.  You also want to make your customers feel safe and secure.  You can do this by displaying your security logos, such as an SSL certificate and that your site has been scanned for security breaches using a service like Mcafee.    Lastly, go through your process yourself, as if you were a customer buying one of your products so you can see how it flows, feels, etc.

November 2009 ecommerce ideas
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

Industry insiders give great ecommerce tips all the time.  Here is a list of them for November 2009.  Localize Site – if you are a big retailer, then localize your web site with your retail stores.  That way you have the same products available in store as is online.  Message above the fold – it is important to keep your important messages at the top, such as newsletter sign up boxes, navigation, reviews, etc.  Testimonials – it is always a great idea to post testimonials from your customers.  It gives your company credibility when there isn’t a face to face transaction.  Help – things are harder for everyone, if you help others, it will come back to you.  FAQ – be sure to have a faq page that answers commonly asked questions.  Such as if your company takes credit card processing payments.  This not only answers their questions quickly & effectively, but reduces your customer service calls.  Goals – always have focused business objectives and clearly define when they have been achieved vs if you should go back to the drawing board.  Sophisticated shoppers – do not forget to appeal to the sophisticate users, such as the ones that like to use videos, zoomable images, etc.

SEOshop Review
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

SEOshop is another shopping cart I’m reviewing today.  The company is based in the Netherlands.  The cart costs around $37 US and then they charge a small percentage of the monthly sales the store brings in, similar to how the Yahoo Stores work.  Currently their average commission is 3.5%, but can be flexibly depending upon the merchant’s size.  The cart claims to be very SEO friendly, which is very important for almost all Internet merchants.  Without SEO traffic, an online store can not survive.  Another strength is its compatibility with credit card processing providers.  This includes about 20 different payment processing services.  A big disadvantage is it is not currently open to developers.  They do plan on releasing a template engine some time next year.  The cart can also be attractive to resellers as the whole system can be private labeled if desired.

ClearCart review
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

Today, I’m reviewing a shopping cart called ClearCart.  The information was gathered from Emily, Their CEO.  The cart was designed for and by women.  It is hosted only type of product, meaning it must reside on their servers.  It is a little expensive in my opinion, $250 setup and $100 per month.  Emily said their biggest strength is their appeal to women directly, attention to the design is used in the admin area, keeping the shopping cart experience simple and offering round the clock support regardless of the client’s size.  The downside is they do not provide the source code to the php/mysql information for advanced users.   Emily also claims that many merchants switch to them simply because they can not get a hold of their current vendor, take orders and manage the shipping easily.  Another great feature is their cart is compatible with most credit card processing companies and payment gateways like

Don’t let consumers abandoned their shopping cart
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

Almost all merchants experience shopping cart abandonment.  The only thing a merchant can do is minimize it as much as possible.  According to a white paper, here are some reasons why consumers abandon their cart.  Shipping charges, comparing prices, lack of money, looking for coupons, concerned about credit card processing data security and item was out of stock.  When it comes to shipping charges, make this information readily available as soon as they add something to their cart.  Do not require them to register or make anymore clicks of their mouse.  Once they add something, the shipping rate should be shown on the following screen without a lot of extra clicks.  To help with the security concern, show security icons, such as a SSL certificate being used.  Create trust by having contact information readily available.  Make your return policy easy to find.  Offering discounts & coupons directly on your site can help increase sales as well.  Use and encourage customers to post reviews on products they have purchased.  This helps consumers feel at ease of a particular product, such as is it of quality, will it last, does it perform well, will I like it, etc.  Just think of if this way, would you be more than likely to buy something if 100 other customers have reviewed the product?  Amazon for example uses this heavily.

Need some ecommerce ideas? How about a few of them.
Posted by: Curtis Stevens on November 17th, 2009

Industry insiders give great ecommerce tips all the time.  Here is a list of them for 2009.  Product reviews – they can be a very powerful feature.  Most consumers will buy a product when it has been reviewed by other users, especially when dealing with online stores vs retail.  Information – only ask for the information you must have.  People are reluctant to give out personal information, such as credit card processing data, so only ask what is necessary to sell them your products or services.  Market share – now is the time to ramp up your advertising budget to gain market share.  The economy isn’t doing well, so your competitors are advertising less making this a great time to take over.  PR – always maximize the power of press releases.  It can be great exposure for your company.  Product descriptions – always use unique content when describing your products.  When describing the product, make it sound like a sales presentation, describe the benefits, what will it do for the customers, etc.  Look at big online retailers for examples.  Trust – earn it by keeping your promises.  If you say all orders by 2 PM CST ship same day, be sure to always hold to that as much as possible.  Social media – this can be a great way to stay connected to your customers.  Consumers like to do business with companies that have a relationship with them and this is a great way to get that on a personal level.

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