There are a huge number of companies peddling different solutions to boost ecommerce sales, and of course they all state that they are the future. Some claim that they will address the “trust” issue of online commerce; others are working on smart imagery, providing the consumer detailed product information via zoom, crops and 360 degree transitions. Then there are the latest developments enabled by smart phones, including augmented reality.
Anyone considering starting an ecommerce business needs to take all of this into account. There are many different things to think about, and in this blog I try to touch briefly on a number of them.
SellerDeck has around 12,000 sites using our solutions to sell online, so I do feel that we have acquired some insight into what works and what doesn’t. Interestingly, the most successful sites seem to focus on some of the most basic things: like a great range, helpful descriptions, competitive pricing and a dedication to customer service.This may be the case, but complacency is not a business virtue. So what is really likely to prove important to the future of ecommerce?
Payment on the mobile
The first area is payment. It’s difficult to make payments online, and the fact that it’s still possible for buyers to see charges appear on their card if their details are stolen is a real issue. We’re waiting for the banks and the mobile operators to get their collective acts together. There’s lots of optimism that the next couple of years will see progress towards the mobile being the prime payment and payment validation device.
It’s never been easier or more cost effective to sell online, and the trend is to put online, in-store and telephone sales together in one integrated application. It makes sense that some people want to see merchandise for themselves, think about it at home, then order online. Conversely, some people want to look at what’s available in the web store, then visit the shop to pick up the goods in person. As demand has risen, ecommerce suppliers have been able to provide these integrated systems without breaking the bank.
Mobile commerce and augmented reality
Nowadays a large and growing proportion of the population are carrying around sophisticated computers – aka smart phones – that know their geographical location, can combine this with real time pictures or sound and are continuously talking to the web. This is very exciting and brands such as RayBan sunglasses and IKEA are already demonstrating the possibilities. Companies such as Red Lazer are also working on innovative applications that allow you to use the power of the smart phone to combine real world items with online shopping; I’m convinced that there is much more to come.
One area that has moved from beneficial to vital in ecommerce terms is reputation management. I’m very excited about this because my company has recently done a deal with one of the companies that we see as a rising star in this field – Feefo. This area is about managing online merchant’s reputation online, and services like Feefo have a vital role to play. Feefo (which stands for Feedback Forum) runs an independent service which asks customers for feedback on both merchants’ service and products. The merchant can’t change the feedback (anything illegal or obscene is edited), but has a right of reply. There will always be feedback about merchants on the web. Having it in one place where the positive balances the negative, and having a right of reply are major benefits of an independent feedback service. The result tends to be around a 10% rise in sales, more on some sites.
The final word
We are now in the second ecommerce boom. The first, around the year 2000, proved partly illusory and partly a harbinger of the future. This time it’s for real. Someone contemplating a start up needs to assess pursuing brand new areas enabled by the latest technology and where much more technical skill, money and luck is required. In contrast there’s more chance of success with a traditional ecommerce venture, although the potential rewards are smaller and it’s still vital to be aware of the latest trends.
Budding entrepreneurs need to decide whether to build a traditional business with reasonable chance of success, or shoot for the stars in areas that are yet to be discovered. Whichever route you take, good luck.
Card payments, either directly or via eWallet services like PayPal, make up the vast majority of payments for goods online. Consumers are well protected against fraud, however, merchants do not enjoy the same blanket level of protection and need to be careful when accepting online payments.Card payments, either directly or via eWallet services like PayPal, make up the vast majority of payments for goods online. Consumers are well protected against fraud, however, merchants do not enjoy the same blanket level of protection and need to be careful when accepting online payments. Online payments funded by a card can be subject to charge backs, where the card holder disputes the transaction up to six months after the sale. Charge backs can either be because the card holder disputes that they made the transaction (i.e. it was a fraudulent transaction), or because they believe that the item they received was not as described.
It is easy to assume that funds arriving in an account are cleared and legitimate payments. However, for any online payments where the 3D secure test is not passed (see below), the merchant carries the ultimate risk of a fraud as the transaction is ‘card holder not present’. To understand the risks associated with any transaction, merchants should understand the available security checks and other factors which can be used to filter out the good from the bad.
Most payment gateways make little effort to educate their customers as to the best security settings for their business and leave the merchant to create their own security rules. However, it pays to spend some time working out the best settings for your business. For example, if your products are all low value, you may wish to have a low security threshold as fraud is unlikely or a risk you are willing to take. Conversely, if your products are desirable, high ticket items, then fraud settings should be high. 3D Secure 3D secure, also know as Verified by Visa or Mastercard SecureCode creates a virtual “card present” environment during internet transactions by asking the buyer to enter a password. 3D secure is only available for Visa and Mastercard transactions and as yet there are no similar initiatives for American Express, JCB or Diner's Club. The major benefit of this system is that a transaction that has been fully 3D Secure validated, cannot be charged-back to the merchant if subsequently found to be fraudulent. The merchant is protected by the card issuer against such charge backs because the bank themselves assume the liability. However, charge backs are still possible as a 3D secure validated transaction will not protect in the event of the customer denying receipt of goods. 3D secure is not universally popular, with some merchants complaining of reduced conversions. Some consumers also find the extra step in the checkout process annoying.
AVS checks the numeric values in a card holder’s address (i.e. flat or house number and numbers in the post code) given at checkout against the billing address on file for the card. Checking that the buyer knows the right billing address is an important extra check, but by no means foolproof. For example, a card owner can enter their address incorrectly, or a fraudster can have access to the card holder’s address. The AVS result can be either match, partial match or mismatch.
These are the three numbers which are on the back of the card for Visa and Mastercard, or four on the front (American Express). Their purpose is to provide some confidence that the buyer has the card in their possession as the numbers are not stored on the magnetic strip. The system is by no means infallible as the there are scripts available on the internet for generating the codes.
With experience humans can get a feeling for whether or not a transaction poses a risk. However, as transaction volumes grow, it is not possible to check each purchase individually. Fraud screening services such as Third Man (www.the3rdman.co.uk) automate the analysis of each transaction by looking at various elements including name, card numbers, frequency of use, delivery address, value and IP address to produce a risk score for the transaction. Fraud services are integrated into many payment gateways such as SagePay. As well as using automated services, be aware of the following warning factors:
A good list of fraud signs can be found here:
PayPal PayPal’s website payments standard product only provides seller protection for purchases which go to verified addresses. All purchases which are made using the Website Payments Pro service are ineligible for seller protection. AVS and CV2 and recently 3D secure checking are available through PayPal but 3D but no additional fraud screening information is available to merchants. Google Checkout Google provides merchants with details of whether a transaction has passed CV2 and AVS tests. It does not support 3D secure, but does provide its own chargeback protection for eligible transactions. SagePay SagePay allows merchants to set their own security rules for AVS, CV2 and 3D secure. It also provides a risk score for each transaction in conjunction with Third Man.