If you run an eCommerce business, one of the most critical aspects of maintaining your cash flow is making your customer experience as smooth and convenient as possible. If you are trying to hold a candle to the major players like Amazon, you need to have your payment security down to a science.
Securing payments has a dual meaning: you need to both make your payment method secure on your site and secure the customer’s interactions with your checkout process.
Online shoppers have near-infinite options, so you need to make the process as fast and safe as you can manage so your customers don’t turn to a competitor or an Amazon search. Thankfully, there are many ways to do this.
1. Take adequate security measures—and explain them
Information security technology is easier than ever to implement and access. There is no excuse for your eCommerce business to operate with insecure and outdated payment technology, and there is no faster way to scare potential buyers away than making them wary of your site’s security.
Don’t attempt to DIY your information security, no matter how small your business is. Web security measures are best left to the professionals, especially if you are running an eCommerce business and processing sensitive payment information.
If you are a larger business, you may want the added clout of undergoing a SOC 2 examination. These audits can be expensive, but the added credibility you get to show your stakeholders and clients is unparalleled. At a minimum, your business should abide by SOC 2 examination information security guidelines:
- Security – protection against unauthorized access to your site
- Availability – information systems are accessible and operable
- Processing Integrity – your system processing is accurate, timely, and valid
- Confidentiality – information designated as confidential is kept that way
- Privacy – Personal information is treated with respect and disclosed appropriately
It s not enough to have the safest and secure information security on your site—you have to explain it to your customers. Emphasize your payment security through brief blurbs and badges in your footer, shopping cart, and payment gateway.
At the very least, have a PCI compliance and SSL certificate badge on your payment page.
2. Evaluate your user experience
You may have heard the term “user experience” and even took it into consideration when creating your site, but it is doubtful you know everything.
User experience, after all, is an entire university degree and field of study. You need to improve your site continuously to keep up with increasingly stringent UX standards and meet your customers’ demands.
Effective user experience needs to have the following:
- Consistent, distinctive branding (color schemes, logos, fonts, page layouts, graphics)
- Easy navigation (breadcrumbs, fixed menu, sitemap, search functionality)
- Responsive design (mobile sites, apps, designs that accommodate every browser width)
- Clear information hierarchy (visual flow, logical information processing)
- Accessibility (alt text for screen readers, high contrast fonts, no strobe or flashing effects)
User experience is largely psychological and has as much to do with marketing as it does with website behavior. All design elements should cooperate together for a cohesive, friendly atmosphere that invites your customer to explore and learn more.
Successful entrepreneurs know when to take matters into their own hands and when to defer to the experts. For the best possible results, hire a professional UX designer to evaluate your site. More often than not, this is done virtually.
User experience design is a profession growing in importance and availability, and it is not difficult to find and hire a UX designer online to send you a detailed report if you can’t find a UX designer in person.
3. Simplify your payment checkout process
If your checkout page is cluttered, busy, or time-consuming, your users will be turned off and might stray to a competitor even if they are already partway through the checkout process. There is nothing more detrimental to your profits as an eCommerce business than an abandoned shopping cart!
Streamline your checkout process and make it approachable and flexible, never sacrificing functionality for form. Here are some steps you can take to make your checkout pages more attractive:
- Allow autofill on forms for addresses, payment options, and other information.
- Allow customers to change the number of items they’re purchasing in their cart without leaving the page.
- Show breadcrumbs on the top of your page to help your customers navigate throughout the process and see exactly where they are.
- If you use platforms like WordPress and WooCommerce, experiment with different styles of checkout pages and customize them to your liking rather than sticking with the default design options. Make the extra effort to integrate the design with your site.
Depending on your business, it may also help to offer an account-free checkout option. This way your customers can check out without the time-consuming step of having to make an account and add their information.
Customers might also want to avoid the perceived associated email spam. According to the Baymard Institute, the requirement to make an account is the second most common reason for an abandoned cart.
Information security should always be your utmost priority, and your customers would agree. If you are tempted to choose a simpler checkout process that doesn’t feature the same security bells and whistles, keep in mind that it is far more important to prioritize security over simplicity.
Find a payment processing solution that operates as nicely as it looks. Bonus points if it includes:
- Recurring payment options
- Reporting software
- Mobile responsiveness
- Shopping cart integration
- Accounting software integration
4. Accommodate more purchase options
Everyone has their own preferred payment method, and if they see that option is conveniently available to them prior to checkout they may be more willing to make a purchase.
Here are the most common payment methods that you should try to accommodate:
- Credit cards – Credit cards also have to adhere to international payment standards, making them the easiest and safest method of payment online.
- Debit cards (especially Mastercard and Visa) – Like credit cards, strict international debit card security standards make this method of payment preferable for most customers. Allow as many debit card options as you can without succumbing to high card company fees. A good payment processor should be able to help you avoid predatory fees.
- eWallets (PayPal, GooglePay, and ApplePay) – Virtual payment methods have increased dramatically in popularity for their ease of use and device integration. Apple and Google make paying incredibly simple; you want to be able to capitalize on this trend.
- Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments – Many customers enjoy the convenience and low cost of ACH payments. Depending on your business, you should try to accommodate these users.
Multiple payment methods also allow you to potentially broaden your horizons to sell products internationally.
It is much easier to break into foreign markets if you provide a payment gateway that accommodates multiple currencies and countries. This not only includes accepting major credit cards but also major international payment gateways.
5. Integrate your shopping cart
When customers are redirected away from your site to pay, the absence of your branding and the familiar presence of your site’s design that you worked so hard to create can build a sense of insecurity.
When you click “purchase now” and your browser redirects several times to an external payment gateway, your first thought is a slight panic: “Where am I? Is this site safe? Is this really where I pay for my product?”
These worrying thoughts are the exact opposite of the secure, comfortable experience you want to give your customers on your eCommerce site.
Choose a payment processor with clean, easy shopping cart integration. Once upon a time, this might have been more expensive and/or stressful to accomplish, but nowadays, any payment processor worth their salt allows this seamless process.
Don’t risk losing your customer’s confidence in you by redirecting them to an external service. Not only is it jarring, but it is a sign of an out-of-date, out-of-vogue business practice that can affect your credibility.
6. Offer incentives for returning customers
It has been shown time and time again that it is much easier to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones.
If you’ve achieved your goal of converting a customer, you need to give them a reason to come back. It is well worth it to invest in a loyalty program that rewards your customers for returning.
Here are the most popular types of loyalty incentives to consider:
- Membership programs. These programs require your customers to pay a one-time or recurring fee for added benefits. Think Amazon Prime, which rewards you with reduced shipping costs if you sign up.
- Email newsletter benefits. Email marketing is also a great way to stay in touch with your customers and keep your company as a constant presence in their inbox. It’s great for your branding and customer retention.
- Point systems. Allowing your customers to accumulate points every time they make a purchase incentivizes them to buy more without fail. Think of the success of the Starbucks Rewards Program, which rewards customers with a free drink when they have enough points.
- Tiered programs. With tier programs, your customers can increase their tier level the more they purchase. When they reach a higher tier, more rewards and benefits are available to them. Make the rewards as attractive and exclusive as possible to encourage your customers to opt-in.
Establishing a rewards program can be as simple as setting up a point system through your web development software.
By purchasing and setting up a plugin, they can do the work for you without your web developers having to go through the hassle of manually creating a rewards program. Many services are available to you to establish a rewards program, such as Gratisfaction, Open Loyalty, and bLoyal.
Be creative. Give your loyalty program a personality that suits your brand, and you’ll be able to empathize with your customers and ensure they come back.
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Katie Tejada writes about the latest developments in socially responsible (and irresponsible) tax laws. She is also the Content Manager for Delia Law.