Accepting and processing payments is the lifeblood of every business but choosing the right solutions to facilitate this is far from simple. You need to thoroughly evaluate your business, its customers’ needs and the characteristics of your goods and services to determine which solutions are most suitable. In this article, our CEO Tal Miller outlines the key questions every business should ask itself before exploring and selecting payment processing solutions.
This article is based on insights offered in an episode of our new podcast series, Pay Attention – a series focused on helping businesses to understand the fundamentals of managing payments. Listen to the episode right here or scroll down to read the rest of the blog.
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Why you shouldn’t rush into shopping for payment processing solutions
The importance of the payments experience is often underestimated and undervalued. Many businesses want to rush ahead. They simply want to know, “what is the best payment gateway to use?” or “is solution A better than solution B?” Well, the answer is (and should always be) that it depends. There is a range of factors related to your business, your sales process and your customers that dictate which solutions are best for your organisation.
There’s no skipping ahead and no one-size-fits-all with payments processing solutions and providers. So, you need to learn which are the most relevant and suitable for your business. And that only comes from asking yourself (including your key stakeholders) the right questions. So, read on to learn the key questions your business should ask itself.
Key questions to ask before exploring payment processing solutions
Who are you as a business?
This might sound like a funny question to ask, but it’s important to remind yourself of your company’s differentiators, the “why” behind your business and the parameters that establish what your key priorities are when seeking payment processing solutions.
So, in asking “who are we?”, you’re really asking the following things:
- What kind of products and services do you offer? Consider their characteristics.
- Are your products or services being sold online, offline or both? And to what degree? Are you a physical store (or set of stores) that has some form of online offering or are you primarily an online retailer?
- How long have you been in business? Are you a start-up or have you been doing this for many years?
- Are you in a transition period? Have changing circumstances, like Covid, caused you to pivot and adapt your offering?
- What are your target markets? In what regions and communities do you sell your products and services?
- What sector is your business in and who are your competitors? Your industry landscape and the level of competition needs to be considered.
- Are you entering a new market? Has research revealed opportunities in other geographies that could help your business to expand and grow?
- What is your business size and its dynamic? And do you have plans to expand?
- How many transactions are made each month? Hundreds, thousands, millions?
- What about your ticket size? What is the average purchase value?
Why are all these considerations important? A lot of new businesses don’t bother to do a thorough analysis. They have a vision in their head about who they are and who they want to be but don’t evaluate whether the vision is the reality. So many tech start-ups think they’re the next Apple, seeing their potential to become a hugely profitable company in the future. But what about who they are and what’s best for the business right now? This and the challenges with payments they’ll face at the start of their journey must be addressed first.
Meanwhile, older businesses often don’t analyse these things as they’re caught in momentum. They’ve been operating for a long time and unless some event comes along that compels them to stop and think, they don’t feel the need to change things or evaluate whether what they’ve been doing for X amount of years has been the right approach. This is a common pitfall.
How do your customers view your business?
When merchants make assumptions about their customers, they’re often wrong. Merchants typically examine things from their point of view. But it’s important to look at things from the customer’s perspective – put yourself in their shoes.
Here are some questions directing the focus on your customers that you should consider:
- How are you approaching the business?
- If it’s a physical store, how are you getting there – via what mode of transport?
- Who are you coming with? Are you alone or is it a family purchase, perhaps?
- How long are you spending in the shop? If it’s online, how long are you browsing?
- How many and which pages do you visit?
- Are you looking to buy one product or multiple products?
- What does the cart and checkout experience look like?
- Are there ancillary products, add-ons, upsells, etc?
- What is the typical sales cycle?
- Do you make multiple visits before making a purchase decision or is it a more impulsive or simple decision?
- What is your average ticket size?
- Is it a recurring purchase, subscription or membership service?
- Are you likely to return to the shop or online store, and if so, how soon will that be?
These questions from a different perspective will generate answers that you may not have considered. But these considerations are vital for helping you align customer behaviours with your user experience and the payment processing solutions you choose.
What are the characteristics of your customers?
Everyone wants to sell to the whole world, but it doesn’t work that way. Your business offering is unlikely to have such a broad appeal and therefore, you need to know the key characteristics of customers that will see value in your products and services. And if you’ve done your research, you should also know who your competitors are and why customers might prefer your products and services over theirs.
You need to know who these customers are and characterise them based on factors such as age, gender, geography, etc. If you’re a brand new business, you should build profiles of your ideal customers.
Don’t make assumptions
A lot of online businesses look at these factors, while many physical businesses don’t. They might have a particular store location and make assumptions about how and why customers visit their store. This is not a great approach. As mentioned, when merchants make assumptions about their customers, they’re often off the mark. Research and analysis are key.
Where your customers are from
Pinpoint the real reasons why customers find, visit and interact with your business, as this is vital intel for your marketing, sales and payments strategy, and everything in between!
We previously had a client that was positive that most of their customers were coming from the US. They were an American company and their website was in English. But after our analysis, we found that the majority of their customers were coming from Canada, and there were nuances not considered which were losing the business sales.
Language and currency
Consider the location of your target audience and their linguistic preferences. Do they prefer content in Spanish, French, etc? What currencies do they prefer? Considering the example above, customers might like the option to pay in Canadian dollars. You might think that these customers can just convert it. But why not give them the option? Why not make it easier for them and create a better user experience? Always keep experience in mind.
What about your customers’ purchasing power? If you’re selling very low-value products this is not as important, but if you’re selling items for a thousand pounds, say, then you need to consider your audience’s purchasing power and what payment methods are required to support their purchasing decisions. For high-value items, you may need to give customers the option to split the payment, using buy now, pay later solutions or offering credit or finance options at the checkout. Or introduce monthly repayments or a subscription model. Alongside this, you may need to change your sales tactics to make it a little more user friendly.
These are just a few of the things you should know about the profile of your customers to understand what payment processing solutions you need.
What does the sales process look like in your business?
Mapping out your sales process will help you to plot your customers’ path to purchase and reveal where any friction points are. It’s important to spend time talking to the key people within your organisation about how the sales process works, what it looks like for your business, and to map this out. This could be you and your partner, your board of directors, or teams that have a key influence in the process, depending on your business size.
This result of this work is something that prospective payment service providers will need to see to align the payments experience to the sales process and find solutions to any friction points.
What are the particulars of your products or services?
Evaluating the particulars of your products or services is also crucial. This isn’t the same as defining who you are as a business. Here we’re talking about the products and services themselves. Start thinking about and documenting the following things:
- How much do your products or services cost?
- Are there any regulations associated with your products and services, such as legal age limits and restrictions?
- Are you able to accept money from customers before providing the product/service? Or does the payment get taken afterwards? The latter can be the case for certain industries and in certain countries, including Financial Services.
- Do you need to take certain verification measures, for age, license, prescription, etc? An industry like Pharma is a prime example.
- What are the lead times and handling times for these products and services? Do you have an online service that can be accessed by customers immediately after purchase or is it a physical product that needs to be shipped to the customer? If so, how long does it take and what does this delivery cost the business and customer?
Also, look at aftersale considerations, such as customer satisfaction. Nobody wants to think that they’re selling something bad, but some products and services can create unhappiness or unsatisfied customers. It’s important to incorporate customer satisfaction metrics. The gaming industry, for example, can bring both joy and disappointment. In the food industry, some customers will buy products that don’t taste like they expected or even cause them to be ill. In cosmetics, people might not like the smell or the effect of a certain product. These things can cause them to complain or chargeback. Analyse how common this is in your niche, look into industry averages and be aware of chargeback rates.
Defining the particulars of your products and services is paramount. It will impact your sales and payments approach and help to determine the suitability of certain payment processing solutions.
Do you have any special requirements from your payment processing solutions?
Finally, ask yourself what special requirements you might have that a payment service provider should know. A must-have that’s integral to your success, a stipulation about your business or something your customers would consider vital. Examples include:
- Reporting – do you need transactional reports in a particular format or on certain dates?
- Invoicing – do need invoices to be in a certain format and meet a certain standard?
- Functionality – do you need your payments processing solution to have a specific feature?
All these questions and the fine-tuning of your key requirements from payment processing solutions will help you to avoid missing something that might become an issue down the road. It helps you to understand which solutions are most relevant to your offering and can best serve your business and customer needs.
Delivering the right user experience
The payments process is an integral part of the sales process – it’s the culmination of the sales process. If you have an excellent sales process but a clunky payments process, it leaves a bad aftertaste and can cause customers to abandon their cart and move to competitors. We’ve seen companies with a great user experience throughout the sales process, but with a poor payments process that undermines everything. Your competitors’ sales process might not be as good, but the combination of their sales process and payments process might equate to a better overall user experience. And that’s what customers want.
These thoughts from Tal Miller, come from the first of our Pay Attention podcast for merchants which aim to demystify payments and offer key insights about payment processing solutions, technology and strategy. Listen to the podcast!
If you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for before approaching payment service providers, you’re likely to end up with a bad match for your business. This will impact sales, leave customers frustrated and damage your reputation. Plus, you’ll miss out on vital evaluation work, and meaningful insights, with fewer capabilities for analysis and optimisation later down the line. Circumstances change fast. If you decide to target a new market or sell new products and services in the future, payment processing solutions chosen without the right intel might not be able to suitably accommodate these changes.
There are both good and bad solutions out there, and many that are suitable for one merchant but would be a bad fit for another. It’s only when you ask these questions and thoroughly analyse things that you’ll be in a position to judge which are right for your business.
When you have this intel and your business is ready to start looking at payment processing solutions, our accompanying article “9 Key Questions to Ask Your Prospective Payment Service Providers”, will support your section process. Bookmark it for future reference.
Fibonatix is a leading global payments consultancy and payment service provider, offering customised payments solutions to scale your business. We empower merchants to drive growth with our expertise and effective payment processing solutions. Get expert advice around risk management, compliance and regulation, and payment technology development and optimisation. Fibonatix is FCA regulated, with offices in the UK, Germany and Israel.