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Is your payment platform keeping customers from buying?

“When it comes to online commerce, the point at which money changes hands has often been the moment a sale falls apart,” says Kurt Bilafer, Global Vice President Sales and Success at WePay. In his own words, Bilafer gives us some insight on what a customer-intimate payment process looks like (and conversely, what it doesn’t look like).

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When the sale falls apart

“When it comes to online commerce, the point at which money changes hands has often been the moment a sale falls apart,” says Kurt Bilafer, Global Vice President Sales and Success at WePay. How does this happen? Why does this happen? And what can your company do to fix it?

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In his own words below, Bilafer gives us some insight on what a customer-intimate payment process looks like (and conversely, what it doesn’t look like):

Payments: The last mile of online customer intimacy

What was a carefully crafted brand experience becomes off-putting and complicated. There are confusing redirects, forms that clash with the rest of the design, and a lot of sensitive data that needs to be entered.

But that’s now changing, and fast. Innovative companies have stepped up their game, using technologies that make a much easier payment experience possible. That in turn is changing consumer expectations about what a payment transaction should be like.

You now need to bring your payments experience up to this new standard, or risk getting beaten by competitors who do. Why? Because removing barriers for your customers is a hallmark of customer intimacy, and customer intimacy is one of three value disciplines that every company must master to dominate their market. A customer-intimate company has to get to know its customer at a deeper level with every interaction. It must understand what they want and need, sometimes even before they do. Payments are the last mile of customer intimacy.

Come fund me

GoFundMe, the world’s largest crowdfunding site is a great example of a customer intimate company.

GoFundMe’s customers are ordinary people trying to raise money to deal with adversity, support causes they care about, or follow their dreams. They’re accepting donations, but they aren’t traditional nonprofits, or traditional merchants. They want to enable a single campaign to accept payments for a limited time. Asking them to go through the traditional business process of signing up for a merchant account, handing personal financial data, and going through an underwriting process is overkill for what they’re doing, and it puts a big obstacle in their way. They just want to raise money, fast.

At the same time, GoFundMe has another set of customers with a different set of needs: the donors. They don’t have the time or the ability to investigate every campaign to assure it’s on the up and up before they give. And they don’t want to have a bad checkout experience when they’re trying to do a good deed.

GoFundMe gets it. They’ve built the simplest possible onboarding experience, which gets the payments stuff out of the way quickly so fundraisers can start collecting money in minutes. Yet they’ve also built in trust and safety. Behind the scenes, they’re leveraging our risk technology to verify that fundraisers are who they say they are, so that donors can give with confidence.

The way they’ve managed to balance the competing priorities of the two sides of their user base proves they really understand their customers. And that’s the sort of change that’s coming to payments. It’s not acceptable anymore to just move money now. You have to do it in a customer intimate way.

So not intimate

Contrast that experience with the historic way of making payments online using a credit card or PayPal. Credit cards were not designed to be secure in card-not-present transactions, and adding the necessary layers of security makes onboarding hard and checkout tedious.

The big consumer innovation with PayPal was that you could set up an account you could use at a variety of different sites without having to reveal your credit card information. But that adds another account to maintain and another set of passwords to remember–both challenges to customer intimacy.

Another challenge is that when you’ve filled your shopping cart and want to pay, you’re kicked over to a form on another website to complete the transaction, then kicked back to the original website once the transaction has concluded.

The original merchant, who has invested a lot of time and money in getting the customer to that point, loses their consistency of branding and customer experience because they lose control of the customer while the transaction is happening.

As a sales guy I can tell you, that’s a bad way to close a deal. You’re counting on someone else to take care of your hard-won customer. Even if the transaction goes well, the reality is when they’re sent back to your site, their experience is different than before they left. That’s not a customer-intimate payment experience.

With you all the way

In the traditional payment model, if something goes wrong, the customer may not know whom to call. They don’t know if it’s a credit card issue, a PayPal issue or an issue with the site itself. It doesn’t really matter because it reflects on your company. It’s your customer, and you may very well have lost the sale and made them angry.

Even if the customer completes the transaction, there’s still a lot that can go wrong. They think they paid, but don’t get a confirmation email. Or they get a call from the credit card company asking if they really meant to spend that much money. Or the product or service they wanted isn’t delivered. All these scenarios create uncertainty, confusion, and friction — none of which you want associated with your brand or your customer experience.

Customer intimacy isn’t just about making it easy to pay. It’s maintaining security, transparency and accountability across every facet of the experience. It’s making sure you stay close to your customer, and they know it’s you and you’re with them all the way.

Managing the last mile

Payment is not the main objective of any transaction. It’s just the last mile of a decision that has already been made, but it’s a big part of that whole experience. It needs to be valued and curated and managed in the same fashion as the rest of your customer experience.

In the past, customers accepted payment struggles as part of buying online, because that was the industry standard. That standard is rapidly changing as new technology gives companies the ability to extend customer intimacy to payments.

At minimum, you have to make it so payments aren’t part of what the customer is struggling with. But there’s also an opportunity to exceed expectations and use a customer-intimate payment experience as a competitive differentiator. In the platform economy, the companies that understand and execute on that will win.

Bilafer is a sales veteran with more than 20 years of experience in direct sales, channel and partner development and business strategy. Prior to WePay, he was Global Vice President of Sales at SAP, previously serving the company as Vice President of Analytics for Asia, Pacific & Japan and Global Vice President of Business Analytics and Technology solutions, Ecosystem and Channel Partners. He was also SAP North America’s Vice President, heading up enterprise performance and risk management and spent a year with PricewaterhouseCoopers to rebuild their SAP National Practice. Bilafer joined SAP after its acquisition of Pilot Software.

#PositivePaymentExperience

Jenna keeps the machine well-oiled as the Operations Coordinator at The American Genius and The Real Daily. She earned her degree in Spanish at the University of North Texas and when she isn’t crossing things off her to-do list, she is finding her center in the clean and spacious aisles of Target or rereading Harry Potter for the billionth time.

Business Finance

Easy tax calculator for freelancers that tend to wing it

(FINANCE NEWS) This tax calculator gives you an idea of what you should be holding back so tax day isn’t such a big surprise this time.

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The freelance checks are rolling and your income is adding up fast. Score!

Not so fast.

Your freelance checks are not taxed individually, but that doesn’t mean your income is tax-free. Whether you’re a full-time freelancer, part-timer, or just work on contract projects here and there, it’s important to know how much of your freelance income needs to go towards your tax bill.

As 2017 comes to a close, it’s a great time to review your project income and get an idea of what you may owe once taxes come due. Better to get a general idea now and start saving (if you haven’t already), than be blindsided when you fill out your tax forms.

To get a general idea of what you’ll owe, free tools such as The Freelance Project Tax Calculator can be helpful. This calculator, which is a collaboration between CPAs at Atribus Solutions and Sail, can be downloaded via email after submitting a request on the Sail website.

It’s compatible with Google Sheets and Excel, too, so use whichever spreadsheet program you prefer.

Whether you are completely self-employed or freelancing on the side, the Freelance Project Tax Calculator can help you determine the amount you should be saving for taxes. You’ll just have to share some general information about your filing status, location and projected income. It can also take project costs into account, allowing you to more accurately calculate net profit after deductions – and a good way to keep every aspect of each project organized.

If you are a freelancing newbie, toying with this calculator can also help you establish rates that allow your net income to be at the level you want (or need) it to be.

Now, keep in mind that this calculator provides rough estimates to get you started. If you want a more concrete number or in-depth financial advice, it’s time to find an accountant. But it never hurts to start planning ahead for tax expenses, and this tool can help you do just that.

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Business Finance

Should research papers remain behind a paywall or be fully accessible?

(FINANCE) Paywalls restrict 65% of research papers, but some argue it’s for good reasons. Others say the walls should come down.

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Paywalled research papers might be the current business model, but scientific research should be available to all, not just those who can pay for it.

In academia, published papers are part of the tenure process. You not only have to do research, publish papers, and hope that your work is cited in other research to get promoted.

Despite the notion that this research needs to be available to everyone, much of it is still behind a paywall. Josh Nicholson and Alberto Pepe estimated that about 65 percent of all cited papers are behind a paywall. Why is this important? They say it is because “some of the world’s most important scientific research is inaccessible from the majority of the world.”

A case for paywalls:
Publishing is big business. It takes a staff to manage a journal that publishes research. Essentially, someone has to pay. Most journals have chosen to charge the reader, because the alternative, charging the scientist for publication, is not a viable business model.

Publications that charge for access are generally considered more prestigious in academic circles. Thus, it’s safe to assume that the best research is published in paywalled journals. In my research for this article, I did learn that taxpayer-funded research through the NIH was supposed to be accessible to the public one year after it was published.

A case for open access:
Nicholson and Pepe averaged the cost of the paywalls at $32.33 for one access point. That is way too costly for a graduate student or an average individual (or journalist whose boss refuses to pay).

One key reason the internet was developed was to share research between scientists. Although universities often buy subscriptions to paywalled journals, most research is not accessible to the average person some four decades later. It’s been argued that research should be made public to hold scientists and the government accountable. Published research should be promptly and broadly disseminated, according to a policy statement made by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Can the business model hold up?
The tide is slowly changing, but most say that it’s not quick enough. Some experts believe that the scientific publishing process is not a business model that can withstand the changing culture. I’m sympathetic to the publishers, but I’d like to see more scientific research available to individuals at a price point that makes sense.

It’s going to take a shift in attitude at many levels to see change. Scientists need to utilize open access journals. Universities need to change policies. Publishing journals need to look at their business model. The generation that wants change is not in a position to make that change, but in a few years, they may be.

We can only hope that they find a new process to allow everyone access.

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Business Finance

Square tests buying and selling bitcoin inside its payment app

(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency lovers rejoice, you can now buy, sell, and store bitcoin in your Square wallet.

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Recently, Square rolled out a special new feature to select users, allowing them to store bitcoin in-app. Square Cash started moving away from immediate transactions when the company released Cash Drawer in February of 2016, allowing users to stash currency in a digital wallet for later use.

Now, Square has dubbed some of its Cash users chosen ones, giving them the ability to buy, sell, and store bitcoin. Unlike Cash Drawer, users do not yet have the option to send bitcoin to others.

Those with the new feature can simply swipe right from the Cash Card page to buy and sell bitcoin – the screen also compares the current price of bitcoin against the U.S. dollar with a handy graph.

A Square spokesperson noted, “We’re exploring how Square can make this experience faster and easier, and have rolled out this feature to a small number of Cash app customers. We believe cryptocurrency can greatly impact the ability of individuals to participate in the global financial system and we’re excited to learn more here.”

Bitcoin is the most popular kid in school right now when it comes to rise in popularity. In January, the currency was valued at $1000 per unit, but is now flirting with the $10,000 milestone. Users that opted in to the new feature rejoiced on Twitter, making this a marketing plus for CEO Jack Dorsey who also heads Square.

However, not everyone is so optimistic.

This Monday, BTIG analyst Mark Palmer expressed concerns about Square Cash adding the bitcoin feature, noting it adds an unnecessary risk to users. Palmer downgraded Square from Neutral to Sell, setting a $30 target for the stock.

Other investors aren’t so keen on the volatile cryptocurrency making its way into Square. Mark Tepper, CEO of Strategic Wealth Partners, said in the long run, Square won’t be able to support bitcoin. “Square has a good track record of losing money, and there’s just no clear path to profitability in the near future,” Tepper noted on CNBC.

Despite these concerns, this cryptocurrency remains wildly popular. And Jack Dorsey has just made it significantly easier to people to purchase the cryptocurrency. Of course, investing in an unregulated market is risky, so if you’re one of the few with Square’s new bitcoin feature, proceed with caution. But also feel free to brag that you’re a chosen one.

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