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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

Once and for all – will we ever get Social Security benefits or not?

(FINANCE) Is it possible to settle the age-old question about Social Security benefits drying up before it’s your turn to receive them?

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social security benefits

Will we have them or won’t we have them? That is the age-old question when it comes to Social Security benefits.

If you’re over 65 years old or planning on living to be 65 years old, odds are you’re relying on Social Security as a source of income to supplement your retirement savings or you’re straight up depending on it to live.

However, we’re facing the largest senior population the US has ever seen thanks to the Baby Boom – and Social Security is at serious risk for going bankrupt well before Gen X’ers, Xennials, Millenials and Gen Z’ers need it.

But why?

Social Security is funded by a 12.4% payroll tax that we all pay into, however, we’re facing a surplus of retirees now that the baby boomers have officially aged into retirement.

In fact, by 2030 every Boomer will be over the age of 65, which means the number of people receiving Social Security benefits will exceed the number of people working jobs and paying into the program.

But let’s back up for a minute. What’s our status right now?

Well, we’re currently working with a surplus of Social Security money that had previously been set aside in a trust fund that was able to close the income gap between the program’s earning and spending. However, this year that gap is going to widen and the program won’t be able to make up for lost income.

The super surge of seniors means that by 2034, the trust fund will be entirely wiped out and while this won’t necessarily bankrupt Social Security it will cause the program to make 25% cuts to all recipients’ benefits.

Eek. So, can anything be done?

Well, we’ve been here before. In 1982, Congress stepped in and made changes to alleviate Social Security’s financial woes by increasing payroll taxes, raising the retirement age, and implementing federal income taxes on certain qualifying retiree income.

Will the current Congress step in before it’s too late? While similar changes have been floated on the floor, a bill has yet to be drafted. For shame.

So, will we or won’t we? We don’t know.

However, the times, they are a’changing and if Congress can pass legislation for universal healthcare and tuition reimbursement, then maybe we won’t need it. Of course, that doesn’t make up for the years of low-to-no earnings Millenials faced during the recession, but it might be what can save us from needing to rely solely on Social Security benefits.

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Business Finance

GoFraudMe: How to avoid crowdfunding scams

(TECH NEWS) Crowdfunding has become ripe for scams, don’t be a sucker — here’s how to spot ’em.

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crowdfunding scams

When it comes to your personal life, you don’t want to be on the receiving end of a crowdfunding campaign because if you’re turning to GoFundMe or YouCaring, it means your house has burned down, you have cancer or your dog has died.

We regularly see these campaigns pop up in our social feeds and for the most part, we believe them because they’re our friends, they’re in need and we trust them so, of course, we pitch in.

However, some people use crowdfunding to fleece you. By now, you’ve probably heard of the couple from New Jersey who teamed up with a homeless man to raise over $400,000. The campaign was a scam, the cash was split and now these crooks are facing some serious consequences in court. Ugh.

We shouldn’t need to write this article, but some people suck and they’re out there duping us. Here’s how to spot them.

This should be obvious, but do not give money to people you do not know or do not at least tangentially know. It never hurts to scroll through the donor list to see if you recognize any of your friends or acquaintances there. If you do and have questions, reach out to them before you reach deep into your wallet.

What about victims of natural disasters? Offer your money to emergency funds run by non-profit organizations. Anyone can create a crowdfunding campaign, but in times of crisis many platforms create verified campaigns.

If the objective of the campaign is unclear, do not donate. We’ve all come across campaigns that are strangely worded or lack enough specifics to piece together a plausible story. If it feels like a Nigerian Prince is the campaign administrator, close the tab.

If a campaign’s photo looks fishy, do a reverse image search on Google to help validate that fishy feeling. If the search yields a lot of results for the photo, scammers have stolen it and are using it to tug at your heartstrings.

Most campaigns run for a very short amount of time, typically a couple of weeks and rarely more than a month. While there is generally a final social push to get to an unmet goal, there are rarely open-ended campaigns. Again, if the goal is unclear or out-of-reach, move on.

We’ve all seen campaigns that are truly gut-wrenching – deaths of loved ones, fights with cancer, entire villages wiped out. As with the case of the three jerks from New Jersey, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. While some sites may be able to reimburse your donation, others won’t and nothing feels worse than falling for a scam AND losing your money.

And so, dear friends, this is why we at The American Genius almost never, ever write about crowdfunded projects. We care about you and we want you to use your money to help your real friends, fund YOUR next project or pay off your student loans.

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Business Finance

How cryptocurrency works – basic vocabulary and concepts

(FINANCE) Cryptocurrency is a concept that dates back a decade, but as it becomes newly mainstream, many are struggling to catch up – knowing the basic concepts can get you up to speed.

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cryptocurrency

One of the most exciting things to arise out of new technology is the idea of better ways to optimize and improve concepts that we already find in the real world. None of us should be surprised when that includes currency.

With cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Ripple, Litecoin, Dash, NEM, Ethereum Classic, Monero, and Zcash (to name a few), it may be hard for the average consumer not to just keep up, but to know what’s going on in this revolution in our modern day economy. Knowing how crypto works makes you a better consumer, as well as investor in your future. Let’s get started with the basics.

What is a cryptocurrency?

To ask what cryptocurrency is, one should also contemplate what modern day paper or coin currency is. At its most basic, all currencies share this core trait: you can exchange a unit (or units) which has predetermined value for either goods or services. Whether it’s dollars, Yen, the gold standard, or Dogecoin, all of these currencies allow you to complete basic transactions.

Where cryptocurrency is different, is how these transactions are completed and how cryptocurrencies are processed.

How does crypto differ from common currencies?

Cryptocurrency allows you to send money directly peer-to-peer (p2p) electronically instead of operating through third-party systems like banks or governments.

The technology that makes this happen is called Blockchain. Blockchain technology is the primary difference between the dollars in your wallet and the virtual currencies in your crypto wallet. The Litecoin School of Crypto uses a great analogy to explain how blockchains work:

“In its simplest form, blockchain is data. It’s a list of recorded information called “blocks” strung together in a chain. Think of blocks as folders stuffed with information i.e. how much Litecoin was sent, who sent it, and who received it. The great thing about blockchains is that it’s public and anyone in the world can see it.”

How does a normal crypto transaction work?

Here’s an example using the fictional cryptocurrency, bitquarters: Karen owes Jamal 10 bitquarters for her movie ticket, so she’s going to pay him back. Karen first requests the transaction through her digital wallet. Because of the nature of cryptocurrency, she can’t send him bitquarters she doesn’t have (there is no “overdrawn” account status in crypto, like modern banks), so it’s a good thing she just got paid!

When Karen initiates the transaction, she uses her private key to virtually “sign” it. When a transaction is completed, an individual will “sign” their transaction with their private key – the reason why cryptocurrency is called as such is because of encryption, after all. The requested transaction is sent via peer-to-peer (p2p) sharing to a network of computers called nodes. These computers validate Karen’s key and verify the transaction.

After the transaction is verified, it is added to the blockchain, the virtual ledger, that all bitquarter users have access to. After that is finished, in only a matter of seconds, Jamal is paid!

What is this cryptocurrency “mining” thing I’ve been hearing so much about?

Mining is a vital part of the cryptocurrency transaction. Miners are the only individuals in the crypto process that can confirm transactions. Their job is to take a transaction, to verify that it is legitimate, and spread them p2p in the network.

To make it a part of the public ledger (the blockchain) every node has to add it to its database. Because mining takes a computer’s energy and electricity to perform, miners are rewarded with small amounts of cryptocurrency per transaction (like how you pay to pull money from an ATM). However, to prevent fraudulent transactions, a computer must solve an encrypted puzzle in order to add it to the blockchain.

What are other important crypto terms I need to know?

Address: the only piece of information that needs to be used for a transaction, similar to a user name or email address. Each transaction uses a different address.

Block: a unit of data in the blockchain that holds and validates transactions. A blockchain is where all blocks of transactions reside.

Double spend: the action of trying to spend cryptocurrency to two different recipients simultaneously. Mining as well as the blockchain prevent malicious actions such as this from taking place.

Cryptocurrency is held up by some as being the currency of the future, while many others think that due to over-speculation, that it will be a investment bubble with irrevocable consequences for brick and mortar institutions. Regardless of any market forecasters perspective on cryptocurrency, the technology is here to stay and knowing the basic vocabulary can help you understand where things are going.

Don’t be intimidated by all of the language around this concept – if you choose to dive into the crypto waters, you’ll learn as you go along. If you invest in stocks, you know a specific concept and vocabulary list, and crypto functions differently but is just another finance mechanism, both of which can be overwhelming but learning the parts necessary to your goals is all that matters.

PS: If you’re more of a visual person, there’s a short video available that has circulated that explains Bitcoing well, and applies to crypto in general.

This story was first published in February 2018.

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