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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

Bankruptcy doesn’t mean what it used to; no longer the end

(FINANCE NEWS) With the way the world works now, bankruptcy doesn’t necessarily mean game over.

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When it’s over, it’s over. Perhaps you heard your best friend utter this phrase after a bad break-up. It’s true, most things that end, end for good. Except in this case, when it comes to the retail business.

We have seen a record number of retailers declare bankruptcy this year. Beloved teen retailers like Wet Seal have closed down their stores and malls have become ghost towns.

Reuters estimates that nineteen major retail chains have already shut down for good. While you may not miss the tight, neon dresses sold at Bebe, closures of all of these retailers result in a tremendous loss of jobs.

And it is not only job losses from the store in your hometown, often it is hundreds of locations across the nation.

For most of these retailers, bankruptcy was the definitive end to the business. After filing, most companies choose to close all locations and liquidate the assets. This is the most common path to take, until now.

Even with the surge of bankruptcy, those behind the business are finding alternative paths to keep the business alive.

Behind the scenes, there are three core groups invested in every business: the company’s creditors, vendors, and landlords. All of these groups have a vested interest in keeping the company alive even if they are in debt.

The most recent trend for bankrupt businesses has been to keep stores open and negotiate debt loans rather than shutting down everything. The truth is that a lot of these businesses still attract customers and have a large cash flow, even if they are technically bankrupt.

For instance, Toys ‘R’ Us manages to take in $800 million each year on average which makes it a viable business. Of course, they are $5 billion in debt, but with an extension and restructuring of their business, they could one day turn a profit. However, this will only happen if they are given the chance to keep their doors open.

There are other options to lending helping hands to bankrupt businesses. After the popular teen retailer Rue21 declared bankruptcy landlords agreed to reduce their rents 20% on average. Though these situations are not ideal, this mentality gives businesses a life beyond bankruptcy and save thousands of jobs in the process.

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Business Finance

Everyone’s favorite online retailer is set to accept Bitcoin by October!!!

(FINANCE NEWS) One big name online retailer is about to hop on the cryptocurrency train and start accepting Bitcoin at check out as soon as October.

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Crypto currently

There’s no denying that cryptocurrency has taken off like wildfire, but will Amazon be jumping on the bitcoin bandwagon?

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According to one top source, Amazon has already started flirting with the idea and could be ready to fully use bitcoin in October.

Kind of a big deal

The news broke via The James Altucher Report, which is run by the former hedge fund manager and venture capitalist James Altucher. Altucher uses his experience in the business realm, where he has cofounded over 20 companies, to offer realistic financial advice and insight.

He communicates via his popular newsletters, blog and podcast. According to Altucher, Amazon is geared up to change their payment options as early as October.

Already Testing the Waters

Last year, Amazon partnered up with Digital Currency Group, a major investor in Bitcoin, to act as an intermediary between them and their clients. Amazon’s role is to handle all transactions, many of which include the popular cryptocurrency.

Major companies like Google, Ebay and Paypal already accept bitcoin so it is just a matter of time until Amazon follows suit. Even Japan and Russia recognize it as legal currency.

Amazon + Bitcoin = AmaCoin?

Don’t think of bitcoin as Amazon’s only option. Some speculate that Amazon may one day create their own currency.

As a company that has already started testing drones as a future delivery method, custom currency does not seem so out of this world.

The blockchain option has been a refreshing alternative to using traditional banks, especially for those who do not have faith in the current banking practices.

There are questions

If Amazon jumps onboard and rolls out a plan to use bitcoin this year, Altucher anticipates a major surge in its value. Since they have yet to announce an official strategy, and because the option of them creating their own currency is still up in the air, it is unknown how Amazon will integrate it into their system.

Will Amazon find a different way to accept bitcoin? Perhaps a brand new way? If Amazon does start using bitcoin they will join many other tech companies that have already anticipated the growth in its value. Amazon isn’t the only company that has started transitioning over. Many other tech companies have already started to become intermediaries to manage digital transactions.

#AmazonBitcoin

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Business Finance

Pirate Bay is mining cryptos using their users’ CPU… those scallywags

(FINANCE NEWS) Cryptocurrency and mining and pirates. It all sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but trust us, it’s 100% real.

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bitcoin pirate

Who pirates the pirates?

Well, pirates, naturally. Piracy is a fractal. There is nothing so small that someone won’t strap on an eyepatch, grab a parrot and snag themselves an unlawful piece.

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Such is the swashbuckling tale recently broken on Reddit about Pirate Bay, which is borrowing visitors’ CPU cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

TRANSLATION, PLEASE?

To translate that from Internet to English, “mining” cryptocurrency means volunteering your computer to verify blockchain transactions. We’ve covered blockchain in depth before, but the short version is it’s a particular security protocol that encrypts tokens representing money.

When you join a cryptocurrency exchange, you use that exchange’s blockchain to encrypt your stuff.

Some members of an exchange volunteer their computers to verify that transactions have taken place. Then they’re encrypted, never to be futzed with again. Those members get paid for their trouble with fractions of coins from the exchange.

The volunteers don’t actually do anything. The verification and encryption are automatic. That’s the point of cryptocurrency: no flighty or nefarious humans are involved in the bookkeeping. It’s all about the robots. That said, somebody owns the robots, and robot time is worth money. Therefore, miners.

SIXTEEN COINS – WHAT DO YOU GET?

“Miners,” in common currency dork parlance, are folks who invest in verifying transactions on a large scale, turning those fractions of coins into meaningful profit. It’s a smart way to make consistent money.

One big caveat: you need serious computing power to do it enough to matter.

Lifewire estimates an upfront cost of $3000 to $5000 to get real money out of the process. That said, their estimate also says 50 dollars a day in profit, which means over the course of a year you’re talking 3 to 5 times the money you put in. Ain’t chump change.

YAR

Which brings us to Pirate Bay. Pirate Bay is, as I’m sure the pure and innocent readers of American Genius would have no reason to know, a torrent site where various forms of media may be secured for free by nefarious means.

You’re shocked, I’m sure. Not everybody is, it turns out: as of this article, it’s the 88th most popular website on Earth. 25th in Canada! Canadians, man. They’re tricksy.

So, unsurprisingly, is Pirate Bay.

To state the obvious, swiping media and giving it away is not a working business strategy. Robin Hood did not have a positive P&L ratio. Typically – I’m told, I of course would have no way of knowing this myself – torrent sites support themselves through ad revenue. That wasn’t cutting it for Pirate Bay, plus they just wanted to get rid of the ads for an improved user experience, so they experimented.

Their first scheme was borrowing users’ CPUs while they were on the website, using unused processor cycles to mine cryptocurrency.

BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A CRYPTODIME?

The rollout was flawed. In fact the rollout was nonexistent: the only reason anybody even knew it was happening was somebody effed up the miner script and it started taking 100 percent of users’ CPU cycles as long as they were on the page. Oops.

But fair dues, Pirate Bay did exactly what tech folks should do when caught with their digital drawers down.

They fessed up in an official statement that explained their intent, addressed the problem people were complaining about, and invited further input. That’s more than can be said for, say, Uber.

More to the point, if the cryptocurrency mining plan goes forward, Pirate Bay will be providing a service to consumers in exchange for compensation at stated rates. The fact that it all comes in a novel form – the service is peer-to-peer, based on a model of free sharing; the compensation is provided voluntarily by people who aren’t receiving the services; the rates are measured in CPU cycles rather than money – doesn’t change the fact that fundamentally, “service to consumer for compensation” equals “business plan.”

For another time

Whether it’s a workable business plan or not is a question for Future Matt. Present Matt just has a question: if it does work, if Pirate Bay becomes a self-supporting enterprise trading encrypted, peer-to-peer money for an encrypted, peer-to-peer service, what then? At what point does it become more reasonable, and for that matter more ethical, to accept peer-to-peer transaction as a real thing and regulate it accordingly, as opposed to banning it outright?

Ask Piet Heyn. Better yet, order a mojito and run it past Captain Morgan. (It’s better because you get a mojito.) Back in the days of real pirates, when you wanted to rein them in, you just legalized them. If Pirate Bay establishes a legitimate revenue stream, that may well be the smart next step.

#PirateBay

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