There are many reasons why a potential buyer may be reluctant to make an online purchase. You have the obvious one: “Gee, can I actually afford this?”, followed by “Do I really need/want this?”. But once you get past those who are wrestling with their budgets and impulses, you get down to one solid, fundamental roadblock to conducting an online purchase, and that’s concerns about online payment security.

And really, can you blame anyone for being hesitant? It seems like these days you can’t open up your browser’s home page without reading more scary stories about online fraud, hackers, spammers, viruses, security breaches, and more.

Let’s look at how to best remove those barriers from in front of prospective buyers, shall we? We’ll explore three issues, with special emphasis placed on online payments.

What Is This Product, Anyway?
Here’s a blunt truth: no one is going to buy something if they don’t have a good idea as to what it is. In a traditional brick and mortar establishment, the customer can see the product, hold it in their hands, inspect it, and make a decision based on their observation.

If your product is vaguely or incompletely described, lacking a good image, and light on descriptive content designed to pique a buyer’s interest, it just plain won’t sell. Naturally, you have to temper this with a bit of common sense. For instance, if you’re selling printer cartridges, describing them as must-have in order to achieve perpetual bliss is rather silly. Just make sure the customer knows what models of printer the cartridge is designed for, and you’re good to go.

So, Barrier #1: Confusion. Cleared up by good descriptions and images.

How Do I Buy This?
Remember how earlier in this post there was mention of “Why do I need this?”? Usually, such fits of introspection and second thoughts come into play because it’s taking too damn long to make the purchase; either that or the process is too complex.

This is where a good shopping cart application comes into play. Your online business needs a way to check out products smoothly , simply, and quickly. If you’re hoping for impulse purchases online, you’re going to need a way that people can purchase products quickly and without hassles.

Furthermore, since you really can’t rely on impulse shopping to drive most of your sales, you must make sure that your checkout system allows people to save their purchases and come back to them. Check out (no pun intended) Amazon.com, for instance. They provide you with a means to have a wish list, and allow you to save the contents of your shopping cart.

That’s Barrier #2: Complexity. Simplify the purchase experience.

How Safe Is My Money?
You need to make sure that the customer’s fears about the security of their financial information are put to rest. Online security is a complex and involved subject, with enough ins and outs to warrant a college course approach much like Platform Payments 101. And make no mistake, you absolutely need to accept online payments; sending checks and money orders is so twentieth-century.

In order to allay concerns, you must make sure that you use a trusted method of processing payments. Usually that’s via a Payment Service Provider, or PSP. PSPs are companies that are legally able to accept credit cards for payment of goods and services, handling the payments for other companies, or sub-merchants. Some popular PSPs include PayPal, PayPoint, Chargify, and WePay are all examples of PSPs.

Additionally, there are card associations, and currently there are four: Visa, MasterCard, AmEx, and Discover.

You should also have a process in place for resolving customer disputes and handling chargebacks. Have clear policies listed on your site that covers returns and refunds, and that will help customers overcome concerns of having no recourse if they’re not happy or satisfied.

One big thing you want to avoid is “factoring”, where you are collecting funds for goods and services that your business isn’t approved for. That sort of funds collection is the province of an aggregator, and requires specifically registering as one. Otherwise, you’ll face fines, penalties, termination of your merchant account, and a serious blow to your reputation.

Regardless of the method used, if the consumer doesn’t have faith in handing over their hard-earned money, then your whole commerce model will collapse. Using an established, reputable method of payment, and making sure the customer knows it, will go a long way towards allaying fears and overcoming hesitation.

And that’s Barrier #3: Concern. Go with a reputable payment processor.

This is a simple list, granted, and any of these barriers could fill an entire blog or two with in-depth detail, but for now, if you’re just starting to wade into the waters of e-commerce, you have enough here to keep you afloat. Good luck!

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