Ecommerce sales are increasing year-in and year-out. We are seeing this trend becoming more apparent each year. Watching the momentum Amazon has gained over the last several years and seeing how common it has now become to shop on Amazon for products, is one indicator of this trend. This last year, we learned that Toys R Us was closing down all their retail locations. Department stores and malls are not thriving as they used to. More large box retailers are struggling to survive in a retail setting due to the mass movement to online shopping.
When a business sets up a new website to sell products or services, the business needs to stand out in a very large ocean of businesses rushing online. Have you ever gone to a website and it was so simple that it felt as if it was missing vital pieces on the site, or felt unprofessional? How many times have you purchased products from these sites? A business needs to gain consumer confidence the moment the website opens up. From a marketing standpoint, the website needs to be presented as professional, clean, and attractive. Online shoppers have been trained to look for what a professional website should look like. And to check and see if a website has the important aspects existing on the site to give customers confidence. This will lead the customers to trust the business and feel comfortable enough to buy products from the business. If there is little confidence, the customer will abandon the site quickly, and search for another business offering the same product.
When setting up a merchant account, there are items that are required by the card associations and the Federal Trade Commission to be on the website. Every one of these items helps a business gain confidence in their website and enables the business to showcase the qualities that the customer is looking to purchase from. Below is a checklist of some items to help make sure that these qualities are provided on the website.
Main Website Page(s)
- Company name or Doing Business As name- Branding your website with your company name is important for consumers to know who they are shopping through. It is recommended to have this presented in a professional look, font, or logo. I have seen websites where the company name was in the form of simple text, and felt like it was thrown on the site without consideration of how the customer would see, or feel when they pulled up the site.
- Product – First, the site needs to have a picture of the product. Any relevant product information and details about the product needs to be present on the site. It seems natural that this would be on the site because when researching, or making a buying decision, we want to learn as much as we feel we need to on the product. However, it is surprising how many sites I see that have little information, or poor pictures of their products. The price of the product needs to be displayed in a clear and noticeable place. A consumer should never have to search for the price.
- Service- For businesses that offer a service, it is very important to provide as many details about the service as possible. Details on what the consumer should expect and obtain from the service are key. Any relevant pictures will also provide confidence in the buyer. If the information isn’t clearly presented, abandonment will be high. The more information, the better. In order to, not only gain the consumers trust, but also to create an immediate buying decision.
- Contact Us- Providing contact information seems obvious, but how many times do we go to contact a business and are only provided with an online form. An address, phone, or email is not provided. We then are put in a position to need to rely on their internal systems to get support. If you are like me, when I see this, I immediately lose confidence in the business. I then become irritated that I cannot immediately access the support center for help and assistance. It is highly recommended, and sometimes required by some underwriters, to have a phone number, address, and email on the “contact us” page.
- Return- A consumer needs to know what the process will be if they need to return a product. It is not uncommon for a consumer to order an item and not receive what they expected. Or the chance of the possibility of the size of a product being incorrect as in the case of clothing, shoes, or accessories. If there are special instructions for the return, this needs to be displayed.
- Refund- If a customer needs a refund on the transaction, the policy and information for the refund needs to be displayed. If the consumer has only a limited number of days to return the product for a full refund, this needs to be stated clearly and concisely.
- Shipping and Delivery- This policy details the shipping timeframes, the carrier(s) used, and any delivery instructions or important information. Also, if there is any delayed delivery of a product, outside of a product being back ordered, this needs to be clearly stated. If a product is custom made, there may be a certain timeframe to produce the product and deliver the product. Any information pertaining to fulfilling the order and getting the product in the consumers hands needs to be displayed.
- Cancellation- A number of businesses are offering subscription or membership plans. Because these involve ongoing scheduled transactions, the business needs to provide information to cancel the subscription or membership. How does the cancellation occur? Is there an online form? Does the consumer contact support, and if so, how? Clearly define and state this information.
- Secured Page- The most important aspect of the payment page or shopping cart pages, is to make sure it is secured with an SSL certificate. In addition to that, the URL should display the site as being secured. This is a vital step in protecting cardholder data.
- Itemized Item Listing- Once products have been selected and have been put in a shopping cart, the page needs to display each item that was selected, and the quantity of products being purchased.
- Pricing and Totals- The price of the product needs to be displayed next to each product item and updated depending on the quantity ordered. The numbers need to add up. Any applicable taxes, or shipping fees, need to be accounted for in the total purchase price. The amount shown as the total purchase amount will need to be the amount charged, and the amount the consumer will see on their billing statement.
Red Flag Items for Underwriters
I have listed multiple items that need to be on the website, but how about items that should not be on the site. There are certainly common items that are placed on websites that underwriters may not like to see and will ask to be removed for the account to be set up. Or, they could cause the account to be declined.
- Prohibited Products and/ or ingredients- Products that may be considered prohibited are really based on the processor, the acquiring bank, and what they do not allow. Also, there are some ingredients in products that may be prohibited. This is especially common in nutraceutical and other health and beauty products. CBD is a prime example of this. Very few options exist for this product. If CBD exists as an ingredient or is shown on a website, it will most likely be declined. That is, unless the account is set up with a solution that enables the acceptance of CBD based products.
- No Guarantees- Guarantees provide a heightened level of risk to a processor. When a business guarantees their product or service in any way, a customer can always use this guarantee against the business in a chargeback or arbitration scenario. Oftentimes, a business can show use of a product or complete fulfillment, but if a customer feels strongly and was not satisfied, the customer can file a dispute. There is little recourse for a business to overcome the dispute and get paid for the transaction.
- No Claims- Anytime a claim is made on a website, it must be backed up and substantiated. This could be from a scientifically validated report, lab tests, or other reports. If a claim is stated, be prepared to immediately back it up. It is important to hyperlink to the source of the claim. If a claim is made on an ingredient only, it will not suffice. As an ingredient may have claims, but it does not necessarily mean the product itself will perform in the same manner.
- No Sharing of Data with Third Parties- Sharing of data is not permitted from a business. Especially if this sharing of data goes to a marketing company, or other vendor(s). There are many touchpoints with transferring of data that can be vulnerable to hacks and create atmospheres where card holder data can be compromised. Typically, a customer puts trust into your business when they provide personal information. Without the specific consent of the customer, the data cannot be shared. There have been issues where card data was provided to other businesses, and these cards were processed for products and services the cardholder did not give explicit consent on.
- Limited Time or Limited Quantity- Businesses will use this strategy to pressure buyers into the sale. The perception that if they don’t buy now, the opportunity will be lost, sets up an unrealistic urgency to purchase the product. It has been discovered that in most cases, a time clock, or product quantity counter resets. This can also set up increased buyer remorse and accelerate incoming chargebacks on an account. Therefore, underwriters and risk analysts may not allow these on a website.
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