Category Archives: ecommerce

SWREG customers beware

swreg upsellIf you are a customer of the ecommerce provider SWREG you should beware that they may be upselling highly questionable ‘discount’ schemes to your customers. From a post on the Business of Software forum:

This unannounced change was placed at the point of order completion where and leads to a $10/mo discount coupon scheme unrelated to the sold shareware. The way the offer is presented is deceptive – after the order is complete, they show a button with the word “Continue” on it. It looks like you are supposed to press the button to complete your order. Instead, you end up paying for something you probably didn’t want – and it’s a recurring charge.

Another posting suggested this only happens if your customer is in the USA.

I am not based in the USA and haven’t bought anything from SWREG recently myself, so I can’t personally verify the above. But these comments are backed up by posts I have seen on other forums from unhappy vendors and their unhappy customers. If you are using SWREG I suggest you buy a copy of your own software and see for yourself (you can always refund the payment later).

Assuming the above is true – what are they thinking? Either they don’t see anything wrong with it (which is very worrying) or they know its completely unethical, but are doing it anyway (which is even more worrying). It reeks of desparation to me. I thought their upselling of a registration backup service was highly questionable (I think vendors should provide this service for free), but at least it was clear what you were getting.

Vendors looking to move from SWREG to a different ecommerce provider might like to consider companies not owned by SWREG’s parent company Digital River. I use e-junkie.com with PayPal and GoogleCheckout. Other people have recommended Plimus and Avangate. You can compare processing fees here.

Effects of the GoogleCheckout badge on clickthroughs

Google Adwords adJust over a month ago I added GoogleCheckout as a payment processor on my site. This resulted in the much vaunted GoogleCheckout badge being displayed next to my Adwords Ads. I expected an increase in clickthough ratio (% of people who see the ad who click on it) due to greater visibility and a consequent decrease in conversion ratio (% of clickers who go on to buy) due to the greater visibility attracting more ‘tyre kickers’.

I have now looked through 2 months of data (a month before and a month after) and the exact opposite has happened. My Adwords clickthrough ratio has dropped by 10%, but the conversion ratio has increased by 20%. Perhaps the badge is actually putting off the tyre kickers by making it clear that the product isn’t free? It is hard to know how much of this is due to the badge and how much is due to other factors and I will be checking the stats again in another month. I would be interested to know whether other people have had similar results.

The moral of the story is: don’t assume, measure.

A software vendor’s first impressions of GoogleCheckout

google_checkout1.gifGoogleCheckout has only recently become available to UK-based businesses such as mine. On the 20th March I took my first payment for PerfectTablePlan using GoogleCheckout as my payment processor. I now offer GoogleCheckout as a payment processor in addition to PayPal and 2Checkout. Here are a few early observations on GoogleCheckout for anyone else thinking of signing up.

Sign-up

The online sign-up form refused to accept my company number, but wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. Thankfully Google support were quite responsive and told me I had to add a ‘0’ on the front of the 7 digit company number to make it 8 digits. There are obviously still some bugs to iron out. Google put a small amount of money into my bank account (which makes a pleasant change) and I had to say how much to prove it was my account. It took about 5 days to complete the whole process, most of which was waiting for the payment to appear in my bank account.

Fees

This is the biggie. For every £1 you spend on GoogleAdWords you can process £10 in sales for free through GoogleCheckout until 2008. Should you exceed your Adwords quota (or not use Adwords) you will be charged only 1.5% + £0.15 per transaction. By way of comparison, the fee on £20 sale is:

GoogleCheckout: £0.45 (£0.00 if within Adwords quota)

PayPal: £0.68 (rates may vary between different account types)

Plimus: £2.00

Over hundreds or thousands of sales, that is a big difference. To be fair the Plimus rates are lower for higher ticket items and they probably offer a lot more services for software vendors than GoogleCheckout or PayPal, but it is hard to see them continuing to charge 10% when faced with this sort of competition.

Currency

I can only set a price in Pounds Sterling through GoogleCheckout. This is a real pain. People like to be quoted a fixed price in their own currency (Americans especially). So I want to be able to set a fixed price in pounds, a fixed price in dollars, a fixed price in euros etc as I do with PayPal. But I can’t. Non-UK customers can still buy my software through GoogleCheckout, but the price will be something odd like $36.23 and will change as the exchange rates change. Consequently I continue to use PayPal as my main payment processor for non-UK sales.

Adwords logo

You can tie your GoogleCheckout account to your AdWords account. As well as getting free processing this gives your ads a little GoogleCheckout logo. It certainly makes them stand out, but it is too early to say yet what effect this will have on clickthrough ratios and sales for my business.

Google are pretty zealous about enforcing these badges. I put through a GoogleCheckout transaction on my own credit card and a few hours later the GoogleCheckout logo appeared next to my Google Adwords ads. I went to bed. Next morning I woke to an email from Google saying they had revoked the logo as they couldn’t find the GoogleCheckout payment page. Blimey, give me chance – I hadn’t published the changes on my site yet! I explained the situation and the logo was restored in due course.

Integration

I integrate with GoogleCheckout using e-junkie, which I also use for integrating with PayPal. This allows me to display a licence key and email a licence key to the customer on purchase completion. I had quite a struggle to get e-junkie to do what I wanted with PayPal due to a combination of my own quirky requirements and patchy e-junkie documentation. But, now that I have it working with PayPal, adding GoogleCheckout was very straightforward. Other people seem less than impressed by the GoogleCheckout API, but e-junkie has successfully shielded me from all that.

Note that the email GoogleCheckout sends you for each purchase is very sparse. It doesn’t even contain the purchaser’s name. You have to go to the GoogleCheckout website for that or get it through their API. Thankfully e-junkie have an option to send you an additional email, which contains copious details about the order.

User experience

I did a couple of GoogleCheckout test transactions with my own credit card. The whole process was fairly lightweight and painless, similar to paying with a credit card by PayPal. Customers are also given the option to save all their details for future purchases.

Email confidentiality

GoogleCheckout gives customers a checkbox option to keep their email address secret from the vendor. The vendor gets a made-up email address which Google then (in theory) redirects to the vendor. The customer can instruct Google not to forward further emails at any point. I can see why customers might find this attractive, but I also see it causing headaches for vendors. What happens when a customer emails you from their real address and asks you to resend their licence key 6 months later? Unless they can quote their transaction code (which they have almost certainly lost as well) it is going to be a pain to work out if they purchased a key or not. About 50% of my customers have gone for the confidential option so far.

Promotional opt-in

Customers also have a checkbox option whether they want to receive promotional emails. About 20% of my customers so far have opted in. I will be adding them to my newsletter mailing list in due course.

Fraud protection

It is too early for me to say how good the GoogleCheckout anti-fraud measures are.

Customer acceptance

I think it is very important to give customers a choice of Payment processor, so I have both GoogleCheckout and PayPal buttons on my pounds sterling purchase page. The GoogleCheckout buttons are in arguably the more prominent position, but so far 70% of customers have chosen PayPal. I am not sure why. Perhaps because PayPal is a more recognised brand than GoogleCheckout amongst my customers. Or maybe it is due to teething problems with GoogleCheckout – I had one customer phone me up yesterday to say he just got an hourglass when he tried to pay through GoogleCheckout.

Conclusion

At this stage I can only give first impressions. Overall GoogleCheckout doesn’t appear quite as polished as more established systems, such as PayPal, and only being able to set a price in a single currency is a pain, but it is very cheap. It will be interesting to see what effect their pricing has on other payment processors.

A final word of caution. If you use GoogleAdwords, GoogleAnalytics and GoogleCheckout then Google knows a frightening amount about your business. They could decide you are making too much money and increase your minimum bids on Adwords accordingly. Or they could use their vast cash mountain to put most of the GoogleCheckout competitors out of competition and then ramp up their rates. But of course Google won’t do that, because that would be evil