Tag Archives: ecommerce

PayPal vs GoogleCheckout revisited

I wrote back into December 2007 that 70% of my customers prefer PayPal over GoogleCheckout, given the choice. I re-checked the figures today to see if GoogleCheckout was gaining traction with my customers. It isn’t.

% of UK customers[1] choosing PayPal vs GoogleCheckout by month

I’m glad. Despite PayPal’s recent flakiness (since improved) and higher transaction fees[2], I still prefer them as a payment processor due to Google’s confidential email option (which a pain in the butt for support), lack of multi-currency support, chargeback fees and slow processing of many orders. It is useful to have an alternative to PayPal though.

[1] GoogleCheckout only lets me accept payment in pounds sterling, so I only offer it to UK customers.

[2] For a £19.95 transaction PayPal charges me £0.68 and GoogleCheckout charges me £0.45. But Google currently refunds transaction fees for 10x my adwords spend, meaning I don’t pay any transaction fees at all to Google in a typical month.

First charge-back from GoogleCheckout

google_checkout2.gifI have just had my first charge-back through GoogleCheckout. I shouldn’t moan at one charge-back in 8 months use as my secondary payment processor – except:

  • the credit card address was in the UK, the IP address was in the Netherlands and the email address was .ru (Russian Federation)
  • the payment failed authorisation twice, before succeeding a third time

Despite the above, Google apparently just processed the payment automatically, without referring it for further checks. How many Google Phds does it take to write a scoring system that can figure out that this was a suspect transaction? To rub a bit more salt in the wound Google have debited a £7.00 charge-back fee on top of refunding the payment.

I guess Google must need the money.

GoogleCheckout takes 22 hours 28 minutes to clear a payment

GoogleCheckout

I am a big believer in having more than one payment processor. I use PayPal as my main processor with GoogleCheckout and 2Checkout as alternatives (GoogleCheckout for pounds sterling and 2Checkout for dollars). But I haven’t been overwhelmed by GoogleCheckout so far. This is how long the last 10 payments for PerfectTablePlan through GoogleCheckout took to clear:

  • 4 hours 5 minutes
  • 5 minutes
  • <1 minute
  • <1 minute
  • 22 hours 28 minutes
  • <1 minute
  • <1 minute
  • <1 minute
  • 1 minute
  • <1 minute

That is quite some variation. I assume it is due to some orders being flagged for manual fraud checking. This is response I got from Google when I complained:

…for your protection, Google may review certain orders before passing them to you for processing. Some reviews may take slightly longer as Google performs more comprehensive analysis of the order to minimise your exposure to fraud risk.

Our specialists are working hard to address all orders in a ‘Reviewing’ state as quickly as possible. These reviews may take up to 24 hours…

So 22.5 hours appears to be acceptable as far as Google is concerned. But they managed to reply to my support email within a few minutes.

GoogleCheckout may be cheap (effectively free to Google Adwords customers at present) but keeping my customers waiting up to 24 hours for their licence isn’t acceptable to me. It makes me look bad. Go and hire some more people Google – you can afford it. Otherwise PayPal are going to wipe the floor with you as soon as you start charging comparable fees.

Despite the leisurely time they take over fraud checks they still managed to pass a payment with a postal address in Scotland, an IP address in the Netherlands and a Romanian email address. I am still waiting to see if I am going to be charged a £7.50 fee by Google for the privilege.

Cost effective software registration with ejunkie

ejunkieMost small software vendors don’t want all the hassle of taking payments direct from customers, so they use a third party registration service. Registration services provide payment processing plus additional services, including handling of:

  • licence key emails
  • coupon codes
  • affiliate payments
  • taxes
  • invoice sales

But these services don’t come cheap. According to this calculator some registration services charge as much as 15% commission on every £20/$40 sale. 15%! I find that quite staggering. 10% is more typical, but personally I don’t intend to give 10+% of my hard earned income to anyone, except my wife and the government. To add insult to injury some of these services also try to upsell questionable ‘offers’ to your customers. For example KAGI upsell a licence look-up service for which the software vendor gets a, frankly insulting, $1. I understand from reading the macsb forum that the upsell will be added automatically to the shopping carts of all software vendors selling downloads and will be checked by default. You then have to opt out if you don’t want it. Personally I think every software vendor should offer licence retrieval for free. And don’t even get me started on Digital River/SWREG and their Reservation Rewards ‘offer’.

PayPal and GoogleCheckout are much cheaper, with rates of approximately 3.4%[1] and 2.25%[2] respectively on a £20/$40 sale. But PayPal and GoogleCheckout are just payment processors and don’t provide all the additional services most software vendors need. They provide extensive APIs so you can ‘roll your own’ service, but this sounds like a lot of work reinventing the same old wheels.

Alternatively you can use a third party to provide additional services on top of PayPal and/or GoogleCheckout. I use ejunkie which provides most of the services you would expect from a fully-fledged registration service from just $5 per month[3]. The savings can be considerable, for example (all figures approximate):

number of $40 licences sold per year

yearly costs
10% commission registration service PayPal +e-junkie[4] GoogleCheckout +e-junkie[5]
1,000 $4,000 $1,420 $1,060
5,000 $20,000 $6,820 $5,060
10,000 $40,000 $13,660 $10,060

If you can offset your GoogleCheckout processing fees against your Google adwords spend your monthly costs could be as little as just the $5 ejunkie fee.

On the whole I have been very happy with the service I have received from e-junkie, once I got it all working. It has been very reliable and the support has been very responsive. ejunkie does seem to be more geared to selling downloads (e.g. e-books and MP3s) than licence keys and the documentation is thin in places. Consequently I had a few issues trying to bend it to my particular requirements. I will try to find time to cover these issues in another article.

You can find out more about ejunkie and try their 1 week free trial here.

Other possible third party integration solutions are PayLoadz and Linklok. For those of you who prefer a more traditional registration services, I have heard some good reports about Plimus and Avangate on various forums. Neither of these companies has been bought out by SWREG owner Digital River (yet). I haven’t used any of these services myself.

It remains to be seen whether pressure from PayPal and Google forces registration companies to reduce their fees, add more services or just puts them out of business.

Thanks to Patrick for first alerting me to ejunkie.

Full disclosure: The above ejunkie links are affiliates links. If you follow these links and sign up with ejunkie I will get a commission. It is not a lot, but I won’t need many people to sign up to cover my ejunkie fees completely.

[1] PayPal rates vary according to volume. Currency conversions cost an extra 2.5%.

[2] Google have sweetened the deal by offsetting processing fees against adwords fees until the end of 2007. This means the rate is effectively 0% if you have a moderate spend on Google adwords each month.

[3] The monthly fee depends on number of products. $5 per month covers 10 products and 50MB of storage.

[4] Based on 3.4% PayPal fee + $5 per month ejunkie fee.

[5] Based on 2.25% GoogleCheckout fee + $5 per month ejunkie fee.