The reasons are obvious and plentiful for why you should start offering online payment options. According to the most recent 2011 Billing Household Survey, options are what your customers want the most from your billing services. A fifth of customers indicated that they change the way they pay their bills every month, with 59 percent having already used a direct billing website, 53 percent having used recurring billing and 38 percent having paid their bills through online banking services.
In addition to making it convenient for your customers, statistics show that businesses get paid faster when they accept online payments. Instead of hassling your customers to remind them of bills being due, you could set them up on a recurring payment system, or accept a payment over the phone.
The sky is truly the limit as technology and security continues to evolve and enhance the electronic invoicing industry. But what are your options for implementing an online billing program in 2012? We’ve compiled a list of ways you can accept payments online.
Accept Credit Cards and Debit Cards Online
Enabling your customers to make credit card payments on your website is the most basic way you can accept online payments. But there are different ways to accept credit and debit cards on your website. You can accept them using a merchant account, which will allow you to process payments and accept funds directly into your business bank account. Or, some services will allow you to accept funds using an intermediary holding account, which means your business does not need a merchant account, but cannot accept funds directly into your bank account. These methods can mean very different business processes and funding times, so it’s important to research what is the best option for your business.
Visa, MasterCard and American Express are among the most popularly accepted credit cards, with debit cards being the second-most popular option for paying bills online. According to the 2011 Nilson Report, Visa leads the brands with more than $7.2 trillion in transactions they handled in 2010. Debit cards represented $3.4 trillion, MasterCard represented $2.7 trillion and American Express handled $1.2 trillion in online payment transactions.
Accept eChecks through ACH Processing
An echeck, or electronic check, is the means by which you can take the information typically contained on a paper check (routing and account number, name, amount, and authorization) and enter it into an online payment form or software interface to process the payment electronically — without the physical presence of a paper check.
Implementing an ACH processing system enables you to collect payments from customers by simply taking their account and routing information over the phone, in person or (drum roll…) online. It is governed by the National Automated Clearing House Association, and can be applied to payroll, direct deposit, tax refunds, consumer bills, tax payments and many more payment services.
Provide an Online Payment Gateway
By adding a simple payment form, you can enable customers to pay you directly on your website. Repeat customers can even create accounts to save their payment information for fast and easy repeat payments.
You can outsource this feature to companies that specialize in online payment services, including hosting the payment form, providing the secure payment processing, and providing the secure payment account storage. You can even sometimes customize your form to fit with your brand. Offering customers an online payment form enables you to accept online payments through either of the ways mentioned above: by credit card, debit card or echeck.
Click-to-Pay Email Invoicing
Send your customers an invoice by email and get paid at the speed of a few clicks. Email invoicing enables your customers to pay their bills and receive a receipt in seconds. You can do this by linking the customer to an online payment form (outlined above). Again, through finding the right invoice and online payment solution, you can provide a fully integrated experience to your customers, while providing integrated tracking for your business. So, when the customer clicks and pays, the invoice is marked as paid in your system automatically.
We suggest customizing your email invoices, similar to customizing your online payment form, to provide an additional professional touch and instill confidence in your customers to use the services you’re providing. Providing an official receipt also enhances confidence in this system.
Schedule Recurring Billing
The most popular method for customers to pay bills online is to simply set them up on a scheduled recurring billing system. This option is not only more convenient for your customers, but it almost guarantees you will be paid on time.
According to the 2011 Household Billing survey, more than half of online households already pay at least one bill through some sort of recurring billing system – and that number is growing as more businesses begin to make that option available to their customers. Recurring billing is the most convenient option for your customers, and the most practical option for getting you paid faster.
Accept Mobile Payments
Today’s billing technologies are so evolved, you can collect a payment on the spot when all you have on you is a mobile phone. The payment is even confirmed and a receipt sent right then. Add to that the ability to access cash flow reporting, manage customer accounts, and send invoices from anywhere you have a signal, and you start to see the benefits of using a mobile payment app.
According to a study by eMarketer, mobile commerce sales increased 91.4 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and it projects those mobile sales will keep growing an additional 73.1 percent by the end of 2012. McAfee also found that 18 percent of smartphone users actively make mobile payments, with the overwhelming reason for customers not embracing mobile being security fears. But as technology continues to enhance security and this security is clearly communicated, people’s fears will continue to alleviate and mobile payments will continue to claim a much larger share of the online payment market.
What works best for you?
The list of options for how you can accept payments online are constantly growing and continually evolving. The key to determining the right method for your business is learning all you can about the price, procedure and benefits of every technology available, and embracing an arsenal of online payment methods that are most convenient for your typical customer.
The key is to make paying bills as easy as possible for your customers, so getting paid becomes faster than ever before.
If you’re interested in learning more about using PaySimple to collect payments online, check out this 2-minute video showing how PaySimple works.