I have a business on the Internet selling running shoes. It's just me and a few thousand other sites out there trying to do the same thing, so as you might imagine the competition is pretty steep.
In some ways I like to look at businesses like mine as the fuel that is helping turn the wheels of commerce in this country. After all, billions of dollars are spent every year by people shopping online, and 80 percent of everything bought over the Internet is paid for with a credit card. From what I read both those numbers are expected to keep going up and these days it's good to see some sector of retail not taking a pounding.
In any event I look at the running consumer as a source of income. How much money do they have in their pocket when they click on to my site looking for shoes, and how much of that will be in my pocket when they sign off? I know it doesn't translate into the real world, but anyone I see jogging down the street or power-walking through the park could end up on my site and I want to make sure they don't ever want to leave without a new pair of shoes.
And as the owner of a virtual running shoe outlet how can I make sure they stay on my site, not to mention come back for their next pair. One thing I do is make sure my suppliers are dependable, so I never lose anyone because something is on back order.
I also made sure to spend a little to have someone design my site from the home page through the purchase confirmation page, so people would feel like they were dealing with a legitimate business and not some guy selling shoes out of the spare bedroom of his home.
And another thing I do is accept credit cards because I know that a vast majority of shoppers these days at very least want me to offer the merchant account option. And while you can mail me a check for your purchase I find that most of my customers would just as soon use their credit card so they can get their shoes and keep moving.
I was tempted to go with one of those discount merchant services companies but I didn't like the fact there were so many upfront fees and fine print on their site. I figured the smarter thing to do was shop around and find a cost-effective package of services that would serve me - and my customers - over the long haul.
So now when you click on to my e-store front you're going to find everything you need and when you go to pay for it you're going to get a virtual terminal that will process your credit card quickly, safely and securely.
If I didn't hate puns I'd say credit card processing helps my business run smoothly. Get it? Run smoothly? OK. So I'm a better shoe seller than comedian.
Jim Osterman is a Web content developer with Charge.com, a leader in the merchant account services field with credit card processing solutions for a wide array of businesses.