Conquent: Without Limits
Conquent: Without Limits
Michael Bissell's Blog

Is PayPal Tacky?

2008-12-31 10:15:59
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I posted this question on Linked In yesterday:

I have a client who wants to use PayPal rather than traditional credit card processing on his site. I think it's tacky, am I wrong?
Maybe I'm old school, but I've been online since 1994, and my feeling is that it cheapens the site.
I got a lot of answers, mainly from people who supported the idea of using PayPal. Most folks who responded seemed to lean on the side that PayPal is known, that it's secure and that they offer great customer service. It's apparently more expensive than traditional credit card processing, but it gives a known quantity, where your small company brand may not.

One of the things I find interesting is the assumption that I was talking about a small business, which pretty much underscores my belief that if you use PayPal, your customers will perceive you as a small company. It's also interesting to see that most of the people who really like it are the merchants themselves -- I'm still not sure what the perception of the average consumer is when they see a PayPal logo and get diverted from the site.

I try to filter the grandstanding people like to do while answering LinkedIn questions, but it's difficult to ignore the "I KNOW better than Thou" tone people put into their responses, while not providing a lot of foundation or credibility. For example:
Tacky? This is the 21st century. I've been online since before most people knew what a modem was, and hackers were judged on how well they could whistle at 300 baud. The only form of online payment I take for any transaction is via PayPal. I only make exceptions in rare situations, such as when using a service like Escrow.Com.
Which is great, except his title lists him as "ITIL Evangelist and Professional Cat Herder" and his resume is engineering and instructing at Learning Tree. It's not that the answer isn't valid, but this question is about brand perception, not the functionality of PayPal (or herding cats) and his assertion that the "only form of online payment" he takes is PayPal actually supports my assertion that PayPal is small business because the impression I get from his resume is that he doing small business.

The site in question is, which, honestly, I think is some of the better work Conquent has done over the years. We took a really bad site (I mean REALLY bad: take a peek at the archived original site) and brought these guys into the 21st century. They now run neck and neck with their main competitor, who they used to whollop in traditional space, and now have regained their place with a great online presence.

I think the best answer came from Mark Lowe, who lists himself as a CTO, Strategic Advantage Technology Solutions - Specialists in e-Business and e-Commerce. He summed up his answer with a very basic, common sense suggestion:
The ideal situation is not to accept either or, but both - the first rule of successful ecommerce is to make it as easy as possible for the customer to transact with the merchant. The customer is king and this should override any personal preference of the merchant.
So, what I need to go back to my customer with is the basic, common sense question: why do you want to take PayPal? Is it for the customer, or is it because you like it yourself?

Ultimately I believe that there is a place for PayPal and Google Checkout, but at the end of the day, I think that these services solve problems for a limited audience, and the question is always going to be, is it YOUR audience.

Quick follow-up prompted by the guy I derided for his Cat Herder title.

Apparently most of the major retails DO take PayPal, although they seem to minimize its visibility, anyone using the Amazon store technology (like Barnes and Nobel) will see the PayPal link.

So, the bottom line seems to be do both. Leave options open, and don't bring your own prejudices to the table.

Online/Offline Sales -- is it really that bad?
Old School Web Design Still Works

Paul Tutty: Re: Is PayPal Tacky?
2008-12-31 10:58:16

I was one of the people who answered you on LinkedIn and I really do strongly believe in offering as many options as possible for a checkout. It isn&'t tacky, it isn't "small business", it is good business.

Think of it from your own point of view. Starting from the very first time you did an e-commerce transaction, did you really not worry what was happening with your CC details?

I know I did and still do with certain websites that don't seem to be well developed, but do have a certain item I can't find elsewhere.

Now I'm not saying the website in question is ill-developed, but personal taste is personal taste and I'm certain someone, somewhere, will not enjoy the experience. That's just a fact of life. And they will leave without purchasing, as I have done and you probably have done.

But, because humans are brand-oriented, whether they believe it or not, that fact can be used in your favor. Adding a well-known brand to a website, like the visa or mastercard logo, adds credibility. But so does adding PayPal and google checkout. Google and PayPal are near household names in households with internet access, ie. your target market.

So by adding credibility to the site, you infer trust to buy.

The second reason and one which I would prefer to be the main reason people would use them more, is because I strongly believe in having one account that can be re-used on a lot of websites. Like OpenID, google checkout and PayPal allow people to just "sign in and go" with minimal fuss and with minimal time spent filling boring forms.

Darren Azzopardi: Re: Is PayPal Tacky?
2008-12-31 14:24:05

I myself have never made the assumption that paypal equals, "small business" but then again, I can easily see why this opinion has formed.

It's cheaper to setup and when companies on a makes sense.

Seeing a Paypal logo for me personally means when it comes to the processing my order, all that is required is my email and possible password for security.

So instantly I feel relaxed. I don't have to go downstairs, look through my jacket, pluck out my card, type out my numbers, hope I haven't entered a wrong digit by mistake or I'll be forced to repeat the process.

Now I'm sure you can see the positives of that.

It will only be ignorance letting you choose not to have it.

I don't know the stats on how many e-commerce sites use Paypal. For the sake of the discussion lets say 35% of all e-commerce sites use this.

Now if you where to give a presentation to your client and in it you advised them not to you use paypal as it cheapens their site.

Your basicly cutting off revenue, and where business is business. If someone said to me I'm not getting my possible share 35% of income because you think its tacky. Then I'll call my PA to book you a taxi home.

Its similar to me saying to a future client I will not build you an IE6 proof site because its CSS rendering is so poor and its just too much effort. IE6 still exists because people do not know better, they stick to what they know.

They're not like you or I, using the web everyday for reading, contacting clients, etc, etc. For them its familiarity, they see something they know...BAMN! They're on it...its plain sailing from then on.

Now why would you take that away from them because you don't like big meany!

Once could say its up to use to educate the users out there to whats best, making them avoid the gentley push them in the right direction.

We are not dictators just designers...designing areas where users feel comfortable.

Darren Azzopardi

Michael Bissell: Re: Is PayPal Tacky?
2008-12-31 15:30:52

I have to admit, I didn't expect to change my opinion by asking this question, but, heck, these things happen. We'll keep a hard press on him to keep the existing card processing and when we add PayPal, we'll probably add Google Checkout as well -- no impediments to getting the money from the customer to our client.

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