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Alternate payments will grow, say panelists at Shop.org show

That was the consensus of panelists yesterday at Shop.org’s Strategy and Innovation Forum who discussed the issues that retailers face with skyrocketing payment costs.

“Retailers are looking for ways to get paid without the cost of pressure,” said Dave Blotter, director of payments practice at W Capra Consulting Group Inc., Chicago. “Popular e-commerce payment options include PayPal and Google Checkout.”

Mr. Blotter asked people in the mostly e-commerce audience to raise hands if they are considering alternate payments. Nearly all raised their hands.

When considering alternate payments, it is important to note whether the cost of the transactions is less than credit card fees.

Simplicity is another issue to bear in mind.

“Make sure you don’t make the checkout process more confusing for customers,” said Jake Bailey, director of marketing at online retailer Overstock.com Inc., Salt Lake City. “Don’t distract the customer.”

It is also important to consider whether this alternate payment adds value for the customer, another panelist said.

“The technology used must be scalable and reliable,” said Jeff Foster, managing director at Payventures LLC, Delray Beach, FL.

He said that once a payment method is implemented, it is very hard to remove the option. So it’s important to be sure that it is good for the retailer and its customer. The payment method should work for international transactions as well.

Mr. Foster expects consolidation among alternate payment providers because there is only so much room in the marketplace. He said a major credit card company such as Visa or MasterCard may buy an alternate payments company.

All that said, consumer needs, technology issues, cost implementations, ongoing costs and risks must be considered before choosing an alternate payment option for customers, per another panelist.

“You must ask yourself if the alternate payment is consistent with your brand image and whether you still own the customer relationship after the purchase,” Overstock.com’s Mr. Bailey said.