August 5, 2008, 12:00 AM

Sponsored Supplement: Making payment decisions: Finding the right partners

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One consideration retailers need to keep in mind when evaluating any new payment is whether adding it will cannibalize sales. “Retailers need to look at the type of customer they want to attract and the payment options that appeal to those demographics because the aim is to add payment options that grow sales, not cannibalize them,” says eLayaway’s Rubin-Streit.

If a payment option is likely to cannibalize sales on another payment method, it is recommended that it be a lower cost option in order to lower total acceptance costs, adds Rubin-Streit.

Whether payment options help generate sales is another point for retailers to consider. ELayaway will promote retailers that offer its service to its consumer base. Retailers are matched to consumers based on their shopping patterns. “If there is a retailer that can offer an add-on or a product that complements a consumer’s recent purchase, we will market them to the consumer,” Rubin-Streit says.

For consumers and participating merchants, eBillme offers discounts and incentives, such as free shipping, to shoppers on the retailer’s site paying with its service. Promotions are geared to specific selling seasons, such as Back-to-School or Christmas, or specific customer demographics. The company also provides 90-day price protection to consumers and guarantees refunds on items damaged or stolen during shipping.

Buy protection

The eBillme Buyer Protection program even offers a 90-day satisfaction guarantee. A shopper who becomes dissatisfied with an eligible purchase can return the item to eBillme for a refund of the purchase price, up to $500 per eligible purchase and $1,000 per twelve-month period. Refunds do not include taxes, storage, shipping, handling or postage charges.

“This is a buyer protection program similar to what is found on platinum credit cards,” says Forzley. “We want our brand to stand for taking the worry out of the transaction for the shopper.”

The eBillme payment option is available at call centers and online retailers including: Buy.com, Crutchfield.com, Toolking.com and eTronics.

With consumer acceptance of alternative payments for online purchases growing, eLayaway is preparing to expand the reach of its product to bricks-and-mortar stores. Plans are in the works for an in-store version that can be integrated into the cash register or an in-store kiosk. “Given current economic conditions, more consumers are budgeting for larger purchases and layaway programs are a way to help them do it,” says Rubin-Streit.

Inventory management

One benefit of eLayaway that tends to get overshadowed by its other benefits is that it can be integrated with inventory management systems to automatically notify the retailer’s fulfillment department which items on layaway will be shipping soon.

“Retailers can use our application to forecast sales through the pre-selling of items which helps plan inventory and more effectively manage fulfillment with better estimates on how much will ship during specific months,” says Rubin-Streit.

With consumer preferences for payment options shifting away from credit and debit cards retailers need to take a more strategic approach to the mix of payment options they offer. “Retailers have to offer more cash-based payment options, because if they don’t, they are going to miss a significant number of sales to consumers that prefer to pay with cash online,” says Forzley.

By offering more cash alternatives, retailers can reduce the number of abandoned shopping carts at checkout, lower their risk of fraud and chargebacks, and reach millions of potential new customers.

“The more unique payment options retailers can provide, the more opportunities they have to grow their business,” says Rubin-Streit.

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