Is PayPal Tacky?
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 www.gmsparts.com, 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.