If you’re planning on building an ecommerce website, or you need to process online payments, you need to be aware of your options for setting up a merchant account and payment gateway. Maria Sparagis is an expert in finding payment solutions–particularly for high risk niches. I recently spoke with her about what website owners need to think about when implementing a payment system, the future of digital currency, and how her company DirectPayNet can help with payment solutions.
Web Hosting Cat: Could you tell us a little about your background and how your company DirectPayNet helps internet business owners with their online sales?
Maria Sparagis: I’ve been in the payment space for ten years. I was actually one of the first employees at MindGeek. So I helped them develop a payment strategy and kind of went through all the hurdles of understanding why we couldn’t get payment providers and integrating gateways, and basically navigating that whole space. I did that for about three years. I moved on from there and started DirectPayNet just because I realized there was an opportunity for me to help other merchants that are in spaces—anything high risk. So, digital downloads, diet offers, anything in that realm. So essentially, I help merchants that have a hard time finding payment solutions find solutions either domestically here in the U.S. or offshore. A lot of merchants seek me out specifically because I can give them tips on conversions, tips on their order pages (what’s working), how we can reduce their decline ratios, get better approvals, and so forth.
WHC: What do new website owners absolutely need to know if they want to start up an ecommerce website or accept online payments?
MS: The number one thing that I tell merchants as soon as they’re starting is that first you should look for your solution before you look for your CRM and your technology, because your solution to finding a merchant account is a lot harder than finding technology providers to support that specific solution. What happens is a lot of times merchants get started, they choose a CRM, they choose all this technology and then they find a payment solution—but none of it is integrated and they’ve spent so much money. So then they’re kind of trying to work backwards, which doesn’t make much sense.
WHC: Are there some website platforms that are better suited for accepting online payments?
MS: I think the platform is agnostic. It doesn’t really matter as long as your design is good and it converts. What I think would help is a lot of merchants getting started use hosted payment pages. I probably would say if you have a little bit of money to invest in designing your own page and making sure it’s on your URL, versus diverting the customer somewhere else, you’re probably much better off. But, it takes a little bit of money. You need your SSL certificate. You need to make sure your pages are encrypted and so forth. But I think it’s a worthwhile investment because it typically yields higher conversions for customers.
WHC: In your experience working with website sales, are there any other tips regarding payment processing that you can share with our audience which can help them increase their sales?
MS: Depending on where your volume is, try to find a local solution. For example, if you have a lot of European traffic and you want to monetize it, you’re always going to convert better with a local European bank versus a bank in the U.S. Also, try to charge customers in their native currency. So if it’s Euros or GBPs, even if your bank converts it to U.S. dollars after, you’re better off charging in that respect. I think in terms of traffic and your order page, like I said it’s really important to try to host your own.
WHC: What’s your opinion on the future of digital currency such as Bitcoin?
MS: That’s a favorite topic of mine. I’ve been a big proponent and a big believer that things are going to change in the monetary system. My personal opinion is we’re going to see a lot of changes in the payment space due more to Blockchain than to Bitcoin—the technology that helps Bitcoin be what it is. Blockchain allows people to transact immediately versus for example a credit card that has a three day settlement period. I think because of the world moving in the digitalized fashion as it is, people want their money right away. They don’t want to wait three days. As people realize how powerful this technology is, I think in the next three to five years we’re going to see some huge changes there.
WHC: Can you explain how the process works when someone contacts DirectPayNet for assistance in setting up online payment processing?
MS: We have a pre-application process that’s no obligation to the merchant. So, if they want to see if a solution would fit, they just contact us through our sales email address. They can go to our website. I have a personal page as well, MariaSparagis.com. And that actually tells you a little about some of my skills and so forth, but DirectPayNet.com—we have a few people on board that can help as well.
WHC: How long does the process take before someone can have live payment processing on their website?
MS: That’s one of my favorite questions because that always depends on the merchant and how quickly they get things done. But if things work at a very nice pace where for example my request for changes or documentation is done within one to two days, typically a domestic U.S. account would take about two weeks.