According to Raphael Berkien, 2000Charge Inc. Vice President of Business Development, the basic idea behind 2000Charge Inc. can be boiled down to a single question asked of acquirers and merchants: If a customer is willing and able to pay for your product, why would you turn that person away?
"We have a motto - more options make more sales," Berkien said. "Why not open your business up to the world? You spend all this money on marketing; you finally have a person at your website; there's no reason you shouldn't close the deal."
In the e-commerce sphere, unnecessary attrition is all-too-common, according to Berkien, who noted that international merchants frequently lose sales because foreign visitors are stymied by limited payment options that don't include their customary choices.
That's where 2000Charge comes in. The company offers a platform of international payment alternatives that go beyond traditional bankcard processing and are tailored to the country where a given consumer is shopping.
"From the consumers' point of view, it gives them more options to pay, provides convenience, and gives them trust and familiarity," Berkien said. "When they log into their own bank system, they trust where they're paying from. It all has a familiarity to them. It's in their own language and their own currency; they know how much something costs."
Thus, a customer in a Mandarin-speaking region of China who selects the alternative payment option provided by 2000Charge is routed to a page where payment instructions are written in Mandarin, prices are listed in yuan, and payment choices include the China UnionPay Co.'s UnionPay card, Visa Inc.-branded Taiwan debit card, and Pulse debit network payments, among others.
A customer in Spain will see a page displayed in Spanish, with prices listed in euro and payment options that include CCBill LLC's DirectPayEU, the Single Euro Payments Area's EuroDebit and bank-transfer solution Teleingreso, to name a few.
"Eighty-seven percent of Internet users are outside of the United States," Berkien said. "That means that, for a domestic U.S. merchant, there's a huge opportunity to tap into the worldwide marketplace. If you want to tap into it, you need to adjust your acceptance policy to the markets you're targeting." As an example, he mentioned that credit cards are not widely accepted in Germany, but "every single German probably has a membership with giropay," so it's necessary to adapt accordingly.
The 2000Charge website indicates the company's alternative payment offerings cover about 170 countries worldwide. Exempted from the service are countries with particularly high fraud rates, Berkien noted.
He added that the company spends up to two years studying the payment systems of countries before adding them to (or denying them access to) the 2000Charge platform, based on the security and reliability of a country's network.
"Our challenge is dealing with rules and regulations, how everything is set up in a country," Berkien said. "We have to know what are the rules for settlement and what recourse do we have for the merchant. We spend a lot of time making sure we have a stable system."
Everywhere it operates, 2000Charge also has an arsenal for fighting fraud, according to Berkien. The company adopts the security policies of whatever country the system is used in, for example, requiring bank information and a mouse signature of European payers. The company also gives its merchant customers the option of add-on security features, such as address verification and the use of text messaging to confirm customer identity.
Additionally, 2000Charge is certified Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) Level 1 compliant, and it almost always functions as the gateway behind its alternative payment platform, Berkien said.
Berkien pointed out that while the company initially focused on direct sales to merchants, it has ramped up its ISO partnership program as a way to expand its client base. "I think we have more direct merchants than ISO merchants, because our ISO program's only a year-and-a-half old," he said. "But we had a very small sales force, which is why we created the ISO program. So, where in the past we had more people coming to us directly, we've turned our focus now to the agent program."
Berkien said installing 2000Charge is fairly simple; thus, ISOs and merchant level salespeople (MLSs) won't encounter setup headaches. Merchants can install the program themselves by visiting the company's web portal, www.agent2k.net, and following some basic instructions. Phone-based technical support is also available for merchants who need it.
"We have technical support where they walk the merchant through the process," Berkien said. "They'll look at the merchant's website and determine what is needed - price points, language and all that kind of stuff."
The 2000Charge platform is simply a "value add-on" to a merchant's web store, according to Berkien. Merchants essentially leave their web store as is, except add a portal that connects to an alternative payments page. "Alternative payments are really an addition to what you have; it's not replacing credit cards but merely adding to credit cards," he said.
Furthermore, the 2000Charge payment page can be tailored to match a web store's overall texture. Web designers with 2000Charge can create colors and styles similar to those of the merchant's existing site, thus creating a seamless experience for the buyer, Berkien noted.
"Similarly, we can provide a very generic page where customers won't feel they're being redirected," he added. "But then, in Europe, many customers want to see a payments page ... that's familiar and directed at them. They want to see their own payments page or their bank's page. So sometimes we set it up that way. It just depends on the merchant's business and the best way for them to reach the international market."
Merchants can also add buttons that give foreign consumers the option of converting the entire website into their native language and currency.
Consumers visiting e-commerce websites that use 2000Charge see a button on the merchant's home page that, when clicked, redirects them to the alternative payment options, Berkien said.
"We use a geolocation, [Internet Protocol address]-driven button that automatically detects where a consumer is located and will show a payment button that says, 'Hey, pay with your local method,'" Berkien said. "The button opens a window that gives them the ability to pay with all their domestic payment solutions, and puts it all into a very convenient space."
Though defaulted to a page determined by customer location, shoppers have the option of rerouting themselves to different languages, currencies and payment types, Berkien added.
Thus, a U.S.-based customer shopping online in a foreign country can redirect himself or herself away from the default page of that country and, instead, view a payment page in English, see prices listed in dollars and pay with a U.S. debit card.
Berkien noted that offering alternative payments provides many benefits, including:
Elaborating on the last point listed, Berkien said, "You have two payment types, 'push' and 'pull.' You can give your bank account and routing number, like with a gym, and they pull your funds every month. However, there's no guarantee, because the customer can call the bank and end [the flow of] the funds.
"But if I hit a 'push' button, it actually pushes the funds to you, and those funds are guaranteed. A push system is guaranteed; they are going to their bank account and immediately sending it to the merchant. There is not the same risk of chargeback."
Berkien added that currency and language conversion features that complement expanded payment acceptance are further benefits of the 2000Charge platform, and this trifecta of payment, language and currency provisions makes the shopping experience as comfortable as possible for all customers, no matter where they reside.
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