Methods of online payment in germany outlined

Imagine that you have finally launched your German web shop after long months of preparation. Your marketing and customer acquisition strategy is spot on. German consumers are beating a path to your unique online offering and salivating at the prospect of buying your products. Success seems guaranteed. Doesn’t it?

Image: Michelle Meiklejohn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Unfortunately, if you haven’t given enough consideration to your payment gateway and the payment options you offer, you could end up losing out. Along with good customer service, store design and innovative marketing activities, the right choice of payment system is absolutely crucial to the success and longevity of any new e-commerce venture. Visitors to your store have to be able to make payments smoothly and safely if your company is to retain customers and maximise potential revenues. But what should a website founder look for in a payment system? Here are a few questions to ask.

One online payment method or many?

In Germany, there are currently about 40 different payment methods to choose from. But not every payment procedure has found the same acceptance among customers, so shop owners should aim to have a selection of payment options for customers to choose from. It’s basic common sense: the more payment methods available to a customer, the more likely it is that he will find an appropriate method and complete a purchase. Furthermore, by giving alternatives, you minimise the risk that transactions are brought to a halt by technical problems with one method, because transactions are not reliant on a single payment solution. Most online stores therefore have between three to five payment methods. The only problem is that online stores then have to negotiate individually with each payment provider on the conditions of use and on integrating a range of interfaces into their site. But there are alternatives.

What’s the target audience for my startup?

Before deciding for or against a particular payment method or provider, consider your target demographic and whether, for example, you may be marketing to international audiences in the future. In general, preferred payment types are culturally and socially conditioned and vary greatly from country to country. While for the US and UK markets, credit and debit cards are sufficient, in France, for example, customers are most comfortable with the “Carte Bleue”. In the Netherlands, most online shoppers pay via „iDEAL“; in Austria, the preferred method is „eps“ (formerly netpay); in Scandinavia, online banking options such as “Nordea“ are widespread.

A good provider of payment systems offers a range of options that lets you plan for all possible outcomes in the international markets, so that adjustments and fine tuning are possible along the way without the need for special new contracts with new providers, or integration of completely different systems. When expanding internationally, many startups end up bogged down setting up local bank accounts or establishing international subsidiaries in order to trade beyond their borders, but the best suppliers enable you to operate local accounts and take payments in different currencies. This often eliminates the need for a subsidiary.

The integration of payment options is quite costly. The technical process can take from two days to several weeks, depending on the complexity of the shop’s own platform and system architecture and the relevant payment system. One should therefore try to integrate all possible types of payment method from the start in order to keep expenses as low as possible – especially in young businesses in the startup phase. With the right partner, a comprehensive integration can be achieved within two to three days. A complete list of payment options available internationally can be found here.

About author Martin Ott:

Selecting online payment methods in Germany for startups

Martin Ott is the joint CEO of Moneybookers, where he heads up sales, P2P, marketing, products and services. He was formerly the COO at Jamba, a global leader in mobile entertainment services, and before that founded and was CEO of the Tokyo-based Eken K.K., an online platform for community and consumer reviews. Ott studied international business administration at the WHU Beisheim School of Management in Vallendar, the Finance Academy in Moscow and the Keio Business School in Tokyo.

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