Growth Marketing

Stripe Kicks The Crap Out Of Competing Solutions, But It’s Not Just For Developers

This is the abridged story of a business owner who went from not accepting credit cards, to Stripe, to a traditional merchant services provider, and back to Stripe again…

Stripe is missing the boat on its home page.

For anyone who doesn’t already know, Stripe is a simple solution for facilitating credit card transactions on your Web site. No merchant service application hoops to jump through. No bank bureaucracy. No PCI compliance requirements. And no more solely relying on PayPal for generating revenue!

Take a look to the left. “Payments for developers” is a nicely targeted message – a highly recommended ideal for statement – but it also functions to exclude what I think could be a very lucrative segment for its blossoming business.

Intentionally excluding visitors is a non-intuitive approach to increasing your conversion rate. By doing so, you eliminate the people you don’t want from entering your sales funnel – so you can focus on the people who are ideal for your solution – but you have to be very careful about whom you’re excluding.

I’m not a developer (although I can make a nice mess of a Web page with PHP and MySQL), and I nearly overlooked Stripe as a viable option for the Copy Hackers business because of how Stripe is being messaged on its primary landing page. “Full-stack payments” and “An API that gets out of your way” simply do not resonate with me.

The only reason I didn’t completely overlook Stripe was because I spent some time reading all the incredibly positive feedback about it on Hacker News. And I learned, quite by chance, that our WordPress backend from WooThemes provides a dead simple integration option for Stripe.

In other words, I had to work pretty hard to become a Stripe customer. I effectively converted myself (Patrick C., now where is my affiliate fee?). ☺

Let me back up a smidge…

I am not just a pretty face and infrequent guest blogger on copyhackers.com. 🙂 I’m also Joanna’s business partner, responsible for ensuring that people who visit our site can complete their purchase without event. Or put another way, in addition to my day job with Adobe, I am the Copy Hackers Webmaster.

Prior to Copy Hackers, Joanna and I created page99test.com, which was designed and built from scratch. But for the Copy Hackers business, we decided to use the WordPress platform due to the incredible number of customization options, available plug-ins, and its CMS-like features.

From the launch of Copy Hackers back in October 2011 on Hacker News through to August 2012, we forced everyone to purchase via PayPal. Despite all its shortcomings and customer service nightmares, there were no adequate alternatives. And that was fine… for a while.

We didn’t see the value in applying for merchant services through our bank, largely because we’d heard it was tantamount to a colonoscopy (no disrespect to proctologists!). And from a customer service perspective, Copy Hackers customers appeared to be happy paying via PayPal.

Over the summer, I had been reading all kinds of fascinating posts about Stripe, including this post from Patrick Mackenzie (patio11 on HN). While the discussions bordered on being a little too technical for me, the idea that we could accept credit cards without any lengthy process or probing applications was extremely compelling. I was sold (interestingly, not by Stripe’s own Web site).

So I signed up for Stripe’s email announcement list, and everything changed when Stripe launched its beta program in Canada.

As I mentioned, we chose WooThemes’ WooCommerce for our WordPress-based cart and checkout, and as luck would have it, I stumbled across an integration solution for their customers who also use Stripe.

Here’s how the integration went…

I signed up for Stripe (2 minutes), downloaded the Stripe plug-in for WooCommerce (< 1 minute), and installed it on our WP Engine test server (also < 1 minute). In no time after that, we had successfully run several test payments through Stripe (thanks to the test keys!) — and after one more solid round of QA we were set to offer credit card payments in addition to PayPal.

Total time required: 1 hour.

And what happened next? It took exactly six minutes for the first Visa purchase to occur. Joanna and I were elated!

But the story doesn’t end there.

To our horror – talk about an emotional rollercoaster – the experience turned sour as we saw multiple declines within the first day (approaching 50% declines, in fact). So far as we could tell, these declines were for valid cards (as we even tested our own credit cards). One customer made a $900 purchase for a Web site review and received notice that after 4 failed attempts to pay, there were now 4 pending charges on her Visa for $900 each.

Elation turned to extreme frustration. We thought perhaps Stripe might not be ready for prime time in Canada.

As we’d hoped, things improved over the days that followed as far as declines were concerned — and those 4 pending charges for $3600 resolved themselves within 72 hours (luckily for us the young lady still became a Copy Hackers customer!). But Stripe’s bank transfers were muddled and they had to wire transfer funds to us, triggering a very steep $15 fee per day from our bank.

To Stripe’s credit, they were incredibly responsive to our emails and they took measures to ensure that our revenues were not impacted by their technical issues or bank-imposed fees (thank you, guys!).

We loved Stripe’s ease of implementation. We especially loved accepting credit cards. But with all the problems we experienced, I felt it necessary to look for a back-up solution should new issues arise.

Cue the request-for-a-quote form submission to a merchant card services and gateway provider, Beanstream – who came highly recommended and they operate out of our home town, Victoria BC.

Here’s how that entire interaction went…

1. One call and several emails about the application process and fees.
2. An unsuccessful visit to the bank to open a business account (required by Beanstream and similar providers).
3. Securing a business name in British Columbia and registering the business with the province.
4. Back to the bank to open the business account, as they wouldn’t do it the first time without the name registration.
5. Fill out ~18 pages of application forms… then print, scan, sign, and email back to Beanstream.
6. Several emails to confirm details on extensive application.
7. Question from Beanstream about PCI compliance of WP Engine, our WordPress host. Huh?
8. Request a dedicated IP address from WP Engine.
9. Learn that WP Engine’s shared servers are not PCI compliant (I’ll bet you can see where this is headed).
10. Decision time: Move our site from WP Engine, pay a much higher monthly fee to WP Engine for a dedicated server, host our checkout page on Beanstream’s server, or pinch myself to wake up from this nightmare?

Total time required: 3 weeks. And we’re not even finished yet.

To Beanstream’s credit, they were also incredibly responsive and friendly — not to mention the fact that their per transaction fee was slightly less that Stripe’s (for us, anyway). But they are unfortunately stuck in a system that is PAINFUL. Problem is, many people don’t notice because they haven’t experienced EASY.

So all of a sudden, the pain we experienced dealing with initial card declines and then wire transfer fees fell into perspective.

Stripe, we’re yours. We know there’ll be growing pains and that’s okay… please continue to communicate with your customers so that we can communicate with ours when there are problems.

Which brings me back to Stripe’s home page messaging.

Your customers are not just developers. They are business owners like Joanna and me, who are using WordPress and other out-of-the-box CMS and e-commerce solutions.

We’ve experienced the pain of traditional credit card services and we have a story to tell. You should try to tell stories like ours on your site.

Your home page should absolutely connect with developers, but not to the exclusion of non-technical co-founders – because as it turns out, I did not have to write a single line of code to start accepting credit card payments.

You’re definitely onto something big.

~lance

About the author

Lance Jones

Lance Jones is a CRO and SaaS growth expert.

  • Rikke M. Dam

    Great instructions, Lance! Now the life could be easier only if the implementation of all the payment gateways would be explained in detail. By the way, I also agree that Stripe is good, but if you use Woocommerce, so there are definately cheaper choices. I use Cardinity (comparison with Stripe: https://cardinity.com/stripe-alternative). I think it is also a good option to consider.

  • Daniel

    Hi, I just wanted to share my experience with companies taking the worries of credit card payments off my head, maybe someone will find it helpful. I’ve done a little bit of research beforehand and since my site does a high volume of low price sales and is located within EU I chose the best price per transaction I could find – 1.7% and flat €0.25 ($0.28) fee, offered by Cardinity (https://cardinity.com/stripe-alternative). Technical set up with Cardinity was fairly easy as well and it also has integration with WooCommerce. I think it is worth a try too (if you can be bothered to switch).

  • Lesia Weber

    Stripe are literally the best company we have used for payment processing. We also have the Stripe WooCommerce plugin available at our site for just $10. Go to https://www.woosociety.com and do a quick search to find it.

  • Michael Magistro

    I strongly agree with this. Furthermore, if you’re a freelancer, did you know you can use login to your Stripe account and manage payments and customers from there?

    I’m a developer. Currently, I have one Stripe account I use for a membership website. I have another Stripe account I don’t have any websites connected to, but which I use to manage little freelance sidejobs – no website integrations, I just manage all of it through the Stripe interface. Why did I choose to use Stripe for my freelance stuff? Because IT’S THE EASIEST SOLUTION out there – even for stuff it says it’s not supposed to be used for. (lol?)

  • Prasad Saxena

    Such a nice article. It will help me with the payments on my wesbite. I am looking for Payumoney. How are they ?
    I have 2checkout plugin that I got from http://wootreasure.com and they are awesome.

  • We’ve used Paypal for years but are looking to open a secondary processor “STRIPE”.

    Stripe , so far , have been very difficult to deal with – the BigCommerce connected successfully with Stripe and their Photo ID verification was completed. We then took 2 test payments and were about to ship them when Stripe “HELD” the payments re-requesting the previous ID verification.

    Why does Stripe bill customers’ cards when an account is not verified – I do not know. I’m currently waiting for Stripe to reply , at this point we are hesitant to add Stripe to our payment options because we have no way of knowing if Stripe can process payments correctly.

    I googled Stripe reviews following this and alot of people are complaining about a huge spike in chargebacks because , apparently , Stripe is very open to fraud etc. Is this true? Our thoughts , if Stripe turns out to process correctly , was to do a small deposit refund for all Stripe transactions and have the figure confirmed before shipping any Stripe transactions. Paypal have the seller protection which is of course a huge advantage.

    Does anyone have any experience with Stripe working correctly and any advice , pros , cons , etc?

    The payment processor “PIN” – Pin payments? – Have offered us a secondary facility but we are currently more interested in pursuing what Stripe have to offer – despite their 7 day settlement timeframe. This 7 day timeframe is actually quite helpful in our case because :

    1. It gives us time to investigate for fradulent transactions
    2. It gives us time to process the small refund to confirm the card holder is the one making the payment.
    3. Allows enough time to refund any suspicious payment without the payment being settled first.

    http://www.audioshop.co/

  • Does anyone have an experience with Paymill?

  • Dan Linstroth

    I’ve used stripe for two ecommerce businesses and have had a fantastic experience each time. Recently, I opened a third ecommerce store on WooCommerce/Wordpress and tried Simplify Commerce for recurring payment transactions since it comes along with WooCommerce. It was a horrific experience. Rude, slow (or unresponsive) customer service, slow payout and an experience that ended with me happily closing my Simplify Commerce account and paying the $79 for the Stripe WooCommerce extension plugin. I have nothing by positive things to say about Stripe’s customer service since returning to work with them.

    • Can you say more about your experience? They promise a 2-day payout. Other than customer service, what was bad about them?

      • Dan Linstroth

        Happy to expand. I run a small ecommerce coffee business where one of our products is a coffee subscription. We wanted to offer the ability to pay monthly or annually (for a discount). Simplify Commerce does not allow annual payment processing and considers it a prohibited business model. A little puzzled by this policy but understanding that it is their policy, I changed my price offering in an attempt to comply with their policy (for the time being, while I looked for another solution). While this was going on, they were slow to respond, very vague in their demands, quite rude and the emails always came from a nameless customer service rep. During this process they were withholding all of our funds (during the month of December, the busiest ecomm month of the year by far), even those which were not annual payments. Then, after being fed up with their poor service I decided to cancel and switch back to Stripe (even after fully complying with Simplify’s policy). They then deposited only part of the money that they were withholding saying that they cancelled several of the payments without telling me and gave me no indication of which payments they cancelled so I could not go back and re-charge our customers who were not charged for our goods. So, you ask “other than customer service, what else was bad?” Well, I much prefer to do business with people who seem to appreciate their customers (like Stripe), as opposed to Simplify, who treated me as if I should be so lucky to use their service. At some point, you will likely need to contact their customer service. Is it important to get a quick response from a real human being who is eager to help with a direct email and phone number? If so, I caution against Simplify Commerce.

      • Awesome – that’s really helpful. I’ve heard of them witholding funds from others for 30 days. Did they give you any reason why? They claim to transfer every 2 days.

  • Ananya Zaman

    you will find quite a few payment gateway here https://www.nullnix.org/

  • I disagree. Stripe is a platform for payment processors, not a front-end solution. Yes, you can purchase plugins for ecommerce sites, but you are not Stripe’s customer, you are the customer of the plugin developer. When you have issues with functionality, you contact the plugin developer, not Stripe.

    Why would they want to? Currently, their support services are limited to interactions. Making their website and documentation more friendly to casual site owners will open up an entirely new group of support issues.

  • WooGang

    We also have Stripe payment gateway for woocommerce at http://woogang.com/ Not only that get many more gateways at one club membership

  • John Tirips

    Stripe works when “they” want to. A lot of people want to save $ but you’re actually loosing $. I had a simple $200 transaction hold up. It happens. But for it to take weeks to be resolved is unacceptable, especially for a company who does NOT have a customer service number. They are email only. So youd thing the email support would be world class? Nope. My $200 dollar order was to lead to a $10,000 order. But since my issue was never resolved I lost the business. PGs should HELP you make money, not HELP your LOOSE it. The sad thing is if I were able to pick up the phone and call them I could have resolved in in 15 minutes or less. Don’t hurt your customers by using poor quality vendors just so you can save a buck. If your that cheap then your customers will perceive you that way and you will miss out. Spend money to make MORE money!

  • We have had a horrible experience with Stripe starting with their practice of holding your money for 7 days and continuing with horrible customer service in an industry in which trust is paramount. Does anyone know of a list of other payment gateway options for woocommerce so we can consider an alternative?

  • Wellington

    I agree whole heartedly – e-retailers with commercial savvy but arent coders are not catered for on their home page messages.

    Im the business end of a start up developing an ERP for multi channel e-retail. I looked at Stripe yesterday – discounted it as another thingy whatsit for developers.

    Did my first early adopter customer call today who brought me deep into their FAQ. Stripe is more relevant to business decision makers than to teck decision makers, simply because of speed ie getting ecommerce sites trading in days not months.
    If they tweak their home page they will get more customers imho.

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Agreed! I can see how Stripe would want to position themselves as ‘for developers’ as a differentiator… but we really hope that non-devs don’t discount it, as you said you did. It’s a decision every startup has to make: speak to everyone (and risk speaking to no one), or speak to a small group (and risk turning off people from other groups).

  • GPLclub

    We actually offer the brilliant Stripe gateway for WooCommerce for $5 rather than the $79 charged by Woo! Check it out here: http://gplclub.org/product/stripe-payment-gateway-woocommerce/

  • Anthony

    To use stripe or Beamstream with WP Engine aren’t you required to get a dedicated IP address and SSL certificate anyway?

  • Even for me as developer Stripe language didn’t resonate. I don’t want to handle everything myself. But I’ll have another look as soon as Stripe is available in Germany.

  • I agree with your critique of the Stripe homepage. I actually just finished writing a four page document to help me sell Stripe to one of my customers so that I (and she) could avoid the headache of Paypal or rolling our own complicated payment solution. Stripe would likely increase conversions if their copy spoke to the non-technical audience. I, as a developer, was obviously easily convinced, but I needed help selling the idea to my non-technical client who didn’t understand what all the fuss was about.

  • I think it’s instructive that Stripe was originally going to be called ‘/dev/payments’ which is about as developer-centric as you can get for a payment service. I think they’ve focused so much on developers the whole time that they haven’t had a chance to really expand their messaging. Hopefully they’ll see this blog post and take it to heart. They deserve the extra success it would bring.

    • Lance Jones

      Matt, I did not know that (about their original name). Common sense prevailed, yes? 🙂

      Stripe appears to be (from the outside, at least) developers building for developers… which is great… but there is a big world of marketers out there, too.

      I know some of them have read the post already — so it’d be cool to see them tweak their home page messages at some point.

      Thank you for commenting — it’s always appreciated!

  • That’s interesting that you would mention this. I actually signed up for a Stripe account, but decided not to pursue implementing it into my site because I’m not a developer. I think people would rather keep their WordPress sites than switch to a e-commerce platform, but no one knows that it can be easy.

    I’m going to go look into stripe again.

    • Lance Jones

      Hey Bryant! We’re seriously impressed with how easy it is to set-up AND manage credit card payments with Stripe. And interestingly, now that we offer both PayPal and credit cards, we find about an even split — or maybe a slight favoring on credit cards — in what people select. Your mileage may vary, of course.

  • Lance Jones

    Brian, I did not know that link to their support chat even existed! Thanks for the heads up there.

    I agree with you completely… those are all great benefits of Stripe (that do not exactly stand out on their site). And Joanna and I would love to use it for monthly subscriptions — but we first need to create a SaaS product. 🙂

  • Brian

    Couldn’t agree more. Stripes homepage (and most of their site) doesn’t do it justice. Main benefits that it glosses over:

    – no merchant account necessary!
    – no setup fees. No monthly fees.
    – even AMEX is included (usually costs extra)
    – he interface blows every other solution outta the water.
    – yes it’s great for devs, but they should focus on all the awesome EASY plugins that have already been developed for it.

    I use it on restaurant engine, and its particularly great for saas subcriptions.

    Btw- I’ve found their campfire support chat room very helpful (and fast!) even for my basic, non-dev questions. The link to it is kinda buried in their site.

  • Lance Jones

    Hi, Amy! Thanks for commenting… I wrote the post because I think a lot of people are excited about the idea of accepting credit card payments but they just aren’t sure where to start.

    To answer your question, I think it’s FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, & Doubt) marketing.

    You do require a credit card payment solution that is PCI compliant. But Stripe is PCI compliant. See here:

    https://stripe.com/ca/help/faq#my-pci-requirements

    Basically, as long as your checkout form uses SSL (https rather than http), and you use Stripe as the sole method of passing along the credit card details you collect, you do not need a solution like that offered by Mijreh.

    Hope that helps!
    Lance

  • amy

    Thank you for this article! I looked at stripe last year and talked myself out of it because I didn’t understand the code. “Simple… for people who aren’t me,” I thought. I’ll return to it and check out the woo plugins you mentioned.

    One thing I AM still thoroughly confused about is PCI compliance. My curiosity was piqued since Mijireh (http://www.mijireh.com/) partnered with woocommerce. I still don’t understand what they’re offering, but their site leads me to believe that: If I don’t want to go to jail, I need to pay them an additional fee on top of stripe, on top of other fees (“If you do not meet the PCI standards for compliance and the security of your site gets compromised, you will be facing penalties and fines ranging from $5,000 to $500,000. The fines, however, are just the beginning of the overall damage caused by noncompliance.”)

    So now I’m scared of taking money online, and I don’t know how to tell if it’s just clever marketing or a real vulnerability and threat. Not cool.

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