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E-Business Secrets

Make 10 percent more revenue by taking one step
Accepting checks online can help make more sales

By  Brian Livingston October 29, 2002  

I know it sounds like a come-on, but many e-commerce sites are finding they can increase their sales 10 percent by adding a single feature to their pages.


That feature is accepting online checks as well as credit cards from customers. To pay by check, a consumer simply types his or her banking numbers, which are printed across the bottom of every check. After an online verification process by a service bureau, which is typically completed in a matter of seconds, the customer's money is transferred to the vendor electronically.

Bill Grogg, the founder of Timberwolf Software in Beaverton, Ore., uses such a service. He says there are many reasons why checks allow more buyers to complete online transactions:

1. Only 60 percent of American adults hold a valid credit card.

2. About 10 million U.S. households that use checkbooks but not credit cards have access to the Internet.

3. Some credit card users are maxed out on their credit limits, or simply prefer to pay bills by check rather than being billed later.

Timberwolf uses the Debit-it! system developed by AmeriNet of Clearwater, Fla. The system processes recurring payments (monthly mortgage fees, for example) as well as one-time payments. Customers don't need to have any prior relationship with an e-commerce site to pay by check. The system is in use by such businesses as DirecTV, Fitness Heaven, and others.

In an interview, AmeriNet vice chairman Dave Kerlin said, "The range of revenue boost [when a site accepts online checks] is between 5 and 15 percent, with the average around 10 percent."

Timberwolf's site has a more detailed explanation at: http://www.timberwolfsoftware.com http://bri.li/4e72

AmeriNet offers a PDF white paper that describes the check-payment technology in detail. The document goes so far as to compare the features provided by six competing check processing services. These competitors might quibble over their rankings. But AmeriNet's white paper will, at the very least, inform you about the choices you'll face if you wish to use the service yourself: http://www.debit-it.com http://bri.li/61fa

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Traveling with a laptop is great, but there are those times when you'd much rather plug in a real mouse than use the little touchpad or pointing stick on your machine.

Times such as these are made for Microsoft's new Notebook Optical Mouse. The comfortably compact two-button device (plus a scroll wheel) plugs into any USB port. It includes a cord long enough to reach whichever side of your laptop your USB port lives on.

This mouse has no ball to get clogged with dirt. Instead, an optical sensor embedded in the base detects movement on all kinds of surfaces, although I wouldn't trust it on a glassy or mirrored tabletop.

Since most planes don't use mirrors as tray tables, you probably won't find many work spaces where this gizmo won't work. It's received rave reviews lately, so it's somewhat scarce. But it's currently on hand at e-tailer Chumbo.com, which also has a good price ($26.49). Click the following link, then search for "microsoft notebook optical mouse": http://www.chumbo.com http://bri.li/7582

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1. New e-card scam will increasingly hit consumers as the holidays approach: http://news.bbc.co.uk http://bri.li/43a

2. Businesses grow by providing ways to "snipe" and win auctions: http://eastbay.bizjournals.com http://bri.li/822

3. Shoppers prefer permission e-mail to snail mail, and 69 percent buy: http://www.emarketer.com http://bri.li/c0a

4. FTC shuts down a notorious Internet fraud with a $229,000 fine: http://www.internetnews.com http://bri.li/ff2

5. Pop-up ads are fading as vendors adopt new ways to end them: http://www.ecommercetimes.com http://bri.li/13da

6. Increase retention 5 percent, increase profit 25-100 percent; here's how: http://www.clickz.com http://bri.li/17c2

7. Google listings at Yahoo reduce your need to pay that $299 fee: http://www.highrankings.com http://bri.li/1baa

8. Find out whether your site is a victim of "click fraud": http://www.promotionbase.com http://bri.li/1f92

9. HTML tips: Tools automate a sophisticated Site Map for your users: http://www.netmechanic.com http://bri.li/237a

10. Spare me! You simply must try this Halloween-themed game, Cat Bowling: http://www.bravozulu.com http://bri.li/2762

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Just in time for Fright Night, those jokers at National Lampoon bring you "Martha Stewart's Scary, Scary Sounds for Halloween." Now you can terrorize your co-workers with the awful noises made by Martha as she contemplates "Running Out of Gingham" and "Fork Placed on the Right."

Despite its terrors, this site is shockingly polite. It doesn't make any sounds until you click one of the boxes shown below its lovely Connecticut haunted house. It's not appropriate for children or those easily offended by profanity (uses words I never heard Martha say on TV) but very seasonally appropriate: http://www.nationallampoon.com http://bri.li/c3a2

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E-BUSINESS SECRETS: Our mission is to bring you such useful and thought-provoking information about the Web that you actually look forward to reading your e-mail.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: E-Business Secrets is written by InfoWorld contributing editor Brian Livingston: http://SecretsPro.com

Research director is Vickie Stevens. Brian has published 10 books, including:

Windows Me Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/0764534939

Windows 2000 Secrets: http://www.amazon.com http://bri.li/0764534130

Win a gift certificate for a book, CD, or DVD of your choice if you're the first to send Brian a Top Story or Wacky Web Week he prints. mailto:Brian@SecretsPro.com

Brian Livingston is publisher of BriansBuzz.com. Send tips to him at brian@briansbuzz.com.

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