Keep the Sale, Roll Over Your Payment Gateway

For most retailers, thinking about their payment gateway is little more than an afterthought; a one-time decision that allows their ecommerce store software to authorize payments from their customer’s bank or credit accounts.  In the larger picture of decisions that an ecommerce store owner must make on a daily basis, worrying or even considering the functionality of a payment gateway is likely not paramount.

Until it fails.  On Friday July 3rd 2009,, one of the internet’s largest payment processing companies, suffered massive system failure due to a fire at one of their data centers in Seattle, WA. The system failure caused their payment gateway to be inoperable for up to 15 hours.  This meant that thousands of ecommerce websites that use to process their online transactions were also inoperable, resulting in a loss of revenue that some estimate in the hundreds of millions.  Although this was probably one of the longest and most dramatic outages in recent memory, periodic outages occur all the time with most major payment processors, whether it is planned system maintenance  or unplanned natural disasters.

When a failure is dramatic and unexpected, ecommerce developers spend a lot of time considering how such an event could have been prevented or mitigated.  However, as Amazon CTO Werner Vogels has said, “everything fails, all the time.”  There will always be another fire, or another leap year miscalculation.  As an ecommerce owner, one’s only concern should be how to mitigate this risk and keep their ecommerce online store up and running.

One obvious solution to this problem of periodic outages is to maintain multiple payment gateways (such as Google Checkout or PayPal).  In this way, if one payment gateway is down for whatever reason, it will not necessarily result in the loss of a sale, since the customer will still have other options to process their payment.

At Upshot Commerce, we have been developing a new Rollover Payment Gateway Extension to make this process even better, which will result in less abandoned shopping carts and higher order retention.

Normally, when an order fails to go through a payment gateway, the customer receives some sort of error message indicating that the payment cannot be processed.  At this point, the customer could do a number of things; he might attempt one of the other payment gateways if available, or perhaps contact the ecommerce site to solve the problem.  Unfortunately, many customers will choose to simply abandon their shopping carts and go elsewhere, assuming that the website is faulty, or there is a problem with their account.  However, with our Rollover Payment Gateway Extenion, if an order is submitted through our system to a payment gateway and fails, the order simply “rolls over,” or resubmits to a back up gateway and continues on with the ordering process.  All of this occurs behind the scenes, so that the ordering process is disrupted as little as possible. No error messages, no needless frustration, no order loss.

We hope to make the Rollover Payment Gateway Extension available to our clients soon and would love to know what you think about it.  At Upshot Commerce, we’re constantly working to develop new products and solutions to make the best ecommerce software out there to help you build your online store.

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