In 2013 there were 191 million people who used the internet for ecommerce, in 2014 we are on track for 197 million and in 2015 the projection is 202 million people. These numbers show that ecommerce (online giving, online shopping, online transactions) is here and it’s usage in increasing rapidly. When I was hired by the first church I worked at, I remember them basically telling me that my job as the webmaster was to fix their website. That was all the direction I received, they didn’t tell me what was wrong with it, they didn’t say what they wanted it to become, they just said “fix it”. Thus I set out looking for ways to improve the online experience for the users. As I went down my iChurch Method checklist of websites, multimedia, ecommerce, social media and mobile, I found the ecommerce or more specifically, the online donations process of this church was a huge issue. And with the ecommerce opportunities we have today as churches, we need to make the process as easy, secure and accessible as possible. Make it Easy Let me explain further the issue I was speaking of above, the entire online donation process from the time you hit the “donate button” until the time you got the “thank you for your donation” page, was 17 steps, that was 14 - 15 steps too many. In addition to having an excessively long process, there were numerous times during the transaction where the website would kick people off and make them start all over. Now I may not be the smartest guy around but I do know that this user experience was the opposite of easy. When we are creating our online experiences, we need to mimic the easiest ecommerce channels like amazon.com. Amazon has a normal checkout which is 2 - 3 steps or they have a one step checkout. The 2 - 3 step checkout is to check your transaction, make sure it’s correct, register your information/shipping and then checkout and this is fine for many people. Likewise, the one step checkout is for people who want to log in, complete their transaction and keep it moving, that’s the definition of easy.
Make it Secure Last year around the holidays it was revealed that Target was hacked, and more recently Home Depot was hacked, both of these retailers lost a huge amount of consumer confidence because we don’t expect the payment process to have security flaws. While no website/online system is hackproof, there are steps you can take to make sure your online donation process is secure and encrypted. First, you need to get a SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate with at least 128 bit encryption for your online donation page. This certificate, which can be purchased from Godaddy.com or Verisign.com changes your web address from http://www.domainname.com to https://www.domainname.com (note the http changing to https which means the website transaction is secure during the payment process). Once this certificate is purchased and installed on your website server, your online transactions are much more secure.
Make it Accessible Mobile ecommerce will account for 30% of global ecommerce sales by 2018, up from 15% in 20132. I just read that 90% of people with mobile devices are never more than 2 feet away from them, this along with the previous statistic of the impact of mobile ecommerce shows how important it is for churches to make their online donation process mobile compatible. Traditionally, we create online giving experiences for the desktop user but as we are seeing times and users giving habits change, mobile giving is on the rise. The three main ways of mobile giving are via mobile websites, mobile apps and text to give. The mobile website giving process is pretty standard as people can enter their financial information and complete the transaction. The mobile app process can be easier in that it can use the financial information that is saved in the user’s account (Apple, Android, etc..) and completed in a few clicks. This is very easily demonstrated by the recently release Apple Pay feature that can be built into their iOS mobile apps or the previously released Google Wallet and integration into Android apps. Lastly, Text to give is an increasing option for churches as it’s an easy process and texting is a great way to stay connected with your mobile users. The text to give process is one of the quickest donation processes and that has led to increased adoption and growing revenue for churches who implement this strategy.
Finally, let me reiterate, people want to support your ministry financially and that is a great thing, it is the church’s responsibility to help them by making the process as easy, secure and accessible as possible.