Payment acceptance 101: Why it matters and how to improve acceptance rates


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  1. Introduction
  2. What is payment acceptance?
  3. Why is payment acceptance so important for businesses?
  4. What factors affect payment acceptance?
  5. How to improve payment acceptance rates

With the rapid growth of digital transactions and more businesses expanding into international markets than ever before, businesses must ensure that they have optimised payment processes that meet consumers' expectations and maximise the success of their transactions.

We'll cover what payment acceptance is, how it works, the reasons why it should be a high priority for businesses and actionable strategies that can help improve acceptance rates. By implementing these strategies, businesses can improve customer acquisition and retention, increase conversions and ultimately drive revenue growth.

What's in this article?

  • What is payment acceptance?
  • Why is payment acceptance so important for businesses?
  • What factors affect payment acceptance?
  • How to improve payment acceptance rates

What is payment acceptance?

Payment acceptance refers to the percentage of payment transactions that the payment processor or financial institution authorises and approves, which indicates how efficient and reliable the payment acceptance process is.

Why is payment acceptance so important for businesses?

Payment acceptance is an important metric for businesses because it measures their ability to process and authorise payment transactions successfully. Here's a more detailed explanation of the many reasons why payment acceptance is such an important indicator of business health:

  • Revenue generation
    A high authorisation rate means a greater number of successful transactions, which businesses rely on to generate revenue. When payment requests are authorised and approved at a high rate, there is a lower chance that transactions will be declined. This ensures that businesses can capture as many sales as possible.

  • Customer satisfaction
    A smooth and efficient payment process is necessary for maintaining high customer satisfaction. When a customer's payment is declined or rejected, the resulting frustration can lead to a negative experience. By maintaining a high authorisation rate, businesses can provide a favourable customer experience and foster long-term loyalty.

  • Sales conversion and retention
    An effective authorisation process contributes to higher sales conversion rates. When customers encounter minimal obstacles during the payment process and their transactions go through without complication, they are more likely to complete their purchases. Moreover, a positive payment experience can encourage repeat business and customer retention.

  • Fraud mitigation
    Monitoring and maintaining a high authorisation rate helps businesses mitigate the risk of fraudulent transactions. Effective authorisation processes include fraud detection measures, such as address verification systems (AVS) and card verification value (CVV) checks. By carefully reviewing and approving legitimate transactions, businesses can safeguard themselves and their customers against potential financial losses from fraudulent activities.

  • Operational efficiency
    A streamlined payment authorisation process improves operational efficacy. With fewer declined transactions to investigate or resolve, businesses can allocate their resources more effectively, focusing on core activities, enhancing productivity and reducing potential disruptions in their operations.

As technology continues to advance, payment acceptance will become even more important. Embracing emerging payment methods and staying up to date with evolving customer preferences allows businesses not only to adapt to changing trends and cater to consumer expectations, but also to leverage new payment technology that is more resistant to fraud and unnecessary declines.

What factors affect payment acceptance?

Several factors influence payment acceptance, and understanding these factors is important for businesses that want to optimise payment acceptance rates. Here are some key considerations:

  • Variety of payment methods
    Cater to different customer preferences by offering a diverse range of payment options, such as credit cards, debit cards, mobile payments and digital wallets. The availability of multiple payment methods increases the likelihood of successful transactions.

  • Payment infrastructure
    The quality and reliability of the payment infrastructure, including payment gateways, point-of-sale (POS) systems and online payment platforms, has a significant impact on acceptance rates. A well-designed and integrated payment infrastructure ensures uninterrupted and secure transaction processing.

  • Payment security
    Maintaining robust security measures is an essential part of instilling customer trust and protecting sensitive payment information. Implementing encryption, tokenisation and adherence to Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) guidelines helps mitigate security risks and increases payment acceptance rates.

  • Fraud prevention
    Effective fraud prevention measures, such as fraud detection systems, real-time transaction monitoring and AVS, minimise the risk of fraudulent activities. These measures enhance the confidence of both businesses and customers, leading to higher acceptance rates.

  • Payment processor relationships
    Collaborating with reputable payment processors and acquiring banks helps maintain high payment acceptance. Partnering with trusted providers ensures reliable transaction processing, reduced downtime and improved acceptance rates.

  • User experience
    A consistent and user-friendly payment experience has a positive impact on acceptance rates. Factors that contribute to a frictionless payment process – one that is primed for higher authorisation rates – include an intuitive and responsive payment interface, minimal steps required to complete a transaction and clear error messaging.

  • Localisation
    Considering regional payment preferences is particularly important for businesses that want to expand into international markets. Adapting to local payment methods and currencies can enhance acceptance rates by aligning with customer expectations, and opting for a local acquiring strategy can significantly boost acceptance rates for cross-border transactions.

  • Technical infrastructure
    Businesses must ensure that their technical infrastructure, including network connectivity, server capacity and system reliability, can handle payment processing effectively. Technical issues or downtime can result in declined transactions and reduced acceptance rates.

Carefully evaluate and refine your approach to these factors to enhance your payment acceptance rates and cultivate a payment experience that will optimise other key metrics around customer satisfaction, acquisition and retention. Investing in measures that boost payment acceptance means investing in the health of the business as a whole.

How to improve payment acceptance rates

Businesses can implement different strategies to improve their payment acceptance rates and optimise their payment processes:

  • Offer a variety of payment methods
    Providing a wide range of payment options allows customers to choose their preferred method, increasing the likelihood of successful transactions. If one payment method doesn't work, they have more options for trying another method. Businesses should consider accepting major credit cards, debit cards, mobile payment solutions, digital wallets and alternative payment methods based on their target market and customer preferences.

  • Optimise payment infrastructure
    Invest in a robust and reliable payment infrastructure. This includes selecting reputable payment gateways, POS systems and online payment platforms that offer unified integration, advanced security features and excellent support. A well-designed infrastructure ensures unobstructed transaction processing and high acceptance rates while minimising downtime.

  • Prioritise payment security
    Instilling trust and confidence in customers is an essential part of successful payment acceptance. Strong security measures, such as encryption, tokenisation, and compliance with industry standards such as PCI DSS, help protect sensitive payment data and reduce the risk of fraud. Businesses can elevate customer trust and increase acceptance rates by demonstrating their commitment to data security.

  • Implement fraud-prevention measures
    Businesses should use fraud prevention tools and technologies to identify and minimise fraudulent transactions. Solutions that we've discussed above, such as real-time transaction monitoring, AVS and CVV codes – along with velocity checks – can help detect suspicious activities and prevent fraudulent payments. Balancing fraud prevention with an effortless customer experience is key to maintaining high acceptance rates.

  • Enhance user experience
    Offering a low-friction payment experience, which includes a streamlined payment process with intuitive interfaces, clear instructions and minimal steps required for transaction completion, can improve acceptance rates. In addition, optimising for mobile devices and providing responsive design ensures a consistent payment experience across various devices.

  • Optimise checkout pages
    The checkout page is a critical component of the payment process and businesses should design these pages for simplicity, clarity and ease of use. Key elements include displaying the total amount, providing clear payment method options, minimising distractions and ensuring a secure and trustworthy appearance. Simplifying the checkout process helps increase acceptance rates by reducing basket abandonment.

  • Leverage recurring payments and auto-billing
    Offering recurring payment options or auto-billing features can improve acceptance rates and retention for subscription-based businesses. Simplifying the payment process for customers who regularly make repeat purchases reduces friction and ensures consistent payment collection.

  • Monitor and analyse payment data
    Businesses should regularly monitor payment acceptance rates, track reasons for transaction success or failure, and analyse payment data. Identifying patterns, potential issues or areas of improvement allows businesses to optimise their payment processes. Insights from data analysis can help identify payment methods with lower acceptance rates and prompt necessary adjustments.

  • Stay updated with payment industry trends
    Keeping up with emerging payment technology and industry trends is essential. By adopting new payment methods or features, such as contactless payments, QR codes and digital wallets, businesses can align with evolving customer preferences and improve acceptance rates. Work with a payment services provider such as Stripe that takes responsibility for this continuous improvement and the evolution of payment technology and infrastructure, so that you don't have to manage it in-house.

  • Provide clear customer support
    Prompt and capable customer support for payment-related issues can help address customer concerns and resolve payment-related challenges. Offering multiple channels for support, such as live chat, email or phone, ensures that customers can receive assistance whenever they need it, improving the overall customer experience.

Implementing these strategies means businesses can optimise their payment acceptance rates, provide an elevated payment experience, build trust with customers and increase revenue potential in every market. Working with a payments provider such as Stripe can help reduce the workload associated with important tasks that help maintain high acceptance rates over time, such as continuous monitoring, adapting to industry trends and maintaining a customer-centric approach. Learn more about how Stripe powers decline-resistant payment ecosystems for businesses here.

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