Practical Ecommerce

Pros and Cons of Checkout by Amazon’s Inline Checkout

Checkout by Amazon allows your customers to use their Amazon login credentials to make purchases on your site.

There are several different ways to integrate this into your store. The best “experience”, in my opinion, is their inline offering. In this method, your customers never leave your website, yet they access their Amazon address book and Amazon payment methods via widgets you install in your checkout process.

For the customer, it’s great. Checkout is fast and easy and they don’t have to type in a bunch of extra info. For the merchant, it’s also great. If you can get it to work.

I performed the integration myself and it probably took 50-60 hours, many trips to the technical support department, and a lot of cursing. Checkout By Amazon’s Inline Checkout is about 100 times more annoying than PayPal’s Express Checkout. Please also note that I wasn’t just integrating the checkout procedure, but also our back-end fulfillment processes. Amazon does allow you to manage fulfillment via their SellerCentral web interface. The bulk of the 50-60 hours was spent on the fulfillment piece.

I won’t get into all of the technical details here. However, I’m glad I stuck with it and completed the integration. But, it ain’t for the faint of heart, that’s for sure.

Here are the “pros”:

  • Approximately 7-10% of our orders are now coming in via Checkout by Amazon. Would we have gotten these orders otherwise? Who knows. But I do know that these customers had a smoother and faster checkout experience.
  • Checkout By Amazon provides tons of seller protection. Basically, if you ship to the address provided via a trackable method, you’re covered.
  • Checkout By Amazon’s fees are roughly the same as any “standard” payment processor.
  • Checkout By Amazon gives those customers who are scared of sharing personal information one more reason to shop at your store. Yes, many online shoppers have PayPal and we haven’t seen any decline in orders via PayPal since integrating CBA. So, CBA doesn’t cannibalize PayPal. But, it may be cannibalizing your regular credit card purchases.
  • The customer is still your customer (sort-of). Just like PayPal, you get their email address and shipping address, but you don’t know any billing details.

Here are the “cons”:

  • Any purchase the comes in via CBA is covered by Amazon’s A-Z guarantee and your policies have zero bearing on the transaction. So, if your policies don’t align with Amazon’s, be sure to note the differences.
  • Customers can’t purchase more than 20 different items in one order. You read that right. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Why would Amazon (or anyone for that matter) LIMIT what customers can purchase? I have no idea. But this is real. I submitted it to their technical support team as a bug. They admitted that this “behavior” is expected and that they’re working on trying to “patch” the system so that a customer could order up to 50 unique items at once. Stupidity again, right? Why even have a limit?! To handle this, we’ve put a message on our shopping cart that states that Amazon doesn’t support ordering more than 20 unique items at one time and that the customer will need to limit that number or use a different payment method. I put ALL of the blame on Amazon so customers don’t think we’re morons.
  • Amazon says that your funds will automatically be deposited every day. That’s true. After the 14-day hold period. So, instead of a 10% rolling reserve, Amazon won’t start sending you money for 14 days after you’ve shipped your first package.
  • If you have a same-day shipping policy, be warned! Amazon will send you order notifications, but you can’t ship until you receive a “ready to ship” notification. While this should happen relatively quickly (their docs say a maximum of 30 minutes), we’ve had orders languish for up to 3 days before being cleared for shipment. Ostensibly, Amazon is checking with the card issuing bank to ensure the order isn’t fraudulent. You’ll have to make your customers aware that although you’ve received their order, you can’t ship until you receive the go-ahead from Amazon (which can take several days and can ultimately end up in the order being canceled).

Would I recommend integrating CBA inline checkout? Yes and no. Customers probably aren’t going to be clamoring for this payment option. I don’t think it will increase your sales dramatically. Because of the integration difficulties, it won’t be as widespread as PayPal. So, if you don’t already have PayPal, start with them.

But, on orders that do come in via Amazon, you can feel safe that as long as you ship to the address provided, that you’re covered in the case of fraud.


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Comment ( 1 )

  1. Louis Camassa April 27, 2011 Reply

    Jamie,

    That’s a large investment of time; are you able to record any sales increases with this new checkout option? Are the customers that are using it new visitors, or repeat customers? Why did you choose to invest in this feature?

    It seems to me the cons outweigh the pros.

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