E-Commerce Service Lets Users Pay in Person

Internet Acquisitions

Internet payment service eBillme is aiming to help e-tailers tap into a new revenue stream — by introducing a walk-in service that allows online shoppers to pay with cash in person at participating locations.

Online shoppers selecting “eBillMe Walk-In” during the checkout process on a Web site will be sent a bill from the company that can be paid using online banking or by presenting the eBill to a participating walk-in location.

The hope is to open up e-commerce to the segment of consumers who either don’t have or prefer not to use credit cards on the Web, and to bring online retail to the 28 million Americans without bank accounts, according to eBillme.

“Millions of consumers use the Internet to browse but aren’t able to shop online because of limited credit and banking access,” eBillme CEO Marwan Forzley said in a statement. “We want every consumer to be able to pay securely with cash and benefit from the eBillme platform, which includes a rewards program and buyer protection features giving consumers all the perks of credit cards without getting into debt or incurring extra fees. For merchants, eBillme Walk-In offers an opportunity to reach a new consumer market and increase sales.”

eBillme already allows consumers to pay cash in person to deposit money into their online banking accounts.

Now, to get its e-commerce payment option off the ground, it’s partnered with firms such as MoneyGram to create a network of 75,000 walk-in locations where e-commerce bills can be paid.

The company offers a tool to help users find the nearest walk-in location on the eBillme Web site.

Already, participating merchants include some big names.

“We are very excited to introduce eBillme Walk-In to our customers,” Jeff Wisot, vice president of marketing at Buy.com, said in a statement. “The new offering makes e-commerce more accessible and gives Buy.com shoppers another way to pay for their online purchases with cash. It also gives us an opportunity to attract a new demographic of shoppers.”

It’s too early to tell if that will prove to be the case, and whether the service is likely to help anemic e-commerce sales that are being negatively impacted by the recession, Sucharita Mulpuru, e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research, told InternetNews.com.

However, Mulpuru said the concept has promise.

“It does appear they are trying to tap into a segment that has historically not been able to purchase online but it’s unclear if those people also have other reasons for not buying products online — they may just not have the money,” she said. “I would need to have more data to buy into the theory that they would buy more online with this option.”

Mulpuru said it could be beneficial for small businesses who may not have significant credit with which to make large purchases.

“It’s an interesting idea, but they’ll have to really communicate the option to small businesses to get them to take advantage of it,” she said.

Still, there’s no doubt the average American consumer has credit card debts, so it could be a viable alternative even for those with consumer credit.

“At a time when credit card debt is burdening so many consumers, paying with cash is the appealing alternative,” Greg Waltz, MoneyGram’s vice president and general manager of payment products, said in a statement. “We have partnered with eBillme to extend its cash checkout solution to consumers without banking and credit access, bringing them the conveniences of shopping online.”

Online merchants are generally charged a 1 percent to 1.5 percent transaction fee for the eBillMe service, which is generally lower than the fees levied by credit card companies.

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