Fast and Flashy: Successful Merchant Onboarding Needs Both Speed and Design


January 4, 2022

The merchant onboarding process is the beginning of the merchant’s journey with your company. Merchant onboarding has a strong influence on the overall merchant experience, to the point where poor design can turn merchants away from your business and send them straight to your competitors.

We’ve always been told that appearances aren’t important and that what really matters is what’s inside. That may be true to an extent, but the fact is that if people are turned off by the outside, they’re probably not going to dig any deeper. If merchant applications must be run through a clunky, difficult, and outdated process, merchants are often going to assume that this means your merchant services are also clunky, difficult, and outdated.

Presentation Matters in Merchant Onboarding

Speed and ease-of-use are essential to successful merchant onboarding. The merchant experience your company presents is significantly degraded when the application process is too long, confusing, or tedious.

As we discussed in “Six Tips to Drive Merchant Applications,” the average abandonment rate is about 70% for firms that use traditional merchant application methods. Optimizing your application process can drive this down to about 20%.

Merchants need Payment Facilitators, or PayFacs, that offer a frictionless onboarding process. A high rate of applications marked “Not in Good Order” (NIGO) is a sure sign that your current onboarding procedure has friction points. Obviously, a high NIGO rate will cost you time and effort to correct those errors. However, it has a less obvious disadvantage as well. In the time it takes you to correct those errors, merchants may abandon the onboarding process entirely, and seek out a partner that offers a better onboarding experience. 

Your Comfort Zone Isn’t Benefiting You

Let’s get this out of the way right now: if you’re using a pen and paper system to handle merchant applications, it is literally impossible for you to offer the frictionless onboarding experience that merchants require. Emailing back and forth instead of passing physical papers around doesn’t help enough. It’s still a tedious experience that is sure to cost you clients. Speed is essential. If you’re making merchants wait days or weeks, you’re providing a poor onboarding experience.

Fast, frictionless onboarding in the payments industry isn’t just nice to have, it’s essential for growing your business. Stripe and Square set the precedent by shortening the merchant application and onboarding process down to mere days. If you want to remain competitive, you can’t just match that timeline. You’ve got to beat it, ideally shortening days to hours or even minutes. You can’t fall behind on this. Merchants won’t wait.

Providing your merchant applicants with a speedy and trouble-free onboarding process should be your first consideration, but it’s not the only one. The design elements of your onboarding portal are also important. If your application process uses an outdated design or currently unpopular colors, it will give the impression that you and your company are behind the times. The world moves fast these days, and the payments industry moves even faster. A design that’s just a few years old can look positively prehistoric when compared to a modernized and slick interface. 


Essential Elements of a Great Merchant Experience 

There are tried and tested ways to make sure that your merchant applications are processed quickly and with the minimum amount of friction for your merchants. As we mentioned earlier, these elements aren’t “nice to have.” They’re absolutely essential elements for acquiring new merchants, retaining the merchants you already have, and growing your business rapidly. 


1. Present a unified software environment

Your merchants should only need to access one portal. More to the point, they should only need to send their information once. NIGO documents are frustrating for you and for the merchants. Everyone makes mistakes, but merchants typically know their own business fairly well, and errors made during one merchant application probably won’t be repeated. That is why a high NIGO rate usually indicates that there are problems with your process. Either it’s confusing for the merchant or it’s too long and dull to hold their attention fully.

You cannot stop other people, such as merchants, from making mistakes. The best thing you can do is help them to avoid errors in the first place by making your merchant onboarding process seamless, frictionless, and easy to complete. The merchant onboarding process should be your top consideration, but it shouldn’t be the only one.

2. Present an onboarding portal with a modern, sleek, and stylish design

Too many PayFacs ignore this, and their business suffers because of it. You can think of your onboarding portal like a car, with the merchant taking the place of the driver. The onboarding process itself is like the engine. It needs to be fast, efficient, and easy to operate from the perspective of the driver. The appearance of your portal is the car’s body, chrome, and paint job. If we present the average driver with the choice between a rusted, beaten up old jalopy and a car that looks like it just came off the showroom floor, they’re going to take the new car almost every time. The rusty bucket may have an immaculate engine, but they aren’t going to get to the point where they notice that. The appearance has already turned them off. 


3. Present a well-designed and up-to-date portal

This helps to showcase your company’s true abilities. It will give merchants the impression that you’re a modern company and provides confidence in the relationships you’ve created and the partnership you’ll build with them going forward. A poorly-designed or old-fashioned portal will have exactly the opposite effect, driving merchants away before they even get to experience what you can do for them.

It’s crucial to provide hyper-speed onboarding that allows merchants to onboard the same day and start processing transactions within minutes. It’s just as crucial to make sure the onboarding process looks and feels great.

Agreement Express Improves Every Part of Merchant Onboarding

The merchant onboarding process needs to be lightning-fast and smooth. Building your own system has high costs in terms of money, effort, and time. Agreement Express gives you the ability to onboard merchants with a frictionless process that’s also quick and easy to use. We’ve always offered fast onboarding, but recent improvements have moved this from “quick” to “unbelievably fast.” Our clients are seeing enhancements in onboarding speed. What used to take them two days has often been cut down to as little as 20 minutes!

Agreement Express provides you with white-labeled software, meaning your portal carries your own branding. Your merchants only see the branding you want them to see, and will associate the clean, modern look of your new portal with your company.

The portal and process provided by Agreement Express are both easily customizable to ensure they fit your existing processes and branding. Our customer success staff will work with you to make sure your portal and process meet your every need, all while providing your merchants with the fast, frictionless process they demand.

Click here to explore how Agreement Express can help you grow your business, retain clients, and stay competitive.