Earlier this month we launched a new payments integration for Detailed Image. We’ve always worked with PayPal. With a large percentage of our customers paying with PayPal – larger than industry averages, at least from the numbers I can look up – it has always made sense to maintain a single integration for both PayPal and credit cards, as opposed to two separate integrations (i.e. Stripe for credit cards, PayPal for PayPal).
Over the years however, with their acquisition of Braintree, they’ve moved away from offering direct credit card payments in their API’s. As a result, the v1 REST API that we had integrated with in 2015 is now deprecated, and the v2 replacement doesn’t support direct card integrations. Our plan was to stick with v1 as long as possible, however PayPal made the decision to stop updating the PHP SDK that we used, which effectively forced us to upgrade if we wanted to keep PHP up to date on our server.
Braintree is now the only alternative for merchants our size to accept PayPal and credit cards (and other payment methods) in one integration. So we set about rewriting our code, redoing our accounting systems, and dozens of other important little things that come with a change of this magnitude.
This initially did not sit well with me. I’ve become a big proponent of supporting old software. It would probably take a single developer a few hours per year to continue to support the SDK. At a company the size of PayPal, that’s beyond trivial. At some point there was a business decision to move on and require their customers to move on as well.
With that said, a lot of good came out of the move, and we’re likely a better company for having completed the integration.
Below is a screenshot of what our checkout page looks like now, with PayPal, credit cards, and Venmo as payment options. (As an aside, the nested borders drive me crazy – a design refresh is coming in the near future to many of our pages, and the checkout page is at the top of the list.)
- More payment options – in addition to Venmo, we’ll be adding Apple Pay and Google Pay in the near future. I’m fairly certain this will make a difference in our conversion rates, particularly with first-time mobile shoppers.
- Better vaulting options – previously, customers could only store a single credit card for future purchases. Now, multiple payment methods can be stored, including PayPal. These are accomplished using their vaulting service – we do not store any of this sensitive info ourselves.
- Improved PayPal flow – instead of a multi-step process where the customer left our site and came back, PayPal payments are now accomplished in an overlay with only a few clicks.
- Less issues – there’s no doubt that the Braintree API is more stable. Less random errors, less downtime.
- More data – Braintree does a great job of being transparent with the information that they receive back from the processor (i.e. VISA or Mastercard). This is incredibly useful for our fraud detection systems.
- Better refunds – I was able to create a much better back-end refund system. For instance, if a customer cancels an order immediately after placing it, the system can void the charge before it goes through, saving us fees and the customer from having a charge and subsequent refund from us.
- No real choice – as alluded to above, this decision was essentially made for us.
- Missing features – for all of its robustness, Braintree is missing some basic things like a Quickbooks IIF file import.
- Half-integrated with PayPal – some of Braintree is done on Braintree’s site, other times you’re bounced over to PayPal.com and back. Features seem to be mashed together. Our accounts are sort-of linked but sort-of not, depending on the feature. Eventually they’ll probably become one fluid product, but for now this feels like a merger from 8 months ago instead of 8 years ago. And I wonder if in 2024 I’ll have to migrate back to PayPal when Braintree is fully absorbed.
- I’m three months behind – projects are piling up, and it’s because I dropped everything and dedicated a quarter of the year to this project that we weren’t planning on tackling this year.
Overall though, we are quite happy with how this turned out. There were some very clear “wins” and the customer experience is undoubtedly better. The launch went about as smooth as one could hope for. It’s going to be exciting to add Google Pay and Apple Pay in the coming months. Those new payment options, along with Venmo, really make me excited about the long term potential for the integration.