Paypal becoming a killer app? Some insomnia-fueled rambling.

I buy a lot of t-shirts and other sorts of goofy little trinkets online, and I realized the other day that I abandon every site selling funky stuff when they use a real credit card processing system instead of paypal.

It didn't seem right at first, as I wondered why I avoid yahoo stores and off-the-shelf payment systems in leiu of Paypal, a payment service that's got its fair share of very rough edges.

But then I realized the real reason: I'm lazy. If I want to buy one of your custom shirts off your site using paypal, it's about three clicks and a quick login that my browser already knows. It goes like this: 1) I want it! 2) hit checkout 3) login and 4) paid! It doesn't matter if I have money in paypal or if it just gets pulled from my credit card on file, it's still just a few clicks and I'll have a shirt in tomorrow's mail.

When I hit a full-on shopping cart payment system, I see forms and forms mean tedious work, and I know I have to dump my credit card into yet another database that I blindly trust won't get compromised anytime soon, but mostly it's the work involved that diminishes my impulse buy. Impulse buying is all about respecting the customer's impulse and not getting in the way of a sale. We're talking about cool looking $20 t-shirts here, which are pure impulse. No one plans a purchase like that -- it's one of those things you see and instantly want and a minute later you can live without it.

By the way, I remember when Amazon's one-click thing came out. It was so good at what it was designed for, I had to go in and turn it off in my account, after buying several DVDs and books I didn't have time to second guess.

This also reminds me of something else: I sat in on some user testing last month, where half a dozen regular folks that use the web (no one had a site or a blog or anything) were interviewed and one weird data point was that every single one of them had a paypal account that they used on ebay to buy stuff, and some bought things online with it. This behavior crossed all boundaries across testers. Young, old, blue collar, white collar, everyone was comfortable with Paypal. Seems like Paypal is already past the tipping point if this many people showed up for testing that used it.

This entire entry was inspired by this shirt site, which to its credit offers paypal as an alternate method. I found a shirt I liked, hit the checkout and was just about to close my browser before I noticed they did offer paypal, and thanks to that they got the sale and I get a shirt.

Also, as an FYI, if you're into these sorts of things, Josh Rubin's site is a very dangerous thing. Read it for a couple weeks and you'll be lusting after limited edition sneakers and shirts printed from someone's apartment in Brooklyn.