Why You Should Drop PayPal Standard For Express Checkout

PayPal Standard, the old “standard” for paying with PayPal, has seen its best days behind it. These days, there is no reason not to use PayPal Express Checkout.

I wrote about this a few years ago in a post titled Ditch PayPal Standard for PayPal Express. I’m writing it again as PayPal made a change two nights ago that broke PayPal Standard for many ecommerce stores…

The “un-announced” change

PayPal had sent an email to developers and merchants a while back saying they were changing IP numbers. This change would have “no” affect on stores that used the domain name paypal.com to connect.

PayPal was correct. There were no DNS issues whatsoever. However, in the final cut-over to these new IPs on September 12th, 2012, they also changed the PayPal IPN system in a subtle yet severely damaging way…

Their system now required the API URL to be preceded by a forward slash “/”, as in:
/cgi-bin/webscr

Previously, “cgi-bin/webscr” was an allowed URL. They didn’t tell anyone about this. Unfortunately, ShopSite (and a few other solutions) did not use  a forward slash in their settings.

NOTE: We have patched all ShopSite stores hosted with us to make this change for PayPal Standard.

Who cares about a little forward slash

If your store was still using PayPal Standard, PayPal was now no longer able to send back its Instant Payment Notification (IPN) call to your store. This means that customers who paid via PayPal had their money taken by your store, but their order never appeared / finalized. Without the IPN, the sale was never final. That’s a bad thing.

If you were using PayPal Express, the IPN is not required for the sale to complete (as the shopper actually completes the process in your cart), so it was business as usual. The IPN is used in Express for PayPal to pass back other information post-sale, but this is not required, and is mostly ignored by most applications that do not tie this into an order status.

Switching to Express is easy

Fortunately, it’s a breeze (and free) to switch to PayPal Express. If you use ShopSite as your ecommerce store, the ShopSite Help Docs step you through the process (just skips steps 2 and 3 in the help docs instructions).

Once this is done, your customers will now go from the cart directly to PayPal to enter their payment info, and then they simply confirm and complete the order in your store. It’s easy, removes the redundant step of entering their information on the checkout page of ShopSite, and eliminates the dependency on the IPN call to always be working to complete an order.

IMPORTANT – Two Simple changes to make to improve Express Checkout

One of the complaints a few merchants had about Express is it changes the PayPal landing page from not requiring a PayPal account to making the customer have to sign up for PayPal. This is normally not a big deal, as people who choose PayPal usually want to pay with their PayPal account. However, if PayPal is your *only* payment option, this may not be the case.

Fortunately, it’s an easy change in your PayPal account to change the default landing page:

Profile -> My Selling Tools -> WebSite Preferences
“PayPal Account Optional” -> On

Setting the above option to “on” will enable the PayPal Express checkout page to allow people to complete payment without a PayPal account. Otherwise, the landing page will say they can create a PayPal account if they don’t have one to complete their order.

The other complaint is once a merchant switches to Express, they often no longer have the Billing phone number recorded in the order details. Another simple change to get it back:

Profile -> My Selling Tools -> WebSite Preferences
“Contact Telephone Number” -> On (Required Field)

So, if you’re still using PayPal Standard, you should really, really consider switching to Express Checkout. It’ll make your life easier in the long run.

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