Improving Customer-Experience and Conversion with API

Important: all the links and the code-examples that are embedded in this post, link toPlimus service in  Bluesnap’s sandbox – so feel free to play with it – all the credit-card charges are not real!

On the previous post , we talked a bit about the different options of online payment-processing and now it’s time to talk about the “how”.

One of the nightmares of every marketer is abandoned carts, in this post we’ll see how you can use an eCommerce API in order to create a better shopper experience and as a result to improve the conversion rate.

There are so many theories that deal with customization of a Buy-Page , lists of Do’s andDon’ts  and so on and so forth . People like to think that there’s some secret formula that once applied – conversion will rocket high.

The truth is that there are many different truths that apply to different types of businesses, for example, if your online store sells SSL-certificates or Anti-virus software (or any other protection-software like firewalls) you really should have a ’Hacker Safe’ logo or something alike – your buyers WILL look for it on their checkout page and if it won’t be there – it will be a little suspicious…

There are products for which you’d better customize a single-checkout page process (letting the customer enter his personal details and credit-card information on the same page), such a single checkout page usually works fine for low-price items, but if your product includes shipping, for example, then a two-pages checkout will work better in most of the cases.

Like I said – there’s no “secret trick” and if you want to confirm that you did a good job, A/B testing should be applied (if you can’t measure it – you can’t prove that it works!).

Still, there are a few “universal truths” that can be applied to your store, and this is what we’re going to deal with in this post, so roll your sleeves up and let’s get to work!

If your website support user-registration, making the shopper enter ALL his personal information AGAIN in the checkout page is not a very nice user experience to say the least. That’s exactly why we should use the create-shopper API call . An example of how it works can be viewed here . As you can see, the PHP code is pretty simple and short (if you remove the comments you’ll see that it’s about 60 lines of code):


 * Written By: Ben Hultin & Nir Alfasi (alfasin)
 * Nov. 2012
 * This code is used to call an API (RESTful) service of Bluesnap that creates a shopper entity on Bluesnaps' backend.
 * The shopper-entity can be used, later-on, for one-click purchases, to automate charges, to retrieve orders history and more.
 * We chose using CURL to place the API request in this demo, but we urge anyone who implements an API client 
 * to work with a RESTful API client framework in order to have a full support of all the properties of REST, such as: 
 * set HTTP method, get return-code, read/write headers, full XML support etc.
 * Documentation on "create shopper" service can be found here: 
 * The API manual is available under "BuyAnyware" section: 
 * This code example is also available from: 
 * and if you want to see it "in action": 

    // In the response of "create-shopper" API call we'll receive the 
    // newly created shopper-id which we should extract from the Location header. 
    // An example for such header: 
    // ...
    // Location:
    // ...
    function get_shopper_from_header($ch, $string) {
        global $shopper_id;       
        //looking for the "Location" header - but since it's case insensitive...
        if(strpos($string, "ocation") > -1){ 
            $tokens = explode("/", $string);
            //the shopper-id will always be the last token
            $shopper_id = trim($tokens[count($tokens)-1]); 
        return strlen($string);

   // TODO: Change the following URL to our rackspace machine
   // An example of how to call this PHP code:
   // Main Street&address2=Apt K-9&city=Parkville&state=TN&country=us&phone=411-555-1212&zipcode=37027

   // read the request parameters and handle special chars 
   $firstName = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['firstName']);     	 
   $lastName  = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['lastName']);     		 
   $email     = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['email']);                    
   $address1  = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['address1']);
   $address2  = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['address2']);
   $city      = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['city']);
   $state     = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['state']);
   $country   = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['country']);
   $zipCode   = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['zipcode']);
   $phone     = htmlspecialchars($_REQUEST['phone']);
   // -------------
 $firstName = 'Bob';   		 
 $lastName = 'Smith';     		 
 $email = "";      
 $address1 = "123 Main Street";
 $address2 = "Apt K-9";
 $city = "Parkville";
 $state = "TN";
 $country = "us";
 $zipCode = "37027";
 $phone = "411-555-1212";

   // In the following XML (which will be embedded in the BODY of the HTTP request) 
   // the <web-info> element supposed to hold customers' information (IP, browser type etc) 
    $xmlToSend = "<?xml version=\"1.0\" encoding=\"UTF-8\" standalone=\"yes\"?>
    <shopper xmlns=\"\">
                      <first-name>". $firstName ."</first-name>
                      <last-name>". $lastName ."</last-name>
                      <email>". $email ."</email>
                      <address1>". $address1 ."</address1>
                      <city>". $city ."</city>
                      <zip>". $zipCode ."</zip>
                      <country>". $country ."</country>
                      <state>". $state ."</state>
                      <phone>". $phone ."</phone>
                <user-agent>Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 6.0; Windows NT 5.1; SV1; GTB6.3; .NET CLR 2.0.50727</user-agent>

    // Set values for the POST HEADERS:
    // The URL sets the REST resource which is being called 
    $service = '';
    // for the sandbox testing account TODO: include this parameter from another file and remove explicit credentials from the code
    $credentials = 'XXX:YYY'; 
    $contentType = array('Content-type: application/xml');
    // Initialize handle and set options
    $ch = curl_init();
    // more info about setopt options can be found here:
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_URL, $service); 
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_USERPWD, $credentials); // authentication (credentials) string encoded in base-64 
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADER, true);          // include the headers in the output
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, true);  // don't output the response to screen (default behavior)
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_POST, true);
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_POSTFIELDS, $xmlToSend);
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HTTPHEADER, $contentType);    
    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_HEADERFUNCTION, 'get_shopper_from_header');
    // The following switches are needed only when running in development-mode on localhost
    //    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_FOLLOWLOCATION, true);  // follow redirects recursively 
    //    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_SSL_VERIFYHOST, false); // default value is "2": "check the existence of a common name and also verify that it matches the hostname provided" - we need to turn it off
    //    curl_setopt($ch, CURLOPT_SSL_VERIFYPEER, false); // "stop cURL from verifying the peer's certificate"
    // For debugging purposes - we can ask the remote server to include all the request-headers in the response
    //    curl_setopt($ch, CURLINFO_HEADER_OUT, true);

    // Execute the request and example code to time the transaction
    $response = curl_exec($ch);           
    // if a shopper was successfully created we should receive "201 created" response code
    // and the shopper-id will be extracted into $shopper_id by get_shopper_from_header() which will iterate the response headers
    // Check for errors
    if ( curl_errno($ch) ) {
        echo 'HTTP error code: ' . curl_errno($ch) . '<br>error-message: "' . curl_error($ch) . '"';

    // SUCCESS
    if (is_numeric($shopper_id)) {
	echo '<br>
              A new shopper entity was created on our servers with shopper-id: '
              . $shopper_id .
    // FAIL
    else {
        echo '<br><br>
              <font color="red"><b>Something went wrong!</b></font>
              Server reponse:
              <pre style="display: block; font-family: monospace; white-space: pre; margin: 1em 0px;">'
              . $response .

This code is using what we call  authentication-token auto-login API call . If we scroll back a bit and click again on the “create-shopper” demo, we can see that in the response we receive a shopper-id. This ID can be used in order to generate an authentication token which in return can be used to auto-login the shopper into one of the buy-pages (step-1 and step-2) or into the shopper control-panel.

On the next post we’ll implement a real single-click purchase process after which I’ll explain the PCI-compliance issue involved and lay-out how can we work around it (in a legit way of course!) until then, you can enjoy the Harlem shake in the bitwise version

Improving Customer-Experience and Conversion with API

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