Revenue Optimization

Transforming Declines into Revenue

The power of Transaction Retry

Written by
Marlin Boggs
Publication Date
September 19, 2023
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In the bustling landscape of digital commerce, every missed transaction represents a lost opportunity. What if you could transform those misses into hits? 

Let’s explore Transaction Retry - how it works and how to use it - and learn how a $100M/yr merchant can retry soft declines and outages to add over $1M to their top line.

What is Transaction Retry?

Central to Spreedly’s growing payment success offerings that focus on improving net authorization rates, Transaction Retry allows merchants to set up backup payment gateways to process transactions in the case of a soft decline or gateway outage.

Merchants can configure their retry gateways directly through their purchase and authorize API requests or by using the Routing Rules drag-and-drop user interface.

Retry Stripe soft declines and outages on Orbital

Each rule can have a set of rule conditions based on the characteristics of the transaction. This allows merchants to layer in custom retry logic. For example a merchant may want to retry transactions on a different set of gateways based on the issuing country or transaction currency.

Visa Credit Card with a transaction currency of either USD or Canadian Dollar

Transaction Retry is often the most effective way to improve a merchant’s net authorization rates. Prior to setting up Routing Rules, it is important to understand the difference between hard and soft declines.

Hard Declines

A hard decline is a response from the card issuer or gateway that represents a serious issue with the payment method that would not be successfully retried on a backup gateway. Hard declines typically arise from non-resolvable issues like expired cards, invalid card numbers, or lost/stolen cards. Retrying hard declines will only increase costs and negatively impact the merchant’s payment provider and card network reputation.

Soft Declines

Soft declines represent a gateway specific, non-definitive, or or temporary issue. An example of a soft decline is “Do Not Honor”, “Card Brand Not Supported”, or “Try Again Later”. The frequency of soft declines varies on merchant, geography, and gateway type but can range from 20% to 40% of total soft declines. Based on our data, we’ve found that in many cases soft declines can be successfully retried on another gateway.

What’s A Gateway Outage? 

Although rare, payment gateways can go temporarily offline due to network issues or technical incidents. In many cases, the gateway will return a definitive response indicating that they are temporarily unable to process the transaction. In other cases, the connection to the gateway is never established in time - indicating that the gateway could be offline or in a state of degraded performance.

In these rare cases, Spreedly recommends that all customers have a backup gateway handy. To stay running even when your gateway is down, Transaction Retry offers an “Outage-Only” mode available for merchants who only want to retry on a backup gateway in the case of a gateway failure. It’s a simple fix and an important insurance policy we recommend to all our partners.

Retry in Action: Every Transaction Counts

Meet our sample merchant: X-Cursions, a vacation booking site with a $100M annual Gross Transaction Volume. At a net authorization rate of 85%, they experienced $15M transaction declines last year. Some of these declines were fraudulent, but many of the declines were legitimate cardholders wanting to make a purchase. 

X-Cursions had relied on Gateway A for most of their transaction volume. Gateway A did an excellent job most of the time but occasionally denied legitimate card numbers before sending information downstream through the payment networks to the issuer to make the decision. The gateway often explained the decline reason to the merchant, for example, “Currency not Supported”. Other times the decline reason was generic, for example, “Try Again Later”. In rare instances, Gateway A was temporarily unavailable or offline. 

To convert some of these declines into revenue, X-Cursions set up Gateway B as a retry gateway. As the business relationship with Gateway B is already established, setting up Gateway B as a backup gateway for Transaction Retry is a simple exercise in Routing Rules. Gateway B accepts some of the retried transactions, effectively boosting their bottom line revenue by 1.24%.

By the Numbers: Retry Sales Lift

The following numbers are based on anonymized production data of Spreedly customers retrying error codes on a secondary payment service provider.

*Soft Decline Ratio defined as percentage of total declines that have a soft error code or an outage. Outages are typically a small portion of total declines (a few basis points per year). 

**Retry Sales Lift = (Recovered Sales) / (Net Sales After Declines)

Data Visualization: For Every $100

Below is a data visualization that tracks $100 of Gross Transaction Volume (GTV) based on the numbers above. As you can imagine, $1.05 per $100 in GTV adds up measurably in the long run!


Transaction Retry is a simple and intuitive concept that merchants can’t afford to ignore. Soft decline and outage recovery offers a sizable opportunity for merchants and merchant aggregators seeking to bolster their sales and improve customer retention. By understanding the dynamics of transaction declines and employing a thoughtfully crafted retry strategy, merchants can convert missed opportunities into tangible gains - transforming payments into a key strategic asset. Furthermore, merchant aggregators can highlight soft decline and outage recovery as a value proposition to differentiate their platform. 

Spreedly’s Transaction Retry, with drag-and-drop gateway configuration and soft error code and outage listening, is one of the easiest ways to implement a multi-gateway retry workflow. 

Reach out to your Account Manager to get started with Transaction Retry.

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