Online payments happen so fast that most business owners might not realise how many steps are instantaneously happening in the background. But it’s important to understand how it works so you can make the right decisions for your business and customers. There are a few different options to get your customer’s money into your bank account.
The first thing you need to accept online payments is a payment gateway, which is the ‘now what’ that follows from the ‘pay now’. A payment gateway is a system that connects your e-commerce website to your bank. Once the customer chooses ‘pay now’, the payment gateway will request money from the shopper’s bank. Once approved, transfer it to your bank through a secure, trusted platform so you’re not put at risk for fraudulent transactions.
The second thing you need is a merchant account, which is a special type of bank account that allows you to receive e-commerce payments, including credit and debit card payments. This is then transferred to your business bank account.
The term ‘payment service provider’, or ‘PSP’, is used to describe experts that provide online business owners with all the services you need to manage, accept, and streamline your electronic payments. Reliable PSPs offer a variety of payment methods to the store owner, which can include anything from debit and credit card payments to secure instant EFTs.
One of the core functions of a PSP is to provide merchants with a payment gateway that ensures all payments are authorised and processed correctly by transferring information between the site of the payment - the online store - and the bank.
Selecting a PSP and payment gateway can be a very personal decision as there are numerous providers in the current market. Finding the right one requires insight into how they work, the different services on offer, and which one best suits your business. Here are ten tips for finding the perfect payment gateway for your business:
1. A merchant vs. an aggregator account
A merchant account allows you as the business owner or ‘merchant’ to accept the online card transactions from your customers. It’s based on a direct agreement with your PSP and the bank. A merchant account can offer your preferential card transaction rates, which is helpful once you have large sales volumes. You can also settle transactions directly into your merchant account with the bank.
In most cases, PSPs will help get your merchant account from the bank of your choice. But one of the biggest hurdles is that the onboarding process is lengthy and involves a great deal of compliance-related paperwork.
Some PSPs offer an aggregation service, which allows them to onboard you on behalf of the banks. This is a better option for most business owners who are just starting. In this case, the PSP holds the merchant account with the banks, as well as agreements with the banks that allow them to settle the funds of all the individual business owners as a single entity. Your agreement with the PSP will then determine how they pay your money out to you.
Advantage: You can benefit from payment aggregator facilities through solutions that would normally be out of your reach. With an aggregator account, you can start accepting payments online very quickly. It offers you a choice of payment options, making collecting payment from the customer relatively easy. Often the PSP will also offer several value-added services to make it more advantageous. These can include fraud and transaction monitoring, as well as payment plug-ins and website optimisation services.
2. Hosted vs. redirect solutions
A hosted payment is where you will accept customer payment information directly, ensuring that the customer isn’t redirected to another site to collect their payment data. This is usually owned by the PSP. As a merchant, you can benefit from a hosted solution as it puts you in control of the customer experience and your payment page.
However, a hosted solution means that you’re responsible for the security of this data and card information. This is a serious consideration and will mean that you understand issues of compliance, regulation, and the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA). You’ll also need to have a good understanding of programming and website development.
If you use a redirect payment solution provided by your PSP then it redirects the customer to a dedicated payment page where shoppers will then enter their payment information.
Advantage: If you use a redirect payment gateway then you’re placing the responsibility for development, integration, and data protection firmly into the hands of the PSP. The PSP will take over the management of customer data and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI) compliance and security. For anyone starting with a new business, this is a quick and easy solution that will get you going at speed.
3. Flexibility of fees
One consideration that’s at the top of your mind is your costs. You want to know what fees you’re expected to pay for when you work with a PSP and be able to make an informed choice around your payment gateway. You don’t want to be liable for large monthly fees when you first launch your business, nor do you want to be cash-strapped when you’re facing a quiet season.
Advantage: Look for a PSP that allows you to start out paying only a small percentage of your transaction amounts. Also, look for a payment partner that will allow you to upgrade and downgrade your package at any time. This will give you the flexibility you need to adapt your transaction rates according to demand and budget.
4. Availability of payment methods
When you launch your online store or expand your offering, it’s a good idea to look for a PSP that offers you a wide selection of payment options. This will not only improve the level of service you provide to your customers but will also foster a sense of trust. Some people want to pay by card, and others prefer secure instant EFTs, and others want to use a QR code solution such as Zapper.
Advantage: A bouquet of payment options in your chosen payment gateway will make customers feel secure and more inclined to return. Easy and simple are two vital components of a successful payment process.
5. Ease of integration
Your payment gateway choice must include the ability to integrate with major shopping cart solutions such as WooCommerce and Shopify. You don’t need the hassle that comes with limited access, poor integration capabilities, and other technical challenges.
Advantage: Using a payment gateway that integrates with leading shopping cart solutions means you can get started with your online store within minutes. Some PSPs will even offer you free, supported plugins for all major shopping carts.
6. Reporting and analytics
Your payment gateway should include a variety of reporting and analytical tools that give you a clear overview of your business transactions.
Advantage: Look for a PSP with a payment gateway that can give you instant oversight of your funds, transactions, and customer behaviours. This allows you to make more informed decisions about your business and how it engages with people.
7. Security and fraud prevention
Small and big businesses alike need to worry about fraud and ensuring the security of funds. A hack into customer data when you’re not PCI or POPIA compliant, or unaware of the strictures of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) with shoppers from Europe, can ruin your business.
Advantage: When you choose a payment gateway you need to make security and fraud prevention standards a priority. If you ensure that they are PCI, POPIA, and GDPR compliant, as well as adhering to high-security standards, then you know that you’ve done the best to protect yourself and your business.
8. Value-added services
The right payment gateway already has a lot of work to do but there’s nothing wrong with expecting your PSP to offer just a little bit more. You should look to a PSP that provides you with more than just simple payment processing and instead gives you tools that help you to grow your business.
Advantage: There are some PSPs that can offer you anything from fraud monitoring to advertising to foreign currency conversions. These services add value to your life and give you an edge when dealing with your customers.
9. International acceptance
Is it important for you to be able to work with customers on a global scale? It may sound daunting but a customer in your home country is the same as a customer in any other.
Advantage: You can add immense value to your business if you allow people with foreign credit cards to shop on your site. As e-commerce grows, you can offer your products and services to people in many other markets. With the right PSP, you can even scale across Africa and you can engage with people in the payment terms of their choice.
10. A payment gateway that grows with you.
Whether you choose an aggregator account or could afford the time to get your merchant account, the right payment gateway and PSP partner will grow with your business. You want to choose a company that is flexible enough to recognise your individual needs and strong enough to support you as you expand and grow. Every business is unique so choose a payment gateway and provider that recognise this, and helps you to celebrate it.
Advantage: Opting into simple, easy, customisable, flexible, global, and integrated offerings is as easy as opting into complex, difficult, and slow. Choose the PSP that ticks all the right boxes for you and you will grow together.
Selecting the right payment gateway for your business isn’t an afterthought. It shouldn’t be technology you quickly tacked on to get payments going, it should be a solid investment into your future. Finding the right services can make all the difference to your business.