The guide to choosing your payment platform
Global ecommerce sales are set to rise year on year at an extraordinary rate. With projected sales jumping from $6,310 billion in 2023 to over $8 billion by 2026, as an ecommerce site, you need to be prepared.
The most vital part of your sales system is your payment platform. We all know how quickly carts can be abandoned min-purchase if you get this part wrong. But how do you find the right platform for your business?
Let’s dive into the world of ecommerce payment platforms, so you’re ready to find the perfect payment platform for you:
Payment platforms are software that allow you to securely accept online payments for any products or services on your ecommerce website. If you’re looking to sell online, this is the most secure way to do it.
They’re the link between the front-end of your ecommerce site, where the customer puts in their details to make a purchase, and a merchant’s bank, where the transaction is completed.
If a customer wants to pay using a credit card or a digital wallet, they’ll need a payment platform to use on your ecommerce site.
There are a huge variety of payment platforms available. From famous names like Apple Pay and PayPal, to country-specific platforms like Giropay and iDEAL.
Ultimately, you want something that serves the requirements of your customer base, but also fits into your existing ecommerce framework and the future scaling of your business.
Before we jump into anything technical, let’s start with something really important. The reputation of a payment platform can highlight any red flags before you’re in too deep.
Just because a platform is famous, had a recent viral campaign or seems to be being used by all of your competitors does not mean it is the best option for you. As normalised as online purchases may be for marketers, for many customers shopping online there is a significant amount of trust involved in parting with their money to buy a product or service.
Customers are on the lookout for visible security verifiers throughout their checkout experience, one of which is the reputation of the brand name. You want your payment platform to instil trust and brand reliability in your customers, so go with established providers that have a reputation for quality service and efficient payment processing.
Every payment gateway will cost your business and there are various payment options for different payment gateways, so it’s worth considering how often your gateway will be used and by how many customers.
Some payment providers will ask for a fee per transaction, often based on a percentage of your customer’s total. But many will also require monthly usage fees and setup charges. These shouldn’t be hidden costs, and are important elements of your initial setup costs that you’ll need to factor in when deciding who to partner with.
What may seem like small, incidental percentage differences between different payment platforms can add up quickly, especially if your site has a very high number of monthly transactions.
This sounds simple but it’s vital for your customer base that you are catering directly to their currency. Even if your company is set up to primarily deal in one currency, your payment platform should always prioritise your customer’s currency.
If you have a global business you’ll want to ensure that you are providing multiple currencies and payment options so you don’t unintentionally exclude any markets.
In both cases, a system that allows this process to be at least partially automated can save you time and money in the long run. Customer Support If you have any issues at all with your payment platform, it’s vital to know that you have efficient and reliable support that is ready to assist you immediately. While many issues with payment platforms can be very quickly fixed, if they aren’t seen to quickly your business could be at risk of losing customers and revenue.
Check the basics, such as how the platform’s support is accessible and what hours they are available. Do you want to pick up the phone to chat with a support agent, or would you prefer email or live chat options? Is the payment platform based in the same country as you, or will you be put through to a more local service to help assist you?
We’d recommend actually getting in touch with the support team before you make a decision on which platform to choose for your business. This will give you the most clear indication of what to expect in terms of quality of service and how quickly you can get the support you’re looking for.
Your Existing Tech
If you’re opting for an integrated platform (we’ve got an overview of what this is below), check how compatible it is with your site’s existing system and technology. As tempting as it may be to go with a more unusual or novel platform, most customers just want the basics to be covered without any hassle, and won’t respond well to complicated platforms.
Opt for a platform that is hassle free, for you and your customers, that accommodates your existing tech without any issues. International Payments This is an extension on the importance of different international currencies, taken a step further. There are numerous payment methods outside of the UK that are specific to certain countries or geographical region.
In the EU, customers may use SEPA Direct Debit, in the Netherlands many use iDEAL, whereas Giropay is popular in Germany. These are examples of more local payment methods, and while they might not be as famous as Apple Pay or PayPal, they host millions of transactions annually and should be incorporated into your payment platforms when possible.
It’s worth bearing in mind that most platforms won’t accept all payment and card types. This is often not widely advertised, so you’ll want to do some thorough research into exactly what each platform can offer, and what they cannot cater for with your card types.
With highly personal customer information including home addresses and card details being stored digitally, security is one of the most important aspects of your payment platform.
Take a minute to check if your preferred platform is PCI compliant. This is the Payment Cards Industry Data Security Standard (or PCI DSS), created to create a global standard of security for ecommerce and other digital transactions.
Pair this knowledge with the platforms reputation, trusted SSL encryption and other research to form a complete picture of the full security options of each platform before making your decision.
It’s possible to host the payment platform for your ecommerce site either externally to your website, or integrate it into your current setup. Both have pros and cons, so let’s take a look at which option might be best for you.
When using a hosted payment platform, the customer begins the process on your site and is then directed to a 3rd party site to complete the payment.
Can be great for security as the payment platform takes responsibility for the security and data handling of any payment specific metrics. Due to its flexibility, it’s also a useful interim as you grow your business securely.
The downside to this option is the lack of control of the overall user experience. Even if you provide a top of the range checkout experience for your customers on your site, your payment process will only be as good as the hosted payment platform that they are directed to to complete the purchase. So choose your platform wisely.
If you integrate your payment platform yourself, the entire payment process is placed onto your site. So you’ve got total responsibility and total control. Naturally, this is the best fit for a lot of larger companies who want to maintain control over their systems to the most finite detail.
This frees you up from the limitations of integrated platforms and gives you the opportunity to finesse any little details and changes that you’d like to see in your ideal payment platform. These small changes can add up quickly and create an efficient and flawless platform that is unique to your site.
The downside to this option is the sheer amount of responsibility and pressure that comes with hosting every element of your payment platform. Security is paramount with this option. Redirects You’ll be familiar with this option if you’ve ever used PayPal or a similar service to complete a transaction online. The customer completes the transaction off site, using an alternative payment method like PayPal.
There’s a brilliant simplicity here that might be just what your ecommerce site is after. It’s highly convenient for smaller businesses especially, simply use a redirect gateway and link your customers to a highly secure payment platform in seconds.
Of course, the downside to this is a lack of personalisation, scalability and control. You also have the slight headache of users being directed off of your site to make any purchase. When in an ideal world, you want to retain those users on your site for as long as possible throughout the process. However, this can be a decent starting point for smaller businesses.
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider. But ultimately, the payment process and user experience for your customers lies in a thoughtful and intentional choice behind your chosen payment platform. It’s a vital decision for your ecommerce site, so take your time to carefully consider each of the points mentioned above.
Security, your customer’s requirements and the size of your business are good starting points to build upon as you make your decision. Aim to find a platform that you trust and that can scale and develop as your business grows, giving you the advantage of flexibility over time.
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