At some point in your live as a seller, whether you operate a physical retail/wholesale location or only sell goods and services online, you will have to make a decision about getting set up with a payment platform. Unless you do a 100 percent cash, in-person business, you need a way to accept credit and debit cards. And, when you consider that U.S. consumers alone account for more than $14 trillion in outstanding credit card debt at any given moment, it’s easy to see why having a way to accept plastic from your customers can mean the difference between success and failure.
The first step is to learn the basics of payment platforms and understand what questions every merchant should ask when setting out to choose one that fits their operation in the best possible way. It’s also valuable, when making such an important decision, to have a firm grasp on the typical payment transaction cycle, as it goes through the platform. Finally, and most important of all, is to clearly understand what specific factors merchants should think about when they select a platform for their long-term use.
The most useful way to think of what a “payment platform” is to view transactions from the point of view of an outsider. For instance, a payment platform is one type of a payment gateway, and it helps bring together buyers, sellers, banks, and any other sources of funds the buyer uses in the deal. But that brings up another question: What’s the most common definition of “payment gateway”?
Gateways are basically of two types. One is a mechanical device that sits on a retailer’s countertop and allows customers to slide, insert, or wave their cards in order to make payment. The other is an online computer program that works to let buyers use their forms of payment to place orders. When you hear the term “payment platform,” it usually refers only to the online version but can mean both. Keep in mind that lots of merchants, both large and small ones, maintain online stores as well as brick-and-mortar retail establishments.
There are multiple factors that should come into play when you are choosing a platform for your company. Remember, whatever you decide upon will be the primary way that your clients interact with your website when they pull out their cards to pay. You don’t want the encounter to be too complex, non-secure, or ambiguous for your valued customers. So, make sure, at the very least, to run through the following check-list when you evaluate various payment platforms:
- Even if the gateway is excellent in every possible respect, can you use it in your nation, state, or locality? It’s a fact that some payment platforms don’t work everywhere, so it’s essential to find out if your favorite products are fully functional within your legal jurisdiction or region.
- How much is this going to cost you? Consider both up-front costs (if any), as well as recurring, monthly or annual charges for use of the gateway. Be careful, though, not to let cost become your sole deciding factor. As is the case with cars, computers, and so many merchant services, you get what you pay for. This is not the time to go bargain-hunting, but neither is it the time to ignore the prices of the service you’re choosing.
- Do you need to have a merchant account in place before you can use the payment platform on your site? A few years ago, this was a much bigger problem than it is nowadays, but sellers still run into it occasionally. When you evaluate a payment platform, make doubly-sure that you either don’t need a separate merchant account, or that you already have an account that will meet the requirement.
- What’s included in the platform? This is often called the “tire-kicking” phase, the time when you get down to the details of what features are included with the specific platforms you’re considering. Are they user-friendly? Do they have strong anti-fraud elements? Do they allow your customers to use virtual terminals, stored payment details, and automatic discounting for frequent buyers? Ask the questions that are important to you before choosing a platform.
Key Factors to Consider
There are dozens of things to examine when you do a deep-dive evaluation of payment platforms. If you’ve had experience with a couple different ones in the past, all the better. That means you have a grasp on what kinds of features to look at. What are the ten most crucial ones for most sellers? Here they are, in no particular order of importance. Be sure to read through the entire roster and make a few check-marks next to the items that are of special importance to your company.
- One:Try to strike a good balance between user-friendliness and security. Look at how each platform interfaces with buyers and how well it protects their data.
- Two:Decide which of the three flow methods works for you. They include a redirect method (iFrame), escrow arrangement, or a standard online form that buyers can use to directly input their card and account details.
- Three:As noted above, find out your entire cost of using the service. In addition to recurring fees and up-front charges, investigate whether other costs exist. Do you need to meet a particular level of sales volume in order to get the best price from the service provider? Also find out whether how long you are locked in to a service contract, if there is one.
- Four: Seek a product that lets your buyers know their information is secure. Now that so many people are accustomed to using online payment methods, it’s vital to reassure them that they’re getting the very best in terms of secure transction routing and safekeeping of sensitive data.
- Five: Avoid forcing your customers to “enroll” in anything before they buy. Some gateways include embedded features that try to gather extra information from your customers. It’s best to let your customers simply and quickly make their purchase, rather than hound them into being “members” of the site.
- Six: Go global. Even if you currently have a small number of local buyers, use a payment processor that can accept multiple currencies, many types of credit cards, and other forms of payment.
- Seven: Get a device-adaptable platform. There’s a powerful trend in place for phone-based buying. Don’t get left out. Be sure the product you select allows for buyers to use the device of their choice.
- Eight: Opt for speed. Some platforms are so overloaded with features and app-based functions that they constantly get clogged up and bogged down. Search for a speedy, streamlined platform that offers a nice mixture of function and quickness.
- Nine: Make sure it’s easy to offer customer support and interaction. Some platforms out there don’t even have the functionality for customer support. Make sure yours does. That way, your interactions with buyers will be seamless and productive.
- Ten: Look for a platform that allows for recurrent billing methods. Buyers, especially in today’s fast-paced, credit-based economy, love recurrent billing. They prefer to at least has the option to pay in more than one installment. If your gateway has this ability, you’ll make your buyers happy, and that’s always a good thing.
As the retail and wholesale marketplaces become more automated and streamlined with each passing day, it’s wise to find an excellent payment platform as soon as possible. At Metro Payment Technologies, we’re meticulous about assisting our business clients who want to find a payment platform that ideally suits their company’s short-term and long-term goals.
Additionally, we offer a comprehensive range of products and services to help your business grow and adapt to the changing economy. Feel free to phone us at 800-771-3719 if you have any questions about payment platforms or e-commerce solutions that can boost your bottom line and attract more customers to your online stores. Or, visit our website and browse through our offerings, all of which are designed to make you better at what you do.