Once you’ve made sure that your store offers the right products and services and you’ve taken all the necessary steps to market your store successfully, you’ll need to prepare your store to start handling orders. A key aspect of starting your own online business is deciding how you will accept payments from your customers.
Getting customers to purchase your products and to feel comfortable spending money at your online store is essential. There’s no point attracting customers to your store and convincing them to purchase your products if you do not provide them with convenient and secure ways to actually pay you for their orders.
So what are your options when it comes to accepting payments online?
There are a few basic options that you can provide your customers to pay you for their purchases. Generally you’ll need a merchant account with a bank to allow your business to accept payments by debit or credit cards. There are payment gateways and payment processors that do not require merchant accounts though, so this is an alternative option as well.
Among the factors that you should take into consideration when deciding which merchant account to sign up for are monthly fees, the discount rate, processing and chargeback fees, the ease and speed of processing, as well as how you’ll be able to access the money that your customers have paid you.
Additionally, certain merchant accounts may restrict the credit card types that you can accept. As such, you should ensure that your merchant account allows you to accept all major credit cards. Credit card types that you should definitely accept include MasterCard and Visa. It’s also important to make sure that your merchant account is able to accept credit cards internationally if your store caters to a global target market.
If you have an existing merchant account but do not have a payment gateway to accept online payment directly, you can provide “offline” payment options to your customers. These include providing your store’s telephone and/or fax numbers so that your customers can call in or fax you their credit card details, which you can then process offline through a credit card terminal, for example. This “offline payment” option is also very useful especially for customers who are still wary or conservative about using their credit cards to make payments online.
Being able to accept online payments directly without the need for further “offline” processing would of course be most convenient for both you and your customers, as automatic online payment processing will eliminate any delays between payment and delivery. You’ll also be able to focus on order fulfillment instead of spending a lot of time on additional payment processing.
This is where payment gateways come in. Payment gateways provide a means for your customers to pay for their orders online with credit or debit cards. Payment gateways will also process payments automatically and accept or decline transactions on the spot. Payment gateways can be integrated into your secure shopping cart either via seamless API (Application Programming Interface) integration, in which your customers will never have to “leave” your store to make payments, or customers will be redirected to the payment gateways to pay.
Some payment gateways require merchant accounts, and others do not. There are also merchant account providers that offer payment gateway services as well. It’s essential that you choose a reputable and secure payment gateway in order to provide your customers with the safest and most assured shopping experience. Other factors to consider are start-up fees and per-transaction fees.
Customers can also pay for their orders using other payment options besides credit or debit cards. PayPal is a very popular and common method of payment where customers can pay for their purchases into your store’s PayPal account using funds from their PayPal account. There are also numerous alternative payment options such as online checks and digital cash.
Ideally your store should provide your customers with a variety of online and offline payment options. It’s important that all your store payment pages where your customers need to enter their billing information must be secure HTTPS pages. Your store and your secure shopping cart solution must provide your customers with a strong sense of security when they make orders at your store, so that your customers feel confident about buying from you. It can also be helpful to include testimonials from previous customers at the checkout process to reassure buyers further.
Whichever payment options you choose to offer, make sure to do your research well so that you pick the best, most secure, and most affordable solution for your customers and your store.
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