As a merchant, you want to provide your customers with a smooth, user-friendly checkout process, while giving them a sense of confidence that their personal details will remain secure. You also want to know you're going to receive payments quickly and efficiently.
After consulting many online business owners and even running a couple of successful e-commerce sites of my own, I'm here to share what I've learned. I'll tell you exactly how to set up your payment processes, what to pay special attention to, and what to avoid at all costs.
This may sound overwhelming if you're setting up your online shop for the first time, but there's no need to panic! You don't need a technical background to accept payments securely on your website. The process can be simple and hassle-free if you follow the steps in this article. I have some expert tips for you as well!
7 Steps to Accept Online Payments on Your Website
1. Choose Online Payment Methods for Your Website
There are tons of different payment methods to choose from, and with the rise of fintech and ebanks, new methods are popping up all the time. Today’s consumers are used to getting what they want, and they expect to be able to use the payment method of their choice when shopping online.
When you want to accept payments on your website, the first step is to decide which payment methods you will allow your buyers to use. Of course, this decision is entirely up to you, but it’s a good idea to accept a variety of payment methods.
To ensure the best conversion rates, you'll want to accept the most common methods:
Credit and Debit Card Payments
Many online shoppers choose to pay with a credit or debit card, such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover. It's likely to be worth it for you to accept all the major cards. Each one has its own process and fees, so you’ll want to make sure you know exactly how much each transaction will cost you. Accepting credit card payments can be easy and hassle-free if you set up a merchant account. When a buyer pays with a credit or debit card, the money first goes to the merchant account, where it waits for verification that the buyer has the funds to make the purchase.
A payment gateway connects your website to a payment processor. PayPal is a very well-known example of a payment gateway and processor (you'll probably want to offer it on your site). When a customer chooses to pay through a gateway, they're automatically rerouted to the payment gateway’s site to complete the purchase.
This payment method is becoming increasingly popular, with big names like Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay being used by millions around the world. It's a convenient way for consumers to make quick payments on any internet-connected device without having to enter their personal or financial details. In today's ecommerce scene, accepting digital wallets on your site is becoming a must.
These are some other payment methods you may want to consider, depending on your business and target audience:
Some customers may not have a credit or debit card or may not feel comfortable using one online. This is where ACH (Automatic Clearing House) payments come in. Customers in the US can use the ACH network to transfer money directly from their bank account to yours, with no credit card or wire transfer involved in the process.
With this payment method, the consumer authorizes a business to withdraw a certain amount of money from their account each month (or other time frame). This can be a good option to have if you offer subscription or membership services, but if you're just selling products, you can probably leave this one off your list.
Does this mean you have to run around opening accounts with all the different payment method providers and figure out how to set each one up on your site separately? Fortunately, no! If you use a full-service payment service provider like Pay.com, you can choose from a wide range of payment methods and easily integrate them with your site. It's a great way to offer your customers the convenience they're looking for and keep them coming back to your site!
2. Calculate Your Fees
Payment method fees are part of the price of doing business, and it's important to understand them before you get started. Be sure to read through the terms and conditions of each and every payment method you'll be accepting so you know exactly how much you'll be charged each time that method is used.
Some payment service providers charge additional fees on top of the fees charged by credit card companies and payment gateways. To avoid unwanted surprises further down the line, you'll want to choose a provider who is completely transparent about the fees it charges.
Over time, you can track the frequency that each payment method is used. This will help you predict your monthly or yearly expenses for each method. If a certain payment method is costing you more than you think it is worth, you may decide to remove it from your site.
Pro Tip: Transparency works both ways. If you're going to charge your customers any processing fees, be sure to include that information on your website so that they will always know exactly how much they will be charged and what they are paying for. Honesty can go a long way, and help boost your potential buyers' confidence in you.
3. Set Up Your Payment Methods on Your Website
The next step is connecting your site to all of the payment methods that you've decided to accept. You can do this the hard way, and manually set up a business account with each company and integrate it into your site. If you feel like you have enough technical expertise to deal with any hiccups or bugs that may come up, this can be an option, but let's face it: it's a hassle. It can also take some time to get approved for all the different methods.
These days, there's a much easier solution. Many ecommerce merchants choose to work with a full-service payment infrastructure that’s already connected to all the major payment methods. This way, you only have to set up one account to accept as many payment methods as you like. You don't have to go through complex setup processes or wait around to get approved for each one.
Once you choose an infrastructure provider, it’s usually just a matter of clicking on each payment method you want to accept to add it to your site. You’ll also be able to track which customers purchased which items, how much money they spent, and when you received each payment.
4. Customize Your Checkout Process
When choosing a payment service provider, it's a good idea to pick one that allows you to customize your checkout page. Nothing will scare off a customer faster than a suspicious-looking checkout page that doesn't match the rest of your site. A page that uses your logo, branding, and color scheme will make your buyers feel secure and encourage them to complete their purchase.
Once you're happy with the look of your customized checkout page, you can integrate your accepted payment methods into it. This way, your customers know they can pay with their preferred method.
With the right service provider, customizing your page will be a simple task. Adding your payment methods should be a matter of just a few clicks.
5. Integrate Email Confirmations
When someone makes a payment on a website, they expect to receive an email with all the details of their purchase. Sending out personalized emails manually can quickly become tedious and time-consuming, especially as your business grows. You'll want to automate the process so you don't even have to think about it.
There are services out there that will let you set up an automated invoicing and receipt process, but if you choose a full-service payment infrastructure, it will be able to take care of this for you as well. In my experience, the most convenient solution is to have everything on one platform.
6. Conduct Test Orders
In the world of ecommerce, first impressions matter. Before you go live with anything on your website, you should always test it first to make sure it’s working properly.
Create some fake orders and test each and every payment method, trying to anticipate all of the different ways users might behave on your site. It’s a good idea to test your site on different devices, both desktop and mobile, and have some colleagues or friends try it out as well - they may have some valuable feedback for you.
Here’s a quick checklist to make sure you’ve tested everything:
- Does your checkout page load quickly?
- Do all the different payment methods work smoothly?
- Is there any stage in the process where a buyer might feel confused or like they don’t know what they’re supposed to do next?
- Are buyers taken to an order confirmation page after they’ve paid? Does this work with all the different payment methods?
- Are your email confirmations working properly?
- Does your site look good and work smoothly on mobile devices?
Once testing is complete and any kinks are worked out, you’ll be ready to go live and offer your customers a seamless shopping experience!
7. Continue to Improve
Your site is live, you’re accepting online payments, and the orders are coming in - but your work doesn’t end here. Ecommerce is extremely dynamic, and you’ll always be working to proactively attract new customers, whether by adding new products or improving the user experience on your site.
In addition to market research and analytics, it’s a good idea to listen to your customers and understand their changing needs and requirements. You can always experiment with different checkout page customizations and offer new payment methods based on what you think your customers will want.
Pay.com lets you accept dozens of payment methods and makes it easy for you to add or remove them with just one click. You can make changes as often as you like, to be sure that you’re always offering your customers the best possible experience.
How Does Online Payment Processing Work?
Understanding exactly how online payments work will help you provide your customers with the best experience. Let's take a look at some of the basic elements that work behind the scenes to enable payments to be processed.
A payment gateway is a software application on your website. It encrypts the credit card data your customer inputs and sends it to a payment processor.
A payment processor takes the credit card information it receives from the payment gateway and sends it to the credit card network. After checking for fraud and making sure the customer has the necessary funds to make the purchase, the processor then sends the approval or denial back to you, the merchant.
If the transaction is approved, the processor communicates with the credit card network to collect the funds and transfer them to your account.
A merchant account is a business bank account that allows a business to receive payments in various ways, including debit and credit cards.
In the past, the only way you could accept online payments was through this type of account, but today, you can bypass this requirement by using a third-party provider known as a payment aggregator.
How to Choose a Payment Service Provider
The right payment service provider for you will depend on your immediate and longer-term business needs. When you know exactly what you need, you can start looking at what different providers offer.
To make your decision easier, here are a few key questions to consider.
Which regions does the provider service?
The provider you choose should be able to let you accept payments from the market(s) you want to serve and those you may want to target in the future.
Which payment methods are supported?
Today's customers are picky about how they pay. They want to have multiple choices and experience a fast, convenient checkout experience. Your provider should be able to let you integrate not only the most popular payment method, but also local payment methods for your target market.
Will you be able to customize your checkout experience?
Your provider should offer you the flexibility to customize your checkout page however you like. You should be able to tweak the design to match your brand, customize the text, and add the features you need. The best providers will also let you perform A/B tests to find the configuration with the best conversion rate.
What risk management tools does the provider offer?
While it’s great to be able to accept payments from around the world, there are significant risks involved. It’s best to use a provider that offers strong verification, fraud detection, and chargeback protection tools.
Will it be easy to integrate the system into your site?
While some providers’ systems may require you to work with developers to integrate them successfully, others come with user-friendly setup processes that don’t require a technical background. Pay.com can get you up and running in minutes, no matter your level of expertise
What do you get in terms of reports and analytics?
Transactional data provides valuable insights that can help you increase sales and improve your site’s user experience. The best providers will give you a straightforward analytics dashboard that delivers comprehensive, in-depth insights.
What are the costs and fees?
Providers generally charge either transaction fees (a percentage of the total cost of a transaction) or interchange fees (paid to a bank for the acceptance of card-based transactions). Some providers also charge setup fees, usage fees, or monthly service fees. You’ll need to calculate the total monthly costs of a payment solution and decide if it’s acceptable for your business.
What level of support can you expect?
The best providers will be available 24/7 to help you out if anything goes wrong, or even if you just have a simple question. Live chat support is the most convenient option for many. Some services may offer a dedicated account manager.