4 types of online payment solutions to consider for your small business
Sting fans will remember “Ten Summoner’s Tales” as the artist’s fourth solo album featuring songs like “If I Ever Lose My Faith in You” and “Fields of Gold.” Technology history buffs may recall that the Grammy Award-winning CD was the first to be sold via a secure shopping channel. Yep, on August 11, 1994, UK-based Shop Direct became the first retailer to accept payments online with the world’s first secure ecommerce transaction, for a Sting CD at the cost of $12.48 in the U.S.
Electronic payments have come a long way since selling CDs. Today, they are par for the course for a wide range of retailers and have become a means to sell anything from shoes to stoves and everything in between. Many merchants have discovered that taking their offerings online is a nearly sure-fire way to attract new customers and retain current ones by expanding their product offerings and reaching consumers around the world. Online shopping retail sales are predicted to increase from $231 billion in 2012, to $370 billion in 2017.
Many types of merchant services accounts are available today, including those that facilitate online payments. Merchants who already process payments in-store using a POS system can begin accepting payments online with one merchant account and a consolidated bill. Let’s explore four online payment solution options available today.
1. Virtual terminal
A virtual terminal is a payment application powered by a browser. It does everything a traditional POS system does, only on the web. Instead of reading a physical payment card, a virtual terminal uses a web-based payment form. Since a virtual terminal can be accessed anywhere with an internet connection, it can be used for both instore payments (via a sales associate using a tablet or smartphone) and online payments (via the customer submitting their payment information in a web form).
A virtual terminal is particularly well suited to businesses that operate without a physical location such as home repair, lawn care or housekeeping services. Merchants who sell goods at farmer’s markets, flea markets, craft fairs, and trade shows are also good candidates. Because of the ability to facilitate recurring and installment payments, a virtual terminal is also a good option for donor- or member-based organizations. It is also a useful option for merchants that offer mail order and telephone order transactions.
2. Semi-integrated solution
With a semi-integrated solution, customers can shop online and pay securely using a link directly to the processor. Semi-integrated solutions offer merchants the advantage of not dealing with sensitive payment information on their own systems. Instead, cardholder data is sent directly to the processor, completely bypassing the merchant’s POS terminal and back office systems.
A semi-integrated solution is a great option for merchants who already have a POS solution in place and simply want to add ecommerce capability. This type of solution has also become increasingly popular with the adoption of EMV technology. Merchants can choose a semi-integrated solution that is already certified to accept EMV chip cards, eliminating the need to acquire certification for a current system. When choosing a semi-integrated solution, it’s important that the offering utilized security technology such as encryption and tokenization.
3. Integrated ecommerce solution
An integrated ecommerce solution is one that is built into a shopping cart or ecommerce site, and facilitates transactions through a payment gateway or direct to a payment processor. There are many advantages to integrated payment solutions. In addition to automating all the steps in a transaction, an integrated solution eases payments reconciliation, speeds transaction time, and reduces the occurrence of manual errors. With an integrated solution, credit card processing, accounting, and customer relationship management work together seamlessly.
Improving the user experience should be one of the key things to keep in mind when considering an integrated ecommerce option. When a customer visits your website, how easy it is for them to browse your inventory, add (and delete) items to their shopping cart, and check out? Are page load times fast enough to keep customers engaged? Do customers have the option to save their account information for future purchases? Is the platform equipped with sufficient security and fraud protection tools?
4. Full ecommerce and POS integrated solution
This type of solution spans both online and instore customer experiences. Let’s take fictitious “Leaning Pisa Pizzaria” as an example. With a full ecommerce and POS integrated solution, a customer goes to Leaning Pisa’s website to place their order and pay for it online. The customer receives a text or email confirming their order; and the order is automatically sent to Leaning Pisa and submitted to the kitchen to prepare. The customer can then simply pick up their order when it’s ready.
A full ecommerce and POS integrated solution offers all the advantages of a physical POS system along with the convenience of an ecommerce solution. Merchants can enjoy the more robust features of customer relationship management, inventory control, and accounting reconciliation, along with speed and ease of transactions in a secure environment.
When venturing into the world of ecommerce, which encompasses both online payments and mobile payments, it’s worth taking the time to learn about the different options available. In addition to researching the options listed above, a reputable payment processor can help guide you through the process of choosing the right solution for your business.