Quick read: Build your business with online payment services
If you’ve been considering taking your small business online, now is a great time to do so. Today, small business owners have a ton of options when it comes to accepting payments from customers online. Read on for more information on how to get started processing online—and how doing so can grow your business for the future.
Merchant account or third-party payment gateway
To get started, the main choice you need to make is whether you’ll set up your own merchant account or go with a third-party payment gateway. Basically, a merchant account is a special kind of bank account that you open for the purpose of holding funds that your business captures from debit and credit card sales. A third-party payment gateway processes payments on your behalf. Like any decision, there are pros and cons to both options.
Choosing a well-known, reputable online processing gateway like PayPal will make customers more likely to proceed with the purchase since it’s a name they already trust for secure online processing. Quite simply, they won’t have as many concerns about data security than if you’re a small business using your own shopping cart plug-in on your eCommerce site.
With a payment gateway, your systems don’t have to handle, transmit or store sensitive data, which takes a lot of burden and risk off of your business and your reputation. However, it may be more costly on a monthly basis to go with a payment gateway but setup is generally quicker and less expensive. And, if you partner with a trusted name, your business will likely quickly reap the benefits from the boosted online sales.
Setting up your own merchant account through a bank or payment processor is the other main option for online payment services. Like any other line of credit or loan, you must apply and be approved for a merchant account. Because of this application process, setup time may take longer but your processing rates will likely end up costing you less in the long-run. Plus, you’ll maintain control over your payment systems and related data, rather than having a third-party gateway handle it for you.
Maintaining control over your processing data
If you process payments online with a payment gateway, you risk losing access to some valuable customer data that can help you grow your business. Here are some of the ways that accepting payments online can help you build your business:
Use customer cell phone numbers to build your database of SMS text sale alerts for special offers.
Similarly, use customer email addresses to build your repository of email subscribers for your regular new product email newsletters or special offer codes.
- Processing data can also provide you with valuable information on purchasing habits and buying history that can help sharpen your marketing and increase the impact of your efforts.
Growing your business through online sales
An important aspect of selling goods and services online is to carefully select and define your target audience. Identify the specific demographics of your target customers and base your marketing strategies—including the look and feel of your eCommerce website and your social media presence—on those factors.
Realize that online businesses rely heavily on their visibility and credibility to attract customers and close virtual sales. You should be aware that factors such as SEO (search engine optimization), search rankings and page load time are major influences on the success of your online business and whether or not customers will even find you in the first place, let alone if they’ll return as loyal customers.
Today’s online shoppers have come to expect a unique, personalized experience on nearly every website they visit. Make sure your eCommerce site is ready to deliver an individualized shopping experience by taking advantage of available technology that can generate targeted shopping selections based on personal preferences, including internet browser history and other factors.
Expanding your business online is a great way to attract a wider customer audience and to make more sales. Just make sure that you take the time to research the processing type that is best for you, so that you can take full advantage of the customer data you’ll collect through online sales.