Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Part 1 – Accepting payments online - where do I start?

As I promised this blog post is going to be one in a series of hopefully useful plunges into the sometimes daunting world of payments and finance!

After deciding you want to start accepting payments online, the mass of information that can be found on this subject can seem quite overwhelming. You are confronted with types of shopping carts, types of accounts, varying rates and lengthy tie-in contracts as a starter.

At the moment, in order to accept payments through your website you have to go to a different supplier for each of the services you need. This means you need to ensure the suppliers you choose give you the maximum services for the minimum cost.

The first things you need to remember when setting out on the online payment journey is to accept payments you will need the following things:
  1. Online shopping cart facility integrated into your website
  2. Merchant account – this is provided by an acquirer for funds from your online payment transactions to be paid into
  3. Business bank account – for funds transferred from your merchant account for you to use when paying suppliers, employees, business fees etc.
You need to shop around when looking for these three key elements as monthly charges and cost per transaction charges will vary from company to company. Some companies can also provide more than one of these elements which will save you valuable money and hassle, so worth looking out for this too. It’s also worth remembering that your high street bank isn’t necessarily the best or most cost effective solution. There are some great alternative providers such as Metro Bank, CashFlows and Virgin Money who provide very competitive services, so do investigate these too when you’re shopping around.

When taking the first step of creating the online shopping cart facility, you can add this while building your website, or as an add on to your existing site. There are many e-commerce providers who have their own shopping cart facility and will also combine web hosting and software packages for you. In many cases you get what you pay for, so ensure you research exactly the kind of facilities and features you want on your site before committing.

You may also need to use an external design and development company if you have really complex technical requirements so they can ensure they are integrated into the website with your existing systems. This could be expensive so ensure you shop around and get at least 3 in depth quotes including length of delivery time and precise tasks.

Alternatively you could look at free options to build your shopping site including open source shopping cart software packages such as: Zen Cart, OXID eShop Community Edition, osCommerce, On4, OpenCart and PrestaShop.

As mentioned earlier, there is a whole host of information if you are setting up your website to accept payments. One of the best sites for information on accepting payments from your website and general payment information for me is Business Link.

Watch this space for next week’s blog!

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