In 1995, Amazon was one of the first companies to envision a market model where goods and services were exchanged online for instant payment, and today eCommerce is one of the most sought-after business models anywhere in the world. Now, in 2020, socially distanced new norms have further enhanced its appeal, and it seems like everyone is trying, in one way or another, to sell online.
In today's eCommerce scene, the ability to accept payments online is among a merchant's top priorities. Regardless of how appealing their offering is or how unbeatable their prices are, nothing prematurely terminates a sale like the lack of an online payment process flow in place.
Beyond marketing approaches, product development, and sales cycles, merchants all over the eCommerce spectrum share an active interest in their goal to accept cards online. Payment processing and its capabilities are what all online sellers are seeking, yet the complexities of this field still have merchants asking "How does an online transaction work"?
Though there are a lot of concepts to understand and many of the players in the market are confusing - payment gateways, PSPs, merchant accounts, payment service providers, which one do you need? - the online payment process is a logical flow you can easily master.
If you've been looking for online payment basics, you've reached the right place.
Online payment processing refers to the exchange of money online as payment for goods or services ordered over the internet. In other words, payment processing is an electronic transaction between a business that is selling a good or service online and a buyer who wants that offering. This process implies the exchange of the buyer's personal and financial information, in order to authenticate the shopper and authorize the transaction.
To be able to accept payments online, a merchant needs to work with one or more middle partners, who provide the technological side of the transaction and connect to the shopper's financial institution to clear the payment. This is usually handled by the merchant's payment processor.
Merchants are interested in how online payments work because the process itself can bring a lot of advantages that generate profit. Depending on how the setup is made, merchants address a lot of their business needs with the help of the payment processor.
For one, the payment provider helps the eCommerce business increase its sales. This is possible by helping the shop expand to more countries, but also through the use of the marketing tools that professional providers bring to the table. Capabilities for marketing campaigns (upsells, promotional sales, and cart abandonment campaigns) or new channel distribution (partners and affiliates) can substantially round up a merchant's revenue stream. There are also subscription capabilities, which can bring in recurring revenue flows.
Another benefit to consider is how much of the complexity of security and compliance needed in the process a provider will offload from the merchant. There are a lot of risks when handling online payment processing, but a professional platform can help you stay compliant, maintain airtight security for your shoppers' sensitive data, and clear your transactions faster.
With all the benefits that come from online payment processing, some challenges that merchants need to overcome may also arise. A lot of these can be outsourced to your payment provider, if they have the capabilities available.
The risk of fraud is probably the first that comes to mind. As online fraud rates have increased in recent years, the whole premise of an online payment process is to provide the merchant the ability to operate the transaction in a secure environment.
Experienced payment providers can equip merchant's stores with fraud prevention tools such as address verification systems, tokenization dynamic 3DS, and AI-powered and manual review processes, tools which considerably decrease fraud risks if used in combination. In addition, professional payment processors streamline the security compliance process, as they are usually PCI-DSS certified.
Technical challenges are also something to expect, and the payment processor's role is key here, starting with the payment integration in the merchant's shop, all the way to accepting more modern means of payment, like eWallets for example. When working with a professional provider your customization options will be much richer and you may even benefit from customizable APIs. The payment processor can even support you with handling disputed transactions that turn into chargebacks.
Your goal when dealing with chargebacks is to maintain a good position with credit card companies and, as the middle-man, your payment processor can help in this respect. Advanced technical capabilities also allow the payment provider to collect the appropriate taxes you have due from shoppers in certain markets, further ensuring your compliance with regulations.
As 2020 has brought with it many new house-bound online shoppers and eCommerce transaction volume is expected to reach $630 billion in the US, merchants want a share of that slice but also want to stay safe in the process.
Fortunately, as eCommerce has grown in size, relevant authorities have also doubled down on enforced regulations. Today there are several standards and regulations in place to protect merchants and shoppers alike from online payment fraud.
Not having access to their preferred shopping methods is one of shoppers' pet peeves, and they may abandon their carts in hordes if this condition isn't met. As a merchant, you want the shopper's experience to be up to their expectations, so you need to address this preference for a localized cart with the right payment methods.
Some payment options are a must all over the world, given their large usage rate.
If your business isn't already taking advantage of mobile payments, you should consider what you are missing.
With five billion mobile users in the world, mobile payments offer a major opportunity for companies to reach new markets, increase sales, and even experiment with new technologies.
One of our most recent surveys shows that, while desktop purchasing remains in the lead, used by 82% of buyers, mobile is becoming a large and growing channel that merchants can't afford to ignore. Mobile is expected to account for nearly half of all retail eCommerce payments by the end of 2020.
It's no wonder that mobile payments have become so beneficial to retailers. They put consumers first, letting shoppers do quick searches on mobile to find what they want and complete their purchase while in a buying mindset.
An impressive 78% of software and SaaS buyers find products by searching online, and many of those searches likely happen on mobile devices, so letting people buy in real-time can really ramp up conversion rates. Mobile payments let users buy what they need anytime, anywhere, right when they're thinking about it.
When creating your mobile strategy, keep in mind that mobile payments don't refer only to mobile wallets like Apple Pay or Google Pay. Mobile payments also include paying with a credit card on the mobile web.
Make sure you offer a good user experience that is simple and straightforward and also doesn't interfere with the ability to get info or make a purchase. Make sure that your mobile site or app loads quickly and always test your mobile purchase flow extensively, with real users, to ensure it presents no technical barriers to purchase.
As you would expect, online payment processing services aren't free, but when you know what to look for, the returns on your dollar are that much greater. In essence, the fees for an online transaction are usually a sum of the costs of all the parts charged by each player.
So, the payment processing fee doesn't just go out to your payment provider, it's split up between the middlemen in the chain.
The acquiring bank, meaning your merchant account bank, takes a share in the form of a markup fee - after all, it is safeguarding your funds. The issuing bank, meaning the shopper's bank, also collects an interchange fee. This acts as a balancing mechanism in the whole scheme. Credit card associations impose an assessment fee when their means are used, which makes up another part of the online payment cost. Last but not least, your payment processor collects a processing fee to cover the final step that facilitates the transaction.
If you're shopping around for a payment provider and run across several different ways to bundle these costs, know that in effect they will still include the costs listed above. Some providers go for flat-rate payment fee pricing (a transaction-fixed fee), consisting of a percentage of the sale and a dollar amount. In an interchange plus bundle, you'll pay a percentage of the sale plus a dollar amount on top of the interchange fee.
Capabilities alone for payment processing aren't enough for eCommerce. Merchants can sell in markets only if they respect national and local regulations, which govern how they can transact. A lot of a merchant's efforts are directed towards compliance, so it is important to know what standards impact your line of business.
To be able to accept online card payments, card networks require that merchants use specific modern tools to check the security of their transactions. Recommendations from Visa and Mastercard state that the merchant needs to properly identify the shopper, use AVS, or monitor their orders. The PCI Security Standards Council is another authority that regulates card payments. To accept cards in their online shops, merchants all over the world need to attain one of the four levels of PCI DSS compliance.
While they ensure the security of payments, merchants also need to pay the tax due in the countries where they are selling.
Fiscal compliance is an important part of online payment regulations, and it comes in many forms. Some states collect a value-added tax, while others collect a sales tax. Differences in percentage here can vary even at the local jurisdiction level. Each state also comes with its own set of rules for what products are taxed, which are exempt, and which benefit from reduced taxation.
In terms of tax compliance, a professional payment provider can offload the merchant's work here in each country they're selling in.
Now that you understand everything about online payment processing, you have the knowledge you need to take on this business model and scale your reach across the world. You should be familiar with the players in payment processing and how each one is involved in the transaction process. You probably already have some ideas about what type of integration would be suitable and what pricing bundle you'd prefer. You are now knowledgeable about what payment and connected capabilities you need and have probably already started making lists of the payment methods you'll be accepting online.
Succeeding in eCommerce today has a lot to do with staying up-to-date on what options you have and how to maximize these for your business. If you're curious to see how a leading payment platform with full monetization capabilities can upgrade your online sales, take 2Checkout on a test drive with a free account.