Whether your business deals with professional services, fashion, food, or flowers, it’s highly likely your customers want the option to purchase your products and services online. Even if you have a brick and mortar business, selling online will keep you competitive. If your business isn’t already set up to take online payments, here’s how to get started.
Choose an e-Commerce Platform
If you’re selling merchandise, there are two ways to go. You can put the items up for sale through an online marketplace such as eBay, Amazon, or Etsy, or create your own standalone online store. This overview of How to Sell Products Online can help you figure out which alternative works best for you.
If you decide to sell through an established marketplace like Amazon, you won’t need to worry about payment processing yourself. If you sell through your own website, you’ll need a way to allow customers to order and pay.
Options for Accepting Online Payments
If you’re putting together your own website instead of hiring a web design firm to do it for you, there are several pre-packaged solutions available.
Chances are good that your web host offers tools to incorporate a shopping cart and payment system into your site. There are also templates for store designs and features such as secure checkout, options for shipping, and calculations for sales tax. PC Magazine ranked the best web hosting services, and included a list of their various features for comparison. You can also check out Lifehacker’s 5 Best Places to Set Up Shop Online.
Depending on where your site is hosted, you may be able to choose from different free and paid options for a shopping cart. osCommerce is a shopping cart that works with many web hosts and gets good reviews. It offers over 7,000 add-ons built by members of its user community to help you customize your store.
Perhaps even more important than the cart is the payment processor that goes with it—once people pick things out, they need a way to pay for them. This is the real business end of the transaction, allowing you to accept credit cards, validate the information, collect the money, and get it deposited into your bank account.
From a customer’s point of view, this step is also the most critical. Shoppers want something easy and intuitive to use, but most importantly, it must be a secure gateway that adequately protects their personal information. Choices include:
PayPal accepts all major credit cards and works with most major shopping cart programs. There aren’t any charges to get set up or maintain your account, but the service will take from 2.2% to 2.9% plus 30 cents per transaction, with the actual amount based on your monthly sales volume. One downside of PayPal is it takes users away from your site to theirs in order to complete the transaction.
Authorize.net is another popular solution. It costs $99 to set up, and carries a monthly fee of $20, with a per transaction cost of 10 cents. Authorize.net allows you to accept payments online, through the mail, via telephone, in your store, and through a mobile app.
Stripe is customizable for online storefronts, mobile apps, subscription services, and more. There’s no setup fee and no monthly charge. They take a flat 2.9% plus 30 cents for each transaction. If you refund a purchase, you get the transaction fee returned.
10 Questions to Ask When You Evaluate Online Payment Vendors
With so many options, it can be difficult to make a choice. Here are the most important things to keep in mind when deciding.
1) What are the costs involved with setting up and using the service?
2) How tech savvy do you have to be to use it? Or would you rather have a web developer set it up for you?
3) If you want or need to accept international payments or non-U.S. credit cards, does the payment gateway support that?
4) Does the customer stay on your site to complete the transaction or do they have to go to the payment processor’s site? (This can increase the number of abandoned shopping carts.)
5) How quickly will the funds be available to you? Many gateways place a hold of up to two (or more) days.
6) Do you need a separate merchant account with a bank to receive payments?
7) Can you set up recurring payments? (This may be especially important for service companies and those who want to automate reorders.)
8) Are there stipulations on what you can sell? (Some gateways limit their services to hard goods.)
9) What kind of customer support is offered? How quickly are issues addressed and problems solved?
10) What kind of guarantees are offered for the security of your customers’ credit and other personal information?
If you feel at all discouraged, remember this: it's easy to sell things on the Internet—lots of people do it. Once you make the decision to create your own store or to use a marketplace, it’s only a few short steps to selling your goods or services online.
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