There are a lot of things that I used to buy in person that I now buy online. I wouldn’t call myself lazy, but it’s a lot easier to carry a box of paper towels from my front door to my apartment than it is to carry it down the street from my local grocery store.
And I am not alone. Whether it is more choice, better prices, convenience, or something else, a lot more people buy things online these days than in person. Despite the growing number of online shoppers, people are still concerned about the setbacks when paying online. In particular, people are still nervous about giving their personal and credit card information to online merchants.
If you are an ecommerce company, a big part of engaging and engaging your customers is providing them with a stable, reliable, secure, and smooth online shopping experience. That starts with creating your payment gateway.
How to create a payment gateway
A payment gateway is a technological front-end component of payment processing that bridges the gap between your company’s financial data and the customer’s financial data during a transaction. To understand what I mean, it is helpful to know how payment processing works.
On the one hand, the customer’s financial institution must approve or decline the purchase. On the other hand, your payment service provider (PSP) and your merchant account need this data in order to process the transaction and receive the payment. The coordination of these moving parts is your payment gateway.
Here’s how to set it up.
1. Open a merchant account.
A merchant account is a type of business account that accepts payments of various types, including credit cards. Funds from online purchases end up in your merchant account after processing and can then be transferred to your commercial bank account.
To create a payment gateway, it is helpful to have a merchant account already set up as this is the ultimate destination for funds from successful transactions.
2. Select a payment service provider (PSP).
While the gateway acts as the front end of payment processing for a transaction (i.e., the interface that customers interact with directly), the payment service provider facilitates the transaction in the back end and routes financial data across all moving parts. In order to create a payment gateway for your customers to interact with, you first need to set up a PSP to which they can be connected.
3. Decide whether you want to create or purchase your payment gateway.
You have the option of creating a payment gateway (custom) yourself or working with a provider to get an “out of the box”.
Custom builds can potentially meet a wider range of your unique needs and save on transaction fees. However, it can be costly to develop and maintain.
An out of the box payment gateway is quicker to set up, but make sure it has all of the features you need. Some may even come with PSP functionality, which will save you time during setup.
The top gateway providers in the industry include Authorize.Net, Stripe, and PayPal.
If you are planning on taking payments on your website, check everything in the list below.
Essential functions for accepting payments on your website
1. Multiple login options
While it is more convenient for your marketing to require customers to create an account before ordering, it doesn’t always benefit your customers. You could lose people along the way if you don’t give them the opportunity to check out as a guest. Remember: you can always ask them to create an account once they have bought from you and feel a little closer to your brand.
Photo credit: VWO
You should also think about giving customers the option to sign in using one of their social media profiles such as Facebook or Twitter. This can reduce registration friction as it makes the login process much faster. Make sure you add that you never post without the client’s permission if applicable.
2. Authentication / login layers
Customers who have an account with you want to know their information is safe – even if they forget their credentials. To keep them safe, you need to have several levels of verification before restoring their credentials. For example, if a customer forgets their password, your site may require various security questions before an email is sent to a designated email address.
3. PCI compliance
The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) defines a number of specific data security standards (DSS) that are relevant for all merchants, regardless of turnover and credit card transaction volume.
If you host and manage your own e-commerce platform, it is your responsibility to ensure PCI compliance at the required compliance level based on the transaction volume from credit or debit cards over a 12 month period. PCI compliance is built into most SaaS shopping carts.
4. Integrated payment processor
If you have a very small website and a low number of transactions, you can get away with payment processors like PayPal, Stripe, Google Pay, and Amazon Pay. However, it is much better to have a payment process built right into your website.
Some processors direct online shoppers from your website to a checkout page that doesn’t look like yours. This disrupts their experience, visually separates them from your brand, and can be confusing or nerve-wracking and prompt them to venture out of their website.
An integrated payment solution that processes your customers’ information on your own server allows more flexibility and customization. Plus, it’s a much smoother experience for your customers.
An SSL certificate is required for an integrated payment page to ensure a secure connection. Which brings me to my next point …
5. SSL Certificate
Every e-commerce website requires an SSL certificate to protect customers’ personal and credit card information. SSL is the standard security technology that ensures that all data transferred between a web server and a browser remains private.
Without it, hackers can steal your customers’ information – and online shoppers don’t feel safe submitting their information to your website. Online shoppers can communicate the security of your website by seeing “https: //” at the beginning of your URL, rather than just “http: //”.
Our article will show you how to get an SSL certificate on your website.
6. Credit card logos and security seals
When you talk about reassuring online shoppers, you may want to add credit card logos and security seals to your website to reassure customers that your website is a safe and trustworthy place to do business. At least make them visible in the cart and checkout stages of your website, or even try to include them in the footer of your website.
7. Checkout buttons
The less time customers spend looking for an option to check out, the more likely they are to take action and buy. We recommend placing the call-to-action at the checkout – in a color that really stands out – at the top and bottom of your web pages.
Take a look at this example of ModCloth’s checkout button (no pun intended):
Would you like a little help with button design? Click here for free call-to-action templates.
8. Visual checkout process
If you need to spread the buying process across multiple pages, give customers a visual indicator of how far they are and how long they are left. ModCloth does this particularly well:
9. Return and Refund Policy
Buyers cannot physically look at or feel a product before buying it online, which can make some people nervous and encourage them to buy. To mitigate this, make your return and refund policy available at any time. Consider including it in the checkout process and even adding it to your website footer.
Make sure your guidelines are short, informative, engaging, and easy to understand. Indicate whether the customer should receive a refund or in-store credit, set a time frame for the return, define the condition the product is likely to be in, and specify any charges upfront – for example, who pays the shipping costs.
10. Delete the path to your contact information
Online buyers want to know they can easily reach your business for assistance – especially if they are first time customers. If you don’t give them a unique path to your contact information, they may be hesitant to shop with you or they may not get the support they need to complete a transaction.
Include contact information such as a phone number (with availability times), email address, street address, and social media accounts. Preferably list this information as text (not an image) so that search engines can pick it up when doing local searches. Some retailers are also happy to offer live chat options. However, make sure you have these built into your customer records so that you can create smarter marketing campaigns in the future.
11. Detailed confirmation page before checking out
Before allowing online shoppers to check out, be sure to take them to a detailed confirmation page before finalizing the transaction. On this page you should review your shopping cart, give you the option to change quantities or remove items, indicate a final price (including taxes and shipping costs) and indicate when the items will be shipped.
12. Optimized design of the checkout page
The best checkout pages are functional, safe, attractive, and easy to use and navigate. The last thing you need is someone with an intent to buy who gets cold feet at the last minute simply because they can’t use your system or don’t believe in it.
13. Mobile payments
Buyers don’t just buy on the desktop. You also buy on mobile devices, so your payment gateway needs to be responsive and easy to navigate for mobile users too. If you have a mobile app, you may need additional functionality to process payments on iOS and Android.
14. Confirmation email
Finally, you’ll want to create a confirmation email that includes the order number, product, payment and shipping information, and your return and refund policy – just in case. Whenever possible, use a real “From” email address (instead of firstname.lastname@example.org) that a customer support representative can answer. You also want the order confirmation page to be easy to print. This is the time when you can offer guest customers the option to sign up for an account as well.
Setting up your ecommerce business is exciting, although all of the details can be a bit overwhelming. With a little planning, you’ll be well on your way to processing ecommerce transactions left and right.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in September 2015 and has been updated for completeness.