A new innovation brought about by the ever-increasing level of transactions which are completed online, a payment gateway is a term for the provider of an electronic service which processes and approves electronic transactions.
In essence, payment gateways are the virtual equivalent of an electronic chip-and-pin card payment machine which you can find in practically every shop these days. They let a seller accept payments by debit and credit card and other forms of electronic funds transfer, quickly and conveniently.
But perhaps more important than any of these advantages is that any transaction carried out through such a gateway is completely secure. We’ve all seen the small padlock symbol which appears in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen whenever we’re using a website which uses a secure payment system – and it’s intended to be a mark which means the buyer can be confident that their payment will reach the person it is meant for, and that details of the payment method used will be encrypted so they cannot be seen by anyone else.
So if you’re a retailer considering putting an online payment channel in place on your website, you need to consider one which satisfies all the concerns you would have in the course of processing any normal transaction. So that covers such matters as security, availability of data for your own analysis, and compatibility with your existing e-shopping programs, such as your shopping cart.
Depending on the size and scope of your business, you might also want to include more sophisticated functionalities such as the ability to accept and process various different currencies.
If you have a large proportion of regular customers, you may well appreciate a facility to accept recurring payments from your customers. You might even offer some form of customer account, so it could also be important that you can review the information on this – and possibly for your customer to be able to do the same.
Another consideration might be what proportion of payments you expect to be made by credit card. As with any retail transaction, there are extra costs involved to a retailer in accepting such cards. So when integrating this capability with your electronic payment system, you’ll need to consider whether your service provider offers you a separate merchant account with the credit card company, or whether you will need to set one of these up yourself.
And while on the subject of fees, you should always check that, as there is a myriad of ways in which these can be structured, you understand how much you are paying, and for what part of the payment service.
Finally of course, it’s possible that your payment gateway will have to be able to handle making refunds of customers’ payments – so you should check the ease with which you can make a reverse payment, as well as the costs involved in doing so.
A great deal of technology goes into the setting up and running of a payment gateway, yet clearly it is intended to provide a seamless transaction for your customers. So clearly, getting one running on your website which makes it as easy as possible for them to find and pay for what they want to buy, should be considered a priority if you fully intend your business to benefit from the e-commerce revolution.