22 Oct 9 Essentials for Accepting Credit Card Payments Online
Question: When was the last time you wrote a check (a real, physical check) to pay for something that wasn’t rent?
If you’re like most consumers, the answer is probably somewhere between “Maybe a few weeks ago?” and “I can’t even remember.”
Which brings us to our second question: When was the last time you paid for something online?
Chances are the time frame for this answer is closer to “this morning” or “yesterday.”
In today’s increasingly mobile world, consumers are expecting businesses to offer the convenience of paying for products and services online. They would much rather be able to go to your website and make a payment than bother with digging out their checkbook and finding a stamp (because who uses stamps outside of the holiday season these days?). If you’re not already accepting credit card payments online, the process of getting it all set up can seem intimidating, with a lot of technical jargon like “merchant accounts,” “payment gateways,” and “PCI compliance” thrown around.
The good news is that it really doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems—especially if you’re just testing the waters for accepting online payments.
We’ve put together 9 essential elements that you’ll need to optimize your website to accept online payments.
#1 – Payment Processing Solutions
Payment processing solutions, also referred to as “Third Party Processors” or “Payment Aggregators” are a small business owner’s quick and easy solution to start accepting credit card payments online without the hassle of setting up amerchant account. Companies, such as PayPal, Stripe and Square process your payments under their merchant accounts and charge you a small fee for each transaction. These fees can vary greatly but are usually a percentage (starting around 2.9%) plus a transaction fee (starting around $0.30/transaction). If you’re just starting out or you don’t plan on processing a large volume of online payments, these solutions are a great way to quickly start accepting customer payments with little or no upfront cost to you. The added benefit is that most of these companies also handle much of the security requirements needed to securely accept payments and protect customer information.
# 2 – Authentication / Login Layers
Authentication / Login Layers If you do provide the option for customers to register and create accounts, you’ll want to keep their information secure, which is where authentication and Login Layers come into play. By using Authentication / Login Layers, websites require a multi-step verification process prior to allowing you to reset or regain control of your account. A great example of this is a website that requires users to answer a secret security questions before emailing a link to reset their password.
#3 – SSL Certificates
We’ve all seen SSL certificate messages on websites and most people know that they indicate some level of security, but it’s not likely that many people outside of the e-commerce or internet security industry can provide an exact definition. We just know that it means a website is ‘safe’. SSL certificates are a security measure that allows private or sensitive information (such as payment information or social security numbers) to be transmitted securely as encrypted data over the internet. This is a must-have for websites that process payments locally or websites that require certain information if a customer chooses to sign up or register on the site. Fortunately, if you use third party processors, this is often taken care of through their payment pages. However, it can still be a good practice to have SSL certificates on pages that contain links to the payment pages or where you require customers to enter any other sensitive information that could be damaging if it were stolen.
#4 – PCI Compliance
This is another security-related term that most people who aren’t experienced in the eCommerce world only vaguely understand. PCI Compliance, or Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards are a series of specific standards that all merchants who directly process payments are responsible for following. This can be a complex and complicated process that involves scans, validation and verification of your website. Thankfully most third party payment processors take care of PCI compliance on their end. That said, when you’re choosing your payment processor, you definitely want to be sure that they are PCI compliant before signing up with them. It’s always a good idea to review thePCI compliance requirements to insure you and your business are properly covered.
#5 – Credit Card logos and Trust Seals
This is another way to help build customer confidence and reassure them that they’re using a site where their payment information is going to remain secure. The credit card or PayPal logos can inform customers before or during the online purchasing process what forms of payment are accepted. Security Seals, on the other hand, help to call out security measures on your site and reassure customers that their information is safe and secure. Here are some examples of Security Seals you may be able to have on your website:
#6 – Login Options
Having customers log-in to your site during or after the purchase process is beneficial all around. On the customer-side of things, logins can allow them to do things like create wishlists, keep purchase records and create a speedier checkout process. On the business-side, having customers register can increase your marketing opportunities by including the option to send them updates, newsletters or special coupons via email or text.
While having the option to register during the checkout process can be convenient for some, others will find it to be a hassle. If possible, we suggest allowing online payments to be completed both as a user and a guest. Other options to consider are allowing customers to register using social media accounts such as Facebook or Google and allowing them to register at the end of the payment process instead of at the beginning.
#7 – Clear Checkout Design
Have you ever walked into a retail store that’s run down, dirty, overcrowded and confusing? While you may take some time to shop, if you get up to the register and it looks outdated and their credit card machine is questionable at best, the chances of you feeling comfortable with swiping your card are pretty low. The same premise applies to websites. If your site is poorly designed or your checkout process seems amatuer, customers aren’t going to have the confidence to go through with a purchase. When you’re setting up your checkout process there are a few key elements you should include:
A visual checkout process: This sounds complicated, but it’s really not. When we refer to a visual checkout process we’re talking about a design element that allows the customer to easily see where they are in the checkout process. Out of all of the elements, this may not be a must-have, but it certainly belongs on the ‘nice to have’ list for improving customer experiences. This can be done a number of ways – here are some examples:
#8 – Easy Access to Policies and Contact Information
Nothing will turn a customer into an angry review on social media faster than unclear policies surrounding refunds and returns. It’s important to ensure that your policies are clearly outlined well before your customer’s hit the final “Pay Now” button. We suggest providing links to the refund and return policy on both the product page and throughout the checkout process, as well as outlining it on the final receipt.
You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch with you or your company before, during and after the payment process. Providing readily available avenues for contacting someone helps to increase their comfort with the online purchase process and cuts down on frustration later on down the line. This doesn’t mean that you have to provide live chat support on your site (though it definitely helps present a great image), it just means that your “Contact Us” information is readily available through visible links. Keep in mind that simply providing a form or email address may not be enough. We also suggest including other methods of contact such as phone numbers (with hours you’re available), mailing or physical addresses and links to social media accounts.
# 9 – Confirmation Email with Receipt after Purchase
Just like you expect a receipt when you make a purchase at the grocery store, online consumers expect a receipt for their transactions on your website. We suggest providing the first receipt on a confirmation page once the customer has finalized their purchase. Your confirmation page should include the item purchased, the price, shipping details, total amount paid and any other important information they may need regarding their online purchase. The second receipt should be sent to an email address that you’ve requested at some point during the checkout process. Providing this emailed receipt reduces questions or frustrations that may come up later when they’re trying to recall specifics of the purchase or need the receipt for other purposes.
Once you’re able to check off each of the items above, you should be ready to start directing customers to your website to process their online transactions.