Autumn and winter holiday traditions fill hearts and flood memories this time of year — along with the traditional smells of holiday baking, pine bows above the fireplace, and warm mulled cider that fill the air.

While they set a table with extra leaves for family and friends, and deck the halls during early winter, busy ecommerce merchants must also pay special attention to their online holiday-readiness.

Because any more, gift giving means online shopping. And experts predict 2017 may be the all-time busiest ecommerce shopping season ever — worldwide.

How lucrative is this holiday season supposed to be? All signs point to “better than last year.” Per Digital Commerce 360, 2016 ecommerce sales in the U.S. alone topped $394 billion.

Worldwide, the 2016 numbers hit the trillions. More than 7% of all retail sales occurred online, tallying an estimated $1.888 trillion for ecommerce merchants around the world.

Holiday ecommerce sales in 2017 look even more promising.

Is your ecommerce business ready? Are your website and ecommerce payment gateway holiday-ready? Let’s look at what you should know.

Ecommerce Payment Gateway Primer

Merchants already in the business know about ecommerce payment gateways. For those new to ecommerce, or contemplating a new online business, here are the basics.

Online merchants need robust ecommerce payment gateways to facilitate business online — today and tomorrow. Before we dive into some details, let’s agree on a few definitions:

  • Payment gateways facilitate credit card transactions. They transfer key information between payment portals like web-enabled mobile devices, websites, and the front-end processor.
  • The payment gateway may be provided by a bank to its customers, but can be provided as a separate service by a specialized financial service provider (such as a payment processor).
  • Payment gateways are vital to the ecommerce transaction process — they authorize the payment between merchant and customer.

In the ecommerce world, payment gateways are analogous to point-of-sale terminals found in retail stores. They are the technology that ensures secure transfer of sensitive payment information online, thereby playing a vital role in payment processing.

Ecommerce payment gateways encrypt payment transaction data — securely transmit the data to request an authorization — receive the response — and provide it to the merchant as approved or declined.

There are many types of payment gateways to choose from. No matter which you choose, your ecommerce payment gateway represents a critical component of your ecommerce stack.

Excellent Ecommerce Payment Gateways Provide Both Robust Features and Flexibility

So what should a merchant look for in an ecommerce payment gateway? General characteristics include the flexibility to support your business as it grows, along with robust features.

Examples of capabilities and features to look for include:

  • Major card brand acceptance. Ensure that your chosen gateway accepts all major U.S. payment card brands (Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, Diners Club) including credit and debit cards for these brands at a minimum — and ACH payments — with quick, secure account verification.
  • If you plan to expand internationally, choose an international payment gateway that also accepts local card brands popular in different regions of the world, and that provides multi-currency capabilities. Consumers prefer shopping with payment cards and currencies that are familiar to them.
  • PCI-DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) Level 1 compliant (a must-have rating) to secure your business and your customers’ data.
  • Complete fraud prevention and admin tools for enhanced business protection. Examples include AVS and IP Address verification tools to help protect from fraudulent transactions.
  • Advanced management features, including reports, batching, returns, and voids to improve your business operations.

Consider carefully what’s needed to support your online business today and your business expansion tomorrow. Not all ecommerce payment gateways are alike, so you’ll want to choose wisely.

Get Tough on Security to Protect Your Business

We talk often about business protections like fraud detection software and chargeback management… both important ecommerce business tools. That’s because every online business is ripe for identity theft and fraudulent transactions without these protections in place.

Consider these best practice fraud control tools to help address domestic and global ecommerce fraud risk.

Solid business processes and well-trained employees also help you detect fraudulent transactions before they occur, perhaps avoiding some chargebacks and the related fines.

Robust Security Also Increases Consumer Confidence

Many factors affect consumer confidence when shopping online. Consumers won’t hit the “buy now” button if they don’t feel that your ecommerce site is secure. Instead, a consumer will abandon their online shopping cart, leave your site, and buy from your competitor.

Sixty-three percent of 18,430 customers surveyed by KPMG International (January 2017 study analyzing consumer online shopping preferences in 51 countries) ranked “protecting their data and information” as the most important trust factor for shopping online.

What are consumers afraid of? Identity theft and the potential long-term threat of fraudulent transactions if bad guys steal personal and/or payment card information through a data breach. High-profile breaches publicized in recent years have shaken consumer confidence.

Conclusion

Yes, there’s a lot to consider when choosing an ecommerce payment gateway. Choosing the right payment processor to support your online business needs and objectives is a good place to start.

The right processor will want to understand your business objectives and goals before suggesting payment processing solutions. With so many different payment technologies in the market, it can become difficult and time-consuming to define what services you really need.

MerchACT’s payment processing services are custom made to fit your individual business model and future growth plans. We’re a leading PCI-compliant payment platform provider for e-commerce merchants.

Our extensive online payments experience, international banking relationships, proprietary gateway technology, and in-house expertise makes it possible for us to be a true one-stop shop for all of your payment processing needs.

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