WordPress, as we know, is used as a robust, secure platform for online stores all across the web. It’s a simplified solution in terms of building and management.
As we discussed in the past there are many different bolt-on eCommerce solutions for WordPress that convert your everyday blog into a functioning store ready for inventory in however long it takes to get the plugin and install it. So, I mean it when I say you can have an online store in a matter of minutes.
With that said, there are many questions that need answers before launching a store in terms of the functionality needed. The major ones revolve around shipping, currency, and payment processors (or gateways).
Why does it even matter which payment gateway is used?
Well, for starters you might limit your potential customer base when choosing one payment provider over another. For example, many people in India cannot make payments with PayPal but they often can with MoneyBookers.
Another consideration is the fees and features for a given platform, and whether you can accept credit cards without the need for an expensive merchant account. Keep in mind though that you can utilize multiple payment options with one online store, but that of course comes with extra management and complexity.
Let’s go over briefly some of the major payment gateways and their feature sets.
As a default solution, and for those that aren’t sure, I would definitely suggest PayPal. Most shopping cart solutions for WordPress have PayPal payment processing built in right out of the box.
That’s because PayPal is one of the biggest players in this space with the most history. PayPal also has an API like no other, allowing developers to get as basic or as sophisticated as they like when tying store software into the system.
Also, PayPal can handle many aspects of the transaction if desired. For example you can choose to have PayPal create invoices and receipts, and you can pass the task of calculating tax off to PayPal as well.
Not only that, PayPal can be used as a payment method even from folks that don’t use PayPal. They can simply use their credit card for their transaction. So, essentially, you can accept credit cards via PayPal without a merchant account.
Note: This shouldn’t be confused with PayPal Pro though which is the paid version of PayPal, and more of a white label solution for accepting credit cards via PayPal.
The argument by some is that it’s not obvious during checkout that credit cards can be accepted by non PayPal users. For that reason, many people use Authorize.net or other popular provider as a backup method for taking credit card payments.
We’ll talk about Authorize.net (or simply Auth.net) next, and then discuss a few other payment gateways that sometimes come bundled with shopping cart plugins for WordPress.
Authorize.Net is the most common choice of credit card payment gateway. This gateway mimics the routing transactions like the traditional credit card swipe machine used in the physical retail world, except it uses the Internet instead of a traditional phone line. Authorize.net is a browser-based payment gateway that requires no software to be downloaded or maintained. This makes it much easier to manage this often time consuming and complex aspect of business. This service is not only available to process transactions 24/7 but it also provides other services to its customers to help manage their business and provide protection from fraud.
Once an account is established, merchants can log into the “Merchant Interface.” Here they can manage transactions, customize settings, view statements, and generate reports as well as many other actions to help keep their business organized.
One confusing point of Authorize.Net is their fee guide. Their typical fees; including set-up, monthly, and optional “value-adding products” are all determined by the site’s re-sellers. They do provide “suggested retail prices” on their web site.
Authorize.Net offers a variety of solutions that can be personalized to your unique needs. These include both online and retail merchant solutions, as well as mail-order, phone and mobile merchant solutions. Generally, whatever your gateway services you are looking for, Authorize.Net can provide a browser-based solution fine-tuned for your specific requirements. An “Authorize.Net Merchant Seal” is available free of charge that can be added to your merchant web site to help guide customers to this payment gateway option.
Next we’ll explore the “decentralized peer-to-peer payment network that is powered by its users with no central authority or middlemen” known as Bitcoin.
Bitcoin is a newer and innovative, although complex, choice to use as a payment gateway for WordPress. It’s not extremely common but some trends suggest that that may change. Some of the unique components of Bitcoin include; instant peer-to-peer transactions and zero or very low processing fees. Bitcoin is an open-source network that has a public design. This means that Bitcoin is not owned my one individual and requires no central authority or bank to operate. These properties means that Bitcoin can offer different uses other payment gateways are unable to provide.
Bitcoins are virtual coins that you send through the Internet directly to a peer, therefore, cutting out the middle man of a bank or clearinghouse. This is how the fees at Bitcoin can remain so low.
Bitcoins are generated by computers running a free application called “The Bitcoin Miner.” As your computer creates these bitcoins they are stored in your individual wallet. When you transfer these coins, an electronic signature is attached, and after a few minutes a miner verifies the transaction and it is permanently stored in the public network. Bitcoins can also be traded for different currencies.
This system is a great way for a small business to get noticed. It does not cost anything to start accepting them; there are no “charge backs” and little to no fees. Another huge advantage is that you will get more business from the growing Bitcoin economy.
The advantages of using Bitcoin are numerous. International payments can be as fast as 10 minutes since there is no “middle-man” banks to make you wait three business days. Also there is no PCI compliance required because Bitcoin security is built in such a way that this approach to accepting credit card payments is no longer necessary. Much like a bank’s “multi-signature” cheque, Bitcoin allows coins to only be spent if a specific group of people sign the transaction. This expands the merchant’s ability of taking payment from more potential buyers. One other benefit is that the merchant receives free visibility by accepting these coins from a constantly growing number of new customers who are searching for ways to spend this currency.
This choice of payment gateway is very safe due to very strict cryptographic rules. Among Bitcoin’s security features, the fact that these coins are impossible to counterfeit or spoof and that this protocol is resistant against a long list of potential attacks leave the merchant feeling safe and secure. These features may very well out-weigh the complexity of understanding the inner workings of this gateway.
2Checkout is a payment gateway option for merchants looking to expand into the International markets. Customers are given the option of selecting from any of 15 languages and 26 currencies through the checkout process. You also have the ability to create customizable interfaces. 2Checkout features a PCI Level 1 compliance which is the highest level in the industry. You can feel confident that you are protecting yourself and your customers from online threats when using this gateway.
Unlike Bitcoin, 2Checkout publishes flat-rate fees. This makes it easy to predict costs and budget accordingly. These fees also include ALL of the services offered through this gateway. These additional services include; fraud prevention, recurring billing, custom checkout features and a very flexible integration.
2Checkout offers 8 payment methods including major credit cards, pin debit cards, and even PayPal.
The biggest benefit I feel with adding the 2Checkout payment gateway is that it allows you to expand into the International market without additional fees, when you are ready.
Although not mentioned, I think having the ability for Manual Checkout as an additional payment option in many cases is also very important. This allows payments with bank transfers, checks, money orders, or sometimes local payments. For some stores this is key to have, for others though it would be irrelevant.
At any rate, as you can see, there are plenty of things to consider in terms of payment gateways for your online store. What it boils down to is the feature set you need, the fees you are willing to live with, what’s involved in gaining access to the money, and a lot of times, the geographic location of your expected customer base. I hope that this quick guide gave you a launching point for some gateways to consider.
Best of luck with your online WordPress store.