Choosing a payment gateway for your ecommerce website

Ollie's Photo by Ollie Jackson


If you're in the process of starting an online store or are looking to upgrade your existing offering, you'll likely be wondering about how best to take payments via your website.

A payment gateway is responsible for securely validating your customer’s card details at the checkout stage before passing the funds on to your business. It is a key component in any online checkout and so it’s vital that the process is frictionless and doesn’t give your customers any cause for concern regarding the security of their sensitive information.

Knowing which payment gateway to choose can be a tricky process and is dependent on you and your business. There are several questions to consider:

  1. Is the gateway supported in your country?
  2. What are the gateway transaction fees?
  3. Does the gateway require customers to be taken offsite?
  4. Does the gateway provide a good user experience?
  5. Does the gateway provide international support and what cards do they accept?
  6. Does the gateway require you to have a merchant account?

That's quite a list!

This post is designed to help you make sense of all of those questions so you can be confident that the payment gateway you choose is appropriate for your business and customers.

At Club, we work exclusively with Craft CMS. Its makers Pixel and Tonic are also responsible for Craft Commerce - a flexible, extensible commerce solution that allows us to create bespoke online stores for our clients.

At the time of writing Pixel and Tonic provide official support for several payment gateways including Stripe, PayPal, SagePay, Worldpay and Mollie. This makes integrating a payment gateway with Craft Commerce much more straightforward.

When we are asked our opinion on payment gateways we often recommend Stripe, not just because of its ease of use and low processing fees, but because its well documented and is great to work with from a developer standpoint - meaning we can tailor it to better meet your needs and style it to suit your brand.

Gateway Logos
Craft Commerce provides officially supported plugins for a number of payment gateways

1. Is the gateway supported in your country?

Here’s an early way to narrow down your gateway options. You need to know whether the payment gateway is supported in the country that you will be trading from. (The location of your customers isn’t a factor at this point.)

For example, Stripe is currently supported in 32 countries (and counting), including; the the UK, US, Australia and Singapore. PayPal is currently in supported in 200 countries worldwide.

2. What are the gateway transaction fees?

Fees are applied by the gateway to cover the costs of receiving and processing the transaction. The use of some payment gateways also incur monthly fees.

To give you an idea of what you might expect to pay, here are the current transactions fees for Stripe and PayPal (accurate as of April 2019):

  • Stripe transaction fees are currently 2.9% + 20p for non-European cards (1.4% for European cards) based sales of up to £20,000.
  • PayPal currently charges 3.4% + 20p based on sales of £1500 or less.

3. Does the gateway require customers to be taken offsite?

A payment gateway is known as ‘offsite’ if it requires the customer to be directed away from your online store to confirm their payment information. Conversely, an ‘onsite’ payment gateway keeps your customer on your website and allows them to enter their payment card details directly within the checkout.

Onsite or offsite?

22% of customers blame a failure to complete a purchase because of a long and slow checkout process.

Offsite payment gateways can contribute to this by increasing the time it takes for a customer to complete their purchase. They are taken elsewhere to pay, and then redirected back, which often adds a jarring step to the checkout flow.

Opting for an offsite payment gateway can also reduce confidence if the customer isn’t understanding of why they are being directed away from your website.

The benefits of offsite gateways however, is that they are often easier to setup and they offload most (if not all) of the security requirements to the gateway provider because the transaction happens in isolation from your website.

An example of an offsite payment gateway would be PayPal.
An example of an onsite payment gateway would be Stripe.

Here at Club, we favour onsite payment gateways.

An onsite payment gateway keeps the customer within the familiar surroundings of your website and often makes the checkout process much more efficient.

For example, the combination of Craft Commerce using Stripe as the gateway makes for a streamlined experience and the design of the checkout isn’t inhibited in any way so we're able to make sure the experience of paying for goods is a breeze.

4. Does the gateway provide a good user experience?

Being confused at checkout and having concerns about payment security are two of the top-ranking reasons associated with ‘cart abandonment’ - a term used when describing a customer who does not complete their purchase despite adding something to their shopping bag.

The payment gateway you select will contribute to how well your online store is converting. And again, this is where the choice of an onsite or offsite payment gateway impacts the kind of user experience you can deliver for your customers.

Offsite payment gateways can work for and against you in this instance. Redirecting a customer when asking for their sensitive payment information can be confusing and risks causing alarm.

It’s important to always keep the customer informed if they are going to be redirected. Nothing should be a surprise and everything should be properly explained.

An instantly recognisable ‘Pay with PayPal’ button will go some way to putting the customer at ease.

PayPal is a useful example in this instance as they have the advantage of being the most recognised payment gateway, and so customers are more likely to accept being redirected if they know that is PayPal who will be responsible for processing their payment.

If you are using an offsite payment gateway that isn’t PayPal you might need to work harder to earn the trust of your customers. This could include customising the gateway to match the look and feel of your own website to reassure the customer that they're still in good hands.

An onsite gateway gives you the most control over the user experience. And here at Club, it allows us the freedom and control to work our magic to design a checkout flow that is frictionless from start to finish.

Choosing an onsite gateway allows you to integrate the payment form directly into your checkout, which results in a less jarring experience for your customer.

Regardless of whether you use an onsite or offsite payment gateway, it is good practice to use badges and text to communicate that your checkout is secure - customers want to be sure that their payment information is safe.

5. Does the gateway provide international support and what cards do they accept?

If you are planning to fulfil international orders, you need to be clear on whether your chosen payment gateway can process international payments. If they do, what currencies they can support and which cards they accept?

Currencies

Many customers feel more confident buying from your store if you allow them to purchase items in the same currency as their credit card or bank account. Craft Commerce supports multi-currency, so you can define a primary currency and then add additional currencies that your customers can switch to and pay with.

Providing your payment gateway supports your currency, you can integrate it with Craft Commerce. At present, Stripe currently supports 135 currencies from around the world whilst Paypal currently accepts 25 currencies.

Card types

It’s useful to know the preferred payment method of your target audience - you don’t want to pick a gateway provider only to find that they don’t support the preferred payment method of your customers.

Beyond Visa, Mastercard and American Express, it’s worth identifying if there are any other card types you need to support.

6. Does the gateway require you to have a separate merchant account?

Before you are able to accept payments online, you need to establish a merchant account.

When a customer pays for something with a credit card the funds are first deposited into the merchant account for authorisation before being transferred to your bank account. You can’t access your merchant account directly.

Choosing a payment gateway that requires a separate merchant account can be time-consuming. Luckily, some payment gateways (including Stripe and PayPal) provide a complete solution to this - think of them as your merchant account.

In summary...

Processing payments online is no longer as cumbersome as it once was.

Forward-thinking companies like Stripe have done a lot to drive change by designing frictionless solutions that are straightforward to implement.

We firmly believe that an online store powered by Craft Commerce with payments processed by Stripe is a winning combination. It provides the right mix of security and flexibility to make sure that your online store is a great experience for both you and your customers.


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