How to choose a Payment Gateway for your OpenCart store

It has never been easier for a business to set up a website with an online store.
In fact, if your business sells products without using a website today, you’re missing out on a potentially huge national and international audience. The total number of global ecommerce transactions is predicted to hit 34.8billion in 2014 and this is growing at 18% year on year*. So how do you start accepting debit and credit card payments online?  Here you will find some top tips to help you choose the right payment gateway for your business.  
  • Understand the difference between a ‘payment gateway’ and a ‘merchant acquiring account’
A ‘payment gateway’ is the engine that authorises or declines credit and debit cards as well as online payment alternatives such as PayPal accounts. This is often confused with a similar term, ‘merchant account’ or ‘acquiring account’.  A merchant account is where funds are held before being deposited into your bank account, the payment gateway’s role is simply to decline or approve a transaction.  When considering your payment provider, it is often best to select a partner that offers both a merchant acquiring account and payment gateway under the same roof.
  • Hosted vs non-hosted payment gateways
It is important to do your homework on each of the payment gateway providers in the market. There are different solutions available in the market.  Most commonly seen are ‘hosted’ and ‘non-hosted’ solutions.  
A hosted payment gateway will redirect a customer off your checkout page to a securely ‘hosted’ payment page that has a different URL and slightly different web design template.  Once payment has been made, the customer will be returned to your website and the order confirmed.  A ‘hosted’ payment gateway is more suitable for small to medium sized businesses that require a quick and cost-effective way to securely accept card payments online.  Using a hosted payment gateway also means you eliminate your exposure to sensitive card data helping you meet the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (all merchants must achieve this if they process card payments).
If you do not want a customer to be directed off your transactional website, you should search for a ‘non-hosted’ payment gateway.  This allows your customers to enter credit card information directly on your website. This is commonly used by larger corporate businesses or early adopters who have been trading online over a number of years. It’s not uncommon for new businesses to trial a hosted payment gateway to understand the scale of its online business before moving on to a non-hosted solution if proven a successful sales channel. 
  • Review shopping cart integrations
As well as a payment gateway, you will also need to select a shopping cart for your online store.  A shopping cart such as OpenCart enables visitors to a website to select items for purchase.  Upon checkout, the software typically calculates a total for the order, including shipping and handling (i.e., postage and packing) charges and the associated taxes, as applicable.  If you have a preferred payment gateway partner, take time to ensure it has a direct integration with the shopping cart so no further coding is required!
  • Select a payment gateway partner with a flexible fees structure
Before committing to any eCommerce payment gateway provider, make sure you are aware of the fees structure.  Some offer a fee per transaction and others offer a fixed number of transactions per month for a flat monthly fee. Ensure you are aware of the fee structure and ensure it meets your business needs now and in the future. 
  • Choose a proven eCommerce payment gateway provider
There are many payment gateway partners in the UK and globally.  Take the time to ensure you have a reliable and proven gateway partner that can meet your business needs now and in the future. Also, think about your global footprint. Ecommerce is a 24/7 retail experience and customers can visit your website from most countries around the world so ensure your provider has the global experience necessary to help you and your business succeed.  Features such as multi-currency processing, dynamic pricing and dynamic currency conversion provide a more local shopping experience for your foreign customers visiting your online store. 
  • Security, Security and Security
A key decision when selecting any payment gateway partner is security of card payment data.  Make sure you only use a provider that is level 1 compliant with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).  This confirms they have achieved the highest level in card data protection.  As well as the security of the physical card data, question your provider on how they can help you achieve PCI DSS. Do they offer tokenisation?  This enables you to replace sensitive card data on your internal business systems with a unique ID.  Ask about fraud prevent tools.  Ensure they have the advanced solutions to protect your card payments and minimise fraudulent transactions.
  • Do they offer support when you need it most?
As mentioned above, online shopping is a 24/7 experience.  Your provider should offer you support when you need it.  Does the payment gateway provider offer telephone support?  It is increasingly common for gateway providers to only offer email support.  Is the level of support you receive dependent on the fees/number of transaction you process?  Is the customer support team UK based within the payment provider’s office?  Ask these questions to ensure you have the appropriate level of customer support for your needs.
  • Mobile is growing…
In today’s digital world, customers shop online using a variety of devices including laptops, tablets and mobile phones.  Ensure your payment gateway partner offers a solution that enables your customers to have the best possible user experience, giving them every reason to come back in the future, no matter what device they checkout on. 
First Data Merchant Solutions are here to help you make the right decision for you and your business.  If you would like more professional advice, please get in touch.
*source: Capgemini – World Payments Report 2013
This guest blog post was provided by First Data Merchant Solutions. 
Please note that whilst OpenCart recommends First Data Merchant Solutions, all views and opinions in this blog post belong to First Data Merchant Solutions, and are not those of OpenCart. OpenCart is not responsible for any opinions or claims made in this blog post.