In fact, recent commerce data shows online buying is now the most popular method of consumer shopping worldwide.
This is great news for online merchants, as well as retailers not yet selling on the internet and aspiring ecommerce business owners.
There’s never been a better time to launch an ecommerce website to capitalize on this positive trend.
The hardest part is knowing where to begin and who to hire to help you build, host, and support your ecommerce business.
There are many steps involved in setting up an online business and connecting with the right partners can make all the difference in your long-term success.
This is especially true when choosing the internet merchant services provider that is best equipped to help your business set up and maintain its online merchant services account.
This will be one of the most critical decisions you make when launching or updating your ecommerce site, because it is the only way your business can accept online customer credit and debit card payments.
For this reason, it’s important to do your homework to understand the key differences between online merchant accounts and the internet merchant services providers that offer them.
Many of these differences are not easily identifiable through a simple online search or broad-level comparison.
It’s best to take time to learn how online merchant accounts work, what characteristics are best for your type of ecommerce business, and which internet merchant services provider has the best solutions and pricing structure to help your online store thrive now and into the future.
In fact, it is a general lack of understanding about how online merchant services accounts work that has misled many online merchants into internet merchant services partnerships with undesirable rates, prohibitive terms, and greater fraud risks.
What is an Internet Merchant Account and Why Do I Need One?
To sell goods and services online, you need the ability to accept customer debit and credit card payments electronically.
Payment gateway technology powers the shopping cart and online merchant services account, and it acts like the ringmaster for the transaction, assuring it can happen quickly, securely, and reliably.
The payment gateway has many functions, but in part, it authenticates the cardholder’s identity and protects the sensitive information stored on the card through encryption. As a result, the transaction is processed safely and efficiently.
The gateway also stores certain information about the transaction in a database that tracks activity for merchant accounting.
Some gateways offer technology that converts card information into a non-trackable key that is stored in a secured vault for purchases made later by the same customer.
The payment gateway works in parallel with your online merchant services account, and many merchant services providers offer both.
The account functions much like a traditional point-of-sale merchant account, where the merchant services provider stores the funds for a short time. The issuing bank and acquiring bank communicate, remove fees, and settle the transaction.
Online merchant services providers have expertise in supporting different online business types, along with knowledge of payment gateway technology and online shopping cart integrations. This helps them structure your online merchant services account and rate schedule as optimally as possible.
Many online merchant services account vendors also offer pre-integrated solutions that are linked to popular shopping cart modules. This helps expedite the integration and set-up process.
Together, the payment gateway and online merchant services account are what will enable your ecommerce store to transact business securely and efficiently 24/7/365 by using this automation to move transactions through each step of the process.
In addition, your merchant services provider will give you tools to access and monitor activity flowing through your payment gateway to keep your financial records current.
How Do I Set Up My Online Merchant Services Account?
Once you choose an internet merchant services provider, they will set up your online merchant services account.
Like other types of financial-based business services, an online merchant services account requires an application that profiles your business, its sales activity, and the owner.
The internet merchant services account will only be approved once this information is verified.
Getting approval for an online merchant services account can be as easy as filling out an online application through a third-party processor (or payment aggregator), marketplace, or all-in-one service provider.
These approvals may happen instantly, but potential challenges down the road happen if the business or transaction activity appears suspicious. Some merchants have had their accounts frozen until issues are resolved. This is frustrating for the merchant because they lose business.
It’s important to consider whether the convenience of working with a turnkey internet merchant services provider is really right for your type of online business.
Alternatively, a full-service internet merchant services account partner will take your application through a short underwriting process to review the information you’ve supplied about your business, ownership, products, and expected transactions.
If you’ve ever applied for a mortgage or insurance policy, it is a similar process, and it provides assurance that the business, website, and expected transaction activity has already been pre-verified.
Full-service internet merchant services providers also specialize in working one-on-one with each ecommerce client and most of them provide live troubleshooting and merchant services account support.
This is another important distinction between doing business with an aggregator or marketplace versus a full-service online merchant services provider.
Although the added review and underwriting process can take slightly longer, the wait and benefits are often well worth it; especially if you expect your business will process $30,000 or more in sales every month.
When you apply for a full-service internet merchant services account, the underwriting process also qualifies your business to receive a different type of pricing model than aggregators, all-in-one providers, or marketplace services offer.
In fact, these aggregators pool all online merchants into a group that all pay a single price for every transaction, regardless of whether it qualifies for a lower rate.
This extra cost can add up quickly, and moving an ecommerce site later can be a major headache, so it’s worth doing the extra legwork upfront to research online merchant services providers.
This could save your online business thousands of dollars and precious hours of time in the future.
Once your online merchant services account is approved, your provider will connect your ecommerce site’s shopping cart with the payment gateway and your account.
After you’ve tested and approved the account, they will take it live.
Which Internet Merchant Account Should I Choose?
The most important step in choosing and setting up your merchant account is understanding the characteristics and special needs of your business, especially as it relates to processing payments.
If you’re only selling a few products and don’t want to drive search traffic to a stand-alone site, contracting with an all-in-one marketplace may be a logical first step.
However, if you have many products to showcase, expect high demand for your product(s), or want the assurance of a live customer service team, it’s best to look for a full-service internet merchant services provider that will invest in your business’ future as your partner.
As discussed earlier, one of the first considerations is projecting your volume of business.
This single variable could – and probably should – be your top consideration when searching for the right online merchant services provider. However, there are other important considerations:
Business, Product, and Transaction Type:
The industry has labeled certain business types specialty accounts because they are statistically more prone to experiencing online fraud.
Underwriters use the term high-risk accounts.
The list includes certain business and product categories, as well as unusual price points, selling frequencies, and purchasing volumes.
If you know your business falls into one of these categories, or even if you are unsure, it pays to talk to a full-service internet merchant services provider that is experienced with underwriting and supporting specialty online merchant services accounts.
They can help you assess your level of risk and offer the most competitive transaction rates and security features, along with offering expert-level support.
It’s surprising how hard it is to determine what types of security are in place behind online merchant services accounts; especially those offered by payment aggregators and built-in payment solution providers.
Having robust security behind your ecommerce site and online merchant services account is paramount, so it’s critical to take extra time to ask about security measures before signing up.
It’s also wise to ask about their history of online account breaches, what the cause was, and the steps taken.
If your business model is prone to fraud, you will want to work with a specialty internet merchant services provider with focused security measures in place that will protect your site and your customers with extra safeguards against any type of cyberattack.
Multi-Channel and Cross-Border Selling:
If you are selling both online and over the counter, or plan to in the future, you will want to consider partnering with an internet merchant services account provider that is also versed in other types of credit and debit card processing accounts.
This is called omnichannel (or multi-channel) commerce, and there are multiple reasons to consolidate, including getting competitive rates for both your online merchant services account and your in-store, at-the-table, or remote transactions.
Each business channel may require a separate merchant services account, so ideally, you want a partner that can support all your transaction activities concisely and efficiently. One of the biggest headaches for omnichannel retailers is managing multiple merchant accounts with multiple providers.
Similarly, if you plan to accept payment from customers outside the United States, you will want to find an internet merchant services provider with knowledge and expertise about processing transactions in other countries.
Tracking, Reporting, and Support:
This is another area you’ll want to review with every prospective online merchant services account provider.
Since merchant services’ account statements are all different, they can be exceptionally confusing for the merchant to understand if they aren’t already familiar with them.
Before deciding to sign up for an online merchant services account, ask for a sample statement and a personal walk-through.
You’ll also want to learn what information your payment gateway will track and how to download and/or upload it to your accounting software.
Finally, be sure to evaluate the customer support model and how it aligns with your business needs. Nothing can be more frustrating than trying to locate a real person when there’s a problem with your account.
How to Set Up Your Merchant Account
If you are interested in learning more about how to set up your online merchant account or you’re ready to apply for an internet merchant account, our representatives at Easy Pay Direct are here to help.
We’re also well versed in supporting specialty businesses, offer multiple omnichannel options, and already directly integrate to Quickbooks. Call us at 800.805.4949 or reach out online.