Despite the ongoing global slowdown at the end of 2019, eCommerce is still continuing to grow at double-digit rates. Therefore, if you were still unconvinced about the online domain as a base for your business, then these latest numbers confirm why you should be active online in 2020 and beyond.
Indeed, one of the most alluring aspects of eCommerce is its relatively low barrier of entry for new entrepreneurs. Across the globe, individuals with no prior business experience are experiencing success with this sector through creative marketing techniques and the shrewd application of business intelligence.
However, the future of any business enterprise – offline or online – hinges on positive cash flow, and in the case of online retail, that means quick and efficient digital payments from your clients.
What Are the Best Online Payment Platforms?
Thankfully, there are plenty of choices available when it comes to digital payment platforms.
To point you in the right direction, we've compiled a quick guide to some of the most prominent, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises. Here are three of the best solutions currently available:
When it comes to online merchant services, PayPal is, unsurprisingly, one of the top dogs. With a 20-year history and a presence in over 190 countries, the company runs over 280 million accounts across the globe.
For SMEs engaged in online retail and other forms of eCommerce, PayPal offers a reliable payment service that is trusted by customers across the globe, allowing users the flexibility of aligning their account with any major credit card or debit card.
The Pros of PayPal
If you want a reliable and trusted online payment service for your company, then PayPal is a market leader. It boasts the most advanced security and fraud prevention systems in the industry, while the strength of the brand itself enhances credibility and trust among customers.
The costs involved are also reasonable, with transaction and commission fees usually amounting to around 3% of your received payments. There are no monthly fees for a basic account, either, which makes it even more appealing if you want to test the waters first.
Special features available for merchants include fraud prevention, as well as a protection programme for sellers against chargebacks - a hugely important and potentially costly issue for many small business owners.
PayPal is also simple to embed into your existing website, integrating with most established platforms (such as WordPress), or through simple HMTL code on custom-built platforms.
The Cons of PayPal
On the flip side, not all PayPal transactions are covered by the seller protection programme. In such instances where a payment method is not included, you will likely be levied a stiff fee (often around $20) regardless of the outcome of the dispute.
If your business involves digital goods, like software, eBooks, or music, for example, then it is crucial to take this into account, as the seller protection programme does not protect these.
Geography is also worth considering. Despite its global presence, PayPal has better value offerings for SMEs in the North American market, while if you want to utilise more advanced business features, then PayPal's premium service will require you to pay monthly fees.
Intuit QuickBooks Payments
Although perhaps better known as an accounting app, QuickBooks – developed by Intuit – also offers a robust online payments service that can be integrated into the company's pre-existing software ecosystem.
These online accounting services are available in over 120 countries across the world and work particularly well for smaller businesses. Since QuickBooks is aimed primarily at SMEs, everything is geared towards supporting smaller and mid-sized operations.
The Pros of QuickBooks Payments
If you want a complete payments and financials management system all rolled into one, then QuickBooks is an excellent choice. As mentioned, it is designed to align with the wider QuickBooks ecosystem, streamlining all of your accounting, tax, and compliance solutions into one convenient package.
There are flexible plans available for small enterprises (pay as you go), as well as medium-sized businesses (monthly fees); depending on your volume of transactions, each offers decent value for money.
QuickBooks also offers mobile payments and POS terminals. If you have both offline and online sales, then these features could be highly valuable.
The Cons of QuickBooks Payments
Though it does have flexible fee structures, QuickBooks may not be the best option for those smaller businesses that simply need a provider for credit card payments.
Also, to obtain the most value out of the software, you will need to invest in the entire QuickBooks ecosystem. If you use other popular SME accounting suites, then your overall financial management system will be fragmented.
Founded in 2010, Stripe is currently one of the fastest growing online payment solutions for businesses. Although only available in 34 countries at the time of writing, this number is continually increasing, and the company is keen to expand into more markets.
As an API suite, Stripe offers an extremely flexible system of online payments that you can modify according to the needs of your business platform. Designed exclusively for online transactions and eCommerce ventures, you can use it to accept payments from credit cards, wallets, and many major international currencies.
The Pros of Stripe
The simplicity and flexibility offered by the Stripe suite is almost unparalleled in the online payments space. If you – or members of your team – have a programming background, then you can customise and tweak Stripe for maximum integration with your business.
Stripe fees are also in line with the payment industry standards and have the advantage of a flat rate with no surprises. You can also cancel at any time with zero fees, which is convenient for small businesses that are planning to scale quickly.
Though it does not currently have the global market presence of established behemoths such as PayPal, Stripe has ensured that you can still receive payments from anywhere in the world, and is compatible with many currencies and payment methods.
The Cons of Stripe
As mentioned, Stripe is currently only available for businesses in 34 countries. If your country is not on that list, you will incur extra costs through the Stripe Atlas service, which allows you to create a US presence for your business. However, as the company grows, your jurisdiction may become eligible, meaning it's worth keeping an eye on developments.
Though it is relatively easy to customise, you also need someone with proven programming capabilities in order to get the most out of Stripe. Whether hiring someone permanently or on a freelance basis to do this, you are increasing your cost of entry, and this may not be sustainable in the long term.
Other Payment Solutions
The three payment solutions mentioned above are geared towards different types of entrepreneurs and business models, but are an excellent example of the wider diversity in the current online merchant services market.
There are hundreds of other equally viable and capable options available to you in 2020; Dwolla, for instance, is a cheap and business-friendly service available only in the US, while Venmo – a PayPal subsidiary – specialises in social media payments. Alternatively, Square is similar to Stripe but has limited availability outside the US (currently only in the UK, Australia, Canada, and Japan), while Braintree – another PayPal subsidiary – is more focused on established SMEs.
Of course, there are plenty of other options out there, and you should always conduct thorough research into any third-party tool that your business will rely on. However, these providers are an excellent place to start. Your ultimate choice will depend on your location in the world, the location of your clients, and what best fits into your operating model day in day out.
What other online payment solutions would you recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!