By RuthAnn Hogue
You know you need a website, but you’re not sure whether you want to take the next step to make it capable of accepting payments online. After all, potential customers can fill out your contact form. Then you can call them back or send an email with a link or any other number of options other than closing the sale by collecting immediately.
Such an arrangement would never fly in a brick-and-mortar store. Intuitively, you know this is not the best option in the virtual world. In an era of instant gratification, businesses need to be able to serve up what’s on the menu before customers leave your store.
True enough, but doesn’t one need a merchant account to take online payments?
The all-in-one option
Let’s say you sell tech-related gadgets such as cell phones, chargers and accessories. They come in various brands, models, colors and sizes. Posting an information-only catalogue detailing what’s trendy and for sale can certainly pique consumer interest, but it can’t provide immediate results. For that, you’ll need to add a payment gateway.
Fortunately, many ready-made online store options are available, including GoDaddy’s Online Store. In addition to providing an online space to promote your gadgets, it will allow you to immediately close the sale by collecting online payment with PayPal and all major credits cards. By using this type of all-in-one eCommerce solution, you get a seamless way to collect payment. The funds you collect are transferred directly into your designated bank account.
If you’re not inclined to be hands-on in the process — or you simply don’t have time to put together a web store — look for a reputable company to help. Many professionally designed eCommerce solutions offer a built-in payment process. You’ll still need to serve up information so your developer can produce a customized product. Then, in short order, you’ll have an automated way to collect money — so you can get paid.
The face-to-face option
Of course, not all sales take place in the virtual world. Whether you set up shop at weekend festivals or sell your tech gadgets, cell phones and accessories at a brick-and-mortar store, you need a dependable way to accept a variety of payment types. This calls for a point-of-sale (POS) solution.
A variety of mobile credit card readers and apps such as Square and PayPal are available. In addition, powerful online bookkeeping tools with mobile payment capabilities are available, creating a variety of POS options.
Here’s what to look for in a good point-of-sale solution:
– Affordability. Consider costs including monthly fees and swipe rates.
– Ease of use.
– eCommerce integration
– 24/7 customer support
Time-saving features to manage inventory and industry-specific functionality, such as automatically calculating tips, can be life-savers for busy entrepreneurs. It’s worth a bit of extra effort up front to choose a solution that’s the right fit for you and your business.
The CMS option
If neither of the above options suits your needs, don’t fret. Content Management Systems, commonly referred to as CMS, offer a wide variety of options. WordPress is the most popular CMS, although it does require some technical skill. To get started, you’ll need reliable web hosting where you can download a free copy of WordPress. You also can purchase a managed WordPress solution that features bundled hosting, quick setup and many of the backend chores (like core security updates) handled for you.
Next, you’ll need to choose a WordPress theme with a compatible eCommerce plugin like WooCommerce, a popular shopping cart well-suited for small businesses.
Like WordPress, WooCommerce offers free downloads. It allows small business owners to integrate for payment with eCommerce giants Amazon Payments, Stripe, Authorize.net, PayPal, PayFast and First Data.
Some WooCommerce themes are free. Others feature upgrades and are only available when purchased. Make a list of must-haves to help you narrow down which option will work best for you.
Now, back to the business of getting paid.
In these types of cases, you’ll need to line up a merchant account or payment gateway. Without one, your WordPress website will not function as a store. The gateway connects your inventory or service menu in your website to financial institutions who can accept credit card payments on your behalf. From there, the funds are transferred to your business bank account. Most charge a percentage fee or service charges, so be sure to read the fine print.
The takeaway here is that before you can get paid, you’ll need to collect. And with a store built using a content management system, a merchant account is often just the ticket.
Ready to get started? Here are step-by-step instructions for getting started with WooCommerce.
Finally, you’ll want to secure your store with an SSL certificate to make sure your payments are accepted safely.
Before long, you just might be need to upgrade to keep up with booming sales. We have a feeling you won’t mind.
Bio: Based in Arizona, RuthAnn Hogue is the owner and founder of Whiptail Publisher’s Syndicate, a published nonfiction author and a contributor to the GoDaddy blog. The recovering journalist occasionally breaks out her 1979 Gibson Les Paul Custom Deluxe Silverburst rock ‘n’ roll guitar when she wants to let loose. A devoted fur mother, RuthAnn makes time to spoil all four of her Jack Russell terriers when she is not tweeting from @MyWhiptail or posting on Facebook @whiptailpublishing.