Online customers want faster, more convenient and completely secure transactions. A globalized economy demands payment systems that cross borders and supports diverse payment types. And fraud losses continue to be a growing issue for most merchants. With a constantly changing eComm landscape, many mid to enterprise-level organizations are finding it difficult to select the right eComm platform for their business. The key to the selection process is focusing on solutions that are flexible, secure and designed for growth. By doing so, merchants can be confident their eComm platform will meet their organization’s needs, today and in the future.

Buy or Build

The decision to build an in-house platform or select a hosted payment solution must balance the need for customization, security and cost. Companies that develop in-house systems often cite the need for complete customization and security. The in-house development process, however, comes with significant upfront development costs and longer implementation times. In-house developers must also be prepared for ongoing security and compliance responsibilities, which can be time consuming and costly.

For companies not willing to invest in a customized solution, hosted payment platforms have been proving that they can meet the need for fast, accurate and secure customer transactions. The primary advantages that hosted solutions offer include speed of implementation and significantly lower upfront costs. Hosted solutions also leverage the financial and payment expertise of the payment provider, which can free up in-house IT resources for more strategic activities. There can be a downside, however, if you select a hosted platform that is not fully PCI compliant or does not provide the flexibility needed to maximize buyer conversion and accommodate future growth.

Secure and Compliant

Whether you build or buy, security and PCI compliance should be your most important selection criteria. More than 67% of online merchants were affected by fraud in 2010. Evolving online fraud has led to a staggering (and costly) regulatory burden for merchants as governments attempt to protect buyers.
For companies evaluating new eCommerce platforms, immediately eliminate any platform that is not fully secure and PCI compliant. With fraudulent transactions costing millions annually in lost revenue and fees, merchants cannot take the chance on a platform that does not fully protect company and customer data. Carefully evaluate each solution to be sure it addresses identification, access control, data encryption and authentication and non-repudiation issues. Beyond PCI compliance, look for a platform that also allows for real-time fraud screening and fraud countermeasures. Leading eComm platforms now provide real-time, dynamic fraud detection and risk mitigation tools that allow each business to adjust its fraud settings based on its unique market situations. By taking advantage of real-time fraud tools, merchants can shape a risk detection strategy that specifically fits their business, product and customer demographics, while also allowing for maximum market penetration.

Customization is Essential

ECommerce platforms vary greatly in terms of flexibility and customization. Online payment technologies have advanced sufficiently so that merchants can now expect a high degree of flexibility and customization for a reasonable cost. Only consider platforms that allow you to integrate the payment processes seamlessly with the rest of your site. Also evaluate each platform’s ability to modify different payment pages for different uses (e.g. by country, product, currency, etc.). Do not choose any platform that locks you into the provider’s payment processes; instead, select a platform that allows you to modify the process, depending on the needs of your own shoppers. Finally, consider whether you can make dynamic changes in real time and how easy it will be to modify the platform; solutions that require significant development support from the vendor can lead to additional costs and slower response times.

Analytics, Cash Management and Reporting

Your eCommerce platform contains priceless information about your customers and their buying behaviors. Make it a priority to only consider platforms that allow real-time analysis of buyers and traffic flows. A platform that provides complete insight into each customer’s actions and buying behaviors as they maneuver around the site will support your ability to grow and enter new markets. Real-time analytics will also increase your ability to maximize conversion rates. For example, companies that can identify exactly where they are experiencing a large drop off in conversion will be able to make changes to increase conversion rates. Robust analytic capabilities also enable future growth; by evaluating where traffic is trending geographically, merchants can more easily offer country-specific payment methods or expand into new regions.

Real time analytics also give merchants the ability to better manage cash flows and minimize fees. Reporting should be sufficiently detailed so that you can obtain a snapshot of your business (e.g. a daily list of payment methods, disputes, buyer locations, etc.). By monitoring chargebacks and retrievals, merchants can anticipate and manage disputes as well as control their charge back fees. Avoid solutions that create data silos that are separate from the rest of your company data: these silos will only create additional work and costs in the future.

Scalable and Designed for Growth

eComm revenues are projected to grow more than 15% each year through 2014. In addition to revenue growth, the electronic distribution channels are continuing to diversify. The mainstream adoption of mobile devices and the rapid advancement of location-based payment processing will force merchants to support diverse markets and a variety of payment alternatives.

Merchants that are able to successfully adapt to market trends will select eComm platforms that are agile, flexible and designed for growth. This means that the solution you choose must allow for seamless expansion into new markets, geographies and channels. Focus on features that impact the bottom line (i.e. improves conversion rates). In order to maximize conversion, the platform should provide the ability for inline (full window) integration into the site checkout, one-click checkout options and automatic data population. The ability to offer multilingual payment pages, geographic payment options and multiple websites and stores are also important for growth.

eCommerce has become mission-critical for many companies and the payment processing platform is an essential tool to provide customers with a unified shopping experience and ultimately enable growth. Multi-channel flexibility, real time monitoring, full site customization and robust testing capabilities are essential. Merchants that choose a platform that helps facilitate growth easily, without a lot of upfront investment, will be able to reach markets that they were never able to reach before. 

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