Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2011 and has been updated for accurateness and completeness.
Thinking about setting up an online payment form for your business? To accomplish this task you might be considering third-party solutions or developing your in-house solution. Each option has its own set of pros, cons and costs that you’ll want to consider as you determine the right solution for your business.
Third-Party Online Payment Form Software Advantages
Using a third party software provider for your online payment forms offer the following advantages:
- Simplicity – No major software development is required to implement online payment forms from an all-in-one solution into your business.
- Security – By hosting the online payment form on a third party server, you can leave certification and security concerns up to the software provider.
- Guidance – If you choose third-party software that integrates with a merchant account, they will walk you through the underwriting process and automatically integrate your merchant account with your online payment solution.
- Easy website integration – Most solutions can set you up with payment forms that are linkable from emails and through your website so you can get paid online easily.
- Low upfront and ongoing costs – Since there are no major development costs to start using an outsourced solution, it’s fairly cheap to get started. And, while you may have to pay monthly service fees for the outsourced platform, you won’t have to pay your own secure hosting costs.
How to set up an online payment form using an outsourced solution:
1 – Research your options
There are a lot of payment acceptance solutions and software available, so it’s wise to do some research. Things you should keep in mind when weighing your options include:
- Setup fees
- Funding practices (direct to your bank account versus retrieving from the provider)
- Monthly service fees
- Additional per-transaction fees.
…and make sure to check that your processing provider will integrate with a payment form (not all do).
2 – Set up your merchant account
Depending on which option you choose in step 1, you may or may not have to go through merchant account underwriting. If you decide you want a merchant account because of faster funding, lower fees, etc., the software provider you choose will help you through the underwriting process.
3 – Build the payment form
Using your new software, you can now start customizing your payment forms. Determine the products, services, and payment types you’d like to offer, then upload your logo and activate the form.
4 – Integrate into your practice
Transitioning to online payment forms will save you a lot of hassle in the long run. Initially, however, you’ll have to take the necessary steps of notifying your customers and getting used to the system yourself. You’ll also need to decide if you want to link the form from your website or in emails.
In-house Online Payment Form Solution Advantages:
Building your online payment forms in-house has its advantages that you should consider:
- Control – The more control you have over the development, the more you can tailor the solution to your business. In building your own online payment form solution, you can customize its functionality to your liking.
- Feel – While you are able to customize your online payment forms using certain third party solutions, you can design your in-house forms any way you like, ensuring they match the feel and flow of the rest of your website.
- Flexibility – If you eventually want to expand your online payment functionality into a shopping cart, you will already have a lot of the pieces in place from implementing the online payment forms. Again, since it’s your code, you can revise and update as needed.
How to set up an online payment form using an in-house solution:
1 – If you’re not an expert, get one
When setting up a secure payment form, it’s critical that you get the security, coding, and connections right.
2 – Set up a secure hosting platform
Secure hosting protects important data, in this case financial information, from being stolen. Apply for an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate to acquire the data encryption technology.
3 – Register your site
Once you have an SSL certificate, you’ll need to register the site that you’ll be using to set up the online payment form with a digital authentication service. This service certifies that the site is the correct one and that you’re encrypting sensitive information.
4 – Build the payment form
Next, you’ll need to either buy software or use a developer to integrate shopping functionality on your site. Online payment forms have less moving parts than full shopping carts, but the page still needs a “click to buy” link that takes customers to your secure server so they can input their payment information.
5 – Find a processing solution with an applicable API
6 – Integrate the processing platform with your payment form
Once your merchant account(s) is acquired, you’ll need to get the API keys to link your secure form into their back-end processing. This is one very critical step. See “Step 1” about getting an expert.
7 – Test and Launch
Test the form before publishing it for your customers to use. To test, try combinations of payments with products and make sure your form is fully functioning. When everything is running smoothly and you’ve tested thoroughly, you can launch your form to the world.
Before you decide
First, take inventory of your resources. If you’re a small business and you don’t have in-house “experts” or a development team, it may be wise to go with a proven third party solution that you don’t have to hire extra people to build. Conversely, if you have the technological resources, it may be wiser to solve the problem in-house to ensure flexibility should your processes or business evolve.
Second, examine the cost of your options. Upfront setup and long-term hosting, security and processing costs can be significantly different between the two options.
No matter what you decide, a hosted online payment form solution or in-house development—online payment forms give your customers the power to pay online, which improves your business’s efficiency, cash flow, and customer satisfaction—which can mean big improvements for your business!
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