Originally published on March 21, 2021, updated on September 21, 2022
Business sellers rely on traditional payment methods such as paper checks, money orders, wire transfers, and trade credits. For many B2B eCommerce businesses, these methods offer security and traceability and avoid the risk of online fraud.
However, purchase habits are changing, and the payments industry is undergoing massive changes as a result. Ten years ago, digital payments were in their infancy. Today, cash usage has dropped, and the COVID-19 pandemic proved that electronic payments are convenient, quicker, and sometimes the only alternative.
Sellers that want to process customer payments online need an eCommerce payment gateway system – a technology that accepts and authorizes electronic payments from customers. Selecting the right payment gateway is essential, as it improves the customer and the checkout experience, thereby minimizing purchase friction and abandoned carts. A payment gateway directly impacts conversion rates and the bottom line.
This guide explores the role of payment gateway in eCommerce and what you need to know about selecting an eCommerce payment gateway for processing online transactions securely.
What is a Payment Gateway in eCommerce?
An online payment gateway manages electronic payment methods with technology. It performs the same function as a physical point-of-sale (POS) – it authorizes a customer transaction.
In addition to accepting and handling online payments, this technology also provides:
- Temporary payment information storage. As customers submit their credit card data, it is temporarily stored in a secure fashion before routing it to banks.
- Encryption services. This service encrypts sensitive information during transit between payment processors and banks.
- Reconciliation reports. Matching settled funds to transactions is challenging. Payment gateways provide reports for easier reconciliation and discrepancy identification.
- Virtual terminal capability. Process transactions offline and settle with the online batch to eliminate the need for a traditional credit card terminal.
- API and integration. Modern pay gateways offer a robust and flexible API and strong eCommerce payment gateway integration capabilities with financial, accounting, and tax platforms.
How Does a Payment Gateway Work?
Typically, this type of service performs many of the same duties a POS device does when you pay for lunch at a restaurant or jeans at a clothing store.
The process involves the customer, bank, and online store – to make transactions involving the transfer of funds or credit card payments possible.
However, a gateway is not a processor. There’s a big difference between the two. Here’s how the payment gateway works in eCommerce compared to payment processors.
Payment Gateways vs. Payment Processors
The terms payment gateway and payment processor are not interchangeable.
A payment processor (also known as a payment service provider) is the conduit between the seller’s bank and the customer’s bank. An online payment processor allows sellers to receive money from their customers. When an eCommerce business contracts with a payment processor, the processor sets up a merchant account to hold pending transactions until finalized and passed on to the business’s bank account.
A payment gateway is a software that securely processes payments. Its goal is to encrypt data, streamline the checkout process, and improve the customer experience. A payment processor is required for debit or credit card transactions and the payment gateway goes between the website and the payment processor.
Unlike a processor, a gateway usually facilitates a variety of payment methods, integrates with eCommerce platforms, and manages multiple payment systems. It can also connect to ERP, tax management, and accounting software.
In many cases, processors offer gateway services. This makes it easy to manage online transactions and creates a great customer experience.
The relationship between the processor and the gateway for eCommerce looks like this:
Here are the steps the payment processor and payment gateway take to process a transaction:
|Payment gateway||Payment processor|
|1. Customer places an order on the merchant web store.|
|2. Payment gateway encrypts data and sends it to the payment processor.|
|3. Payment processor verifies that the customer data (credit card information like CVV) is correct.|
|4. Payment processor sends the data to the customer bank to approve or deny the transaction.|
|5. If authorization is successful, the credit card processor requests the fund transfer.|
|6. Payment gateway receives a response from the payment processor.|
|7. Payment gateway sends transaction details to the merchant’s website.|
|8. Payment processor settles the funds (usually at the end of the day).|
Types of Payment Gateways
When selecting the best payment gateway for eCommerce, it’s important to understand the different payment gateway methods and how they interact with transaction processors. This helps pick the gateway that can meet your business needs.
Hosted payment gateways
A hosted payment gateway directs the customer to the payment processor’s page during checkout. This external page is managed by the payment processor. After the transaction is approved, the customer is redirected to the merchant’s eCommerce website. Paypal is one of the most popular hosted gateways.
Self-hosted payment gateways
A self-hosted payment gateway collects payment information directly from the retailer’s website. Theoretically, this requires more customization as payment gateways collect this data in a specific format. One advantage of this method is that the merchant has complete control of the customer shopping experience at their eCommerce store. Authorize.net and Stripe are popular self-hosted gateways.
API payment gateways
An API payment gateway relies on API calls to collect data from the merchant’s checkout page. The API approach is customizable and easy to integrate with multiple digital selling channels, allowing a simplified eCommerce payment processing. However, merchants shoulder the load for PCI, DSS, and SSL security compliance.
Integration with institution
The least popular payment gateway integration in eCommerce is direct integration with a banking institution. Here, the payment gateway directs customers to the bank’s page and then back to the merchant’s website. This method limits the transaction options merchants can offer to customers.
Payment Gateway Examples
The biggest payment gateway service providers on the market are credible, secure, convenient, and trusted by thousands of customers. For maximum flexibility, B2B sellers should look for payment processors that support debit, credit, and charge cards; Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments; wire transfers; and electronic checks (e-checks).
- Paypal – Paypal is one of the oldest and best-known ways of transferring money online. It operates in many countries and supports over 25 currencies. Paypal’s Payflow gateway is easy to set up and has no monthly fees. It supports visa and mastercard credit cards, digital wallet functionality, and even offers financing.
- Authorize.net − Authorize.net is one of the oldest and most popular gateway services. It accepts a wide range of currencies, payment methods, and e-checks. It’s one of the best payment gateway providers for medium and large businesses or those that process large transaction volumes.
- Amazon Pay – While Amazon’s brand recognition is difficult to match, it is notorious for using customer data to its advantage. Therefore, Amazon Pay is only applicable to those who sell exclusively on Amazon.
- Stripe – Stripe serves some of the nation’s largest B2C, B2B SaaS, and product brands. There are no monthly fees but you pay processing fees based on the size of the transaction. They handle large transaction volumes, have excellent integration capabilities, fraud detection, and support.
- 2Checkout – Unlike Stripe, 2Checkout operates in many countries and is one of the most affordable transaction processing tools on the market. They provide hosted and in-line carts. However, the API is complicated, making it challenging to integrate with eCommerce platforms.
Buyers are warming up to frictionless payment methods like digital wallets, which eliminate the need to enter billing information. Because gateways keep up with popular payment methods, they are keen to accommodate many popular digital wallets. Here is a brief look at the most popular digital wallets:
Apple Pay is a mobile payment system and digital wallet in one. It’s used by an increasing number of Apple customers, who make up the lion’s share of US smartphone users. Apple Pay remains a popular payment method.
Google Pay can be used on all mobile operating systems and enjoys adoption all over the world. The growth of Google infrastructure makes Google Pay an excellent payment method for those looking to offer frictionless payment options.
If you’re selling to customers in China, Alipay is a must. According to Harvard Business Review, over 81% of Chinese consumers use Alipay, a staggering adoption rate compared to their Western counterparts.
WeChat Pay, along with Alipay are two of the most popular platforms in China. The WeChat ecosystem remains the largest globally, which offers immense benefits to eCommerce stores that operate in the Chinese market.
How Much Does a Payment Gateway Cost?
Many payment gateways advertise free setup or no monthly fees. However, you will pay transaction fees. These fees will make up the bulk of your payment gateway cost.
For example, on a $10 transaction with Amazon Pay, you will pay a $0.29 (2.9%) transaction fee and $0.30 fee per transaction, making the total transaction fee $0.59.
This chart compares the current fee structure of popular gateways:
|Transaction fee||2.9%||2.9%+$0.30, or $0.10+$0.10/day||2.9%-3.9%||2.9%||3.5%-6%|
While it is tempting to make cost the key differentiator, cost shouldn’t be the only deciding factor. Consider the methods your customers prefer to pay. For example, if your customers use charge cards, selecting a point of sale system that supports cards is essential, even if it costs more. If your customers prefer e-checks, then that functionality will be key.
Selecting the Right Payment Gateway for Your Business
As customer expectations change and payment options continue to evolve, you’ll find that gateway offerings will vary. This makes researching and selecting the right service a challenge. Use these questions to guide the selection process:
1. How do customers pay you?
Customers, particularly business customers, use different methods to pay for a product or service. These range from credit cards, debit cards, bank transfers, e-checks, and more. Customers in the US may prefer PayPal, Venmo, Google, or Apple Pay. If you’re selling in China, buyers prefer WeChat Pay or Alipay. Some customers want to pay with ACH payments or wire transfers. Do you offer terms?
Payment preferences can change, and if you’re selling across borders, must support multiple currencies, too. Ultimately, the payment gateway must support the methods your customers prefer.
2. What features do you need?
Start by analyzing your customer and business requirements. Do you need to compile transaction and batch reports for the accounting team, or do customers consistently ask for a specific payment option?
Not every gateway will meet your requirements. For example, most of your customers in the US may prefer to use PayPal while your European customers pay with a credit card. If you sell to many different customer types or across borders, you may want to use separate gateways.
3. What are the fees?
Payment gateways can range from free (these usually don’t have many integrations and are tied to proprietary systems) or charge for a transaction process, membership, or all of the above.
Make sure you identify and consider all costs when selecting gateways. Look for hidden charges, like going over limits or using third-party services. In some cases, gateway providers may charge you for changing processors. Pay extra attention to costs if you plan on connecting with multiple gateways.
4. What are your integration needs?
You may discover that you need additional functionality beyond what the gateway provides. Can your gateway transfer data to your accounting or tax software? Otherwise, you’ll have to transfer transaction data between systems manually.
Examine the capabilities and integration options of your payment gateway carefully. Even without these connections, your gateway’s APIs could either speed up or complicate integration.
5. Does it integrate with your eCommerce platform?
Some digital commerce systems come with a payment gateway or offer pre-built integrations. When shopping for an eCommerce solution, be sure to talk about your payment processing needs and B2B eCommerce security. Chances are, they can offer you the best solutions integrator or payment processing company to meet your specific business or customer requirements.
6. What are the support options?
Discrepancies are always frustrating, so contacting your transaction processor should be quick and easy. A gateway with 24/7 support says they are trustworthy, and your customers will be more likely to purchase from you. Round-the-clock support is vital for businesses that sell high-risk products or deal with frequent chargebacks or refunds.
7. Will it scale with your business?
You don’t want to contract with a payment gateway only to discover it doesn’t meet your requirements. Consider the flexibility of the gateway and the ability to add additional payment methods, integration options, and other features as your business grows.
OroCommerce Integrates With Many Gateways
OroCommerce is one of the few eCommerce platforms built from the ground up for demanding B2B, B2C, and marketplace needs. It offers robust and dynamic back-end and front-end APIs to integrate with the gateway provider of your choice. In addition, OroCommerce provides pre-built connections to the world’s leading systems, including:
Novalnet AG is headquartered in Germany and operates globally with a presence in Europe, the US, and India. It offers an end-to-end solution that unifies over 100 payment types via a single partner. Novalnet offers full-service receivables management, debt collection, invoicing, and more. Novalnet is ideal for OroCommerce operating within Europe and offers B2B-focused customer solutions applicable for virtually any business model.
Authorize.net is one of the world’s oldest and most popular payment gateways. It allows businesses in the US, Canada, Europe, UK, and Australia to collect payments in various currencies from 190 countries. It offers both gateway and payment processor services. Authorize.net integration allows customers to purchase via credit cards, debit cards, and manage eCheck transactions.
Paypal is the most recognized name in payments, operating a gateway under its Payflow brand. Being one of the pioneers in online payment gateways, PayPal is widely used and comes with customizations and security features, as well as the ability to connect with payment devices in physical locations. The OroCommerce integration offers numerous Paypal services.
Ingenico ePayments counts over 65,000 organizations as customers across 170 countries. Ingenico offers an end-to-end solution for B2C and B2B eCommerce businesses across all verticals. Brands can support major credit cards, charge cards, direct debit, and set payment workflow, checkout flow, and reporting capabilities. The OroCommerce integration allows merchants to set payment rules and manage processing in the back-office.
Cybersource is a global payment solutions leader with eCommerce payment origins dating back to 1994. Cybersource is the name behind brands such as Authorize.net and Payworks and helps digital commerce merchants manage credit cards, debit cards, and other payment-specific payment methods. Cybersource integrates with OroCommerce via a Checkout API or a hosted checkout method.
Choose Wisely – Payment Gateways Impact Success
Greater efficiency, better customer experiences, and higher conversions – the right payment gateway in eCommerce leads to business success. Take the time to understand how different gateways can work with your business. Your solution should offer an ideal mix of capabilities, reasonable costs, and ease of implementation.
Before settling for the first gateway payment system that seems to tick off all the boxes, step back and assess how it integrates with your eCommerce platform, how it affects productivity, and how it impacts the customer experience and your dynamic eCommerce pricing strategy. OroCommerce connects to numerous payment gateways – allowing you to optimize internal effectiveness and deliver truly seamless purchasing experiences to customers.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a payment gateway?
The payment gateway provides merchants and buyers with a service that processes credit card payments for both eCommerce sites and traditional physical stores.
What purpose does a payment gateway serve in eCommerce?
In eCommerce, the payment gateway collects, transfers, and authorizes customer payment information in real-time to a merchant’s bank account, where the transaction itself is then processed. It also protects the customer’s credit card details by encrypting sensitive information and also ensures fraud protection.
What are the best payment gateway providers?
The market most trusted payment gateway and merchant account providers are:
- Amazon Pay