With the continued evolution of technology, including smartphones, it’s easier to shop online than ever before. Almost 70% of Americans have shopped online, with 25% of adults making an online purchase monthly. Approximately 40% of Millennials prefer to browse and buy online. And Gen Z, the first generation to grow up with digital media, is nipping at the heels of Millennials.
Ecommerce will only continue to grow as digital purchases become easier and younger generations dominate the buying market. Virtual merchants are websites selling services or products through credit or debit card transactions. This essentially forms the basis of ecommerce, as consumers can browse online through a desktop, tablet, smartphone, or in some cases, smartwatch. Once they decide to purchase, consumers simply enter their payment information online and have the product directly delivered to them.
No more getting in the car, driving to the store, browsing for what you want, and then making a purchase. Of course, with brick-and-mortar shopping, if one store doesn’t have your product, you have to visit another merchant to see if they carry what you need. With online shopping through virtual merchants, shoppers can browse and shop from the comfort of home.
How do virtual merchants work?
Virtual merchants contain many capabilities, helping ordinary websites turn into money-making online stores. To sell products or services, your website needs to be more than an informational repository. You need to create an online store. To do this, you must have a way to process payments on your website. Additionally, if you sell products, you need to be able to ship your items to the buyer by implementing the appropriate technology into your website.
In your online store, the virtual merchant works directly with merchant accounts, which contract with the credit card companies for payment. When a sale occurs, the virtual merchant pays the credit card provider through your merchant account. Additionally, the virtual merchant will pay a fee—either monthly or per item--to the credit card companies, allowing you to make sales through your online store. Further, the virtual merchant coordinates shipping and returns, lessening administrative time (and potential headaches) for business owners.
How does ordering work?
The key to a successful virtual merchant service is the ease of ordering. If your customers have trouble ordering items on your site, likely, they won’t make additional purchases. By adding features such as the ability to create an account or purchase the entire shopping account with one click, you’ll not only make online purchasing easy, you’ll also retain your customers for future purchases.
For purchasing, paying, and shipping, your virtual merchant software should allow for seamless checkout. You can install this technology on your website, integrating your merchant services into the software. Or, you can have a third-party merchant host your virtual merchant software, allowing you to customize the look of your online store. Be sure to address which option is best for your business with your virtual merchant vendor.
Are virtual merchants secure?
With credit card fraud topping $6.4 billion in 2018, business owners should confirm that any virtual merchant services implemented follow the highest security standards. Quality virtual merchant providers aren’t afraid to tackle this challenge, as they typically have multiple security measures in place to protect the consumer’s personal data, including payment information.
For example, virtual merchant providers will encrypt the consumer’s data, preventing the compromise of personal information. Further, most online stores will have a secure-socket layering (SSL) certificate, allowing for a secure connection to the internet browser and preventing any data interception by fraudsters. Additionally, most providers will incorporate multiple firewalls if they store your information for you. A firewall monitors incoming and outgoing internet traffic, deciding what to allow and what to block.
What are the benefits of using a virtual merchant?
Virtual merchants provide many benefits and advantages for business owners wanting to create and maintain an online store. With the right virtual merchant account services provider, you can create a seamless online shopping experience for your customers.
Virtual merchants reduce the cost, time, and complexity of creating an ecommerce website. Virtual terminals endlessly expand your market by eliminating the geographic borders and time constraints of a brick-and-mortar store. Online stores are also open 24/7/365, giving you more exposure to new customers and potential sales.
By offering an ecommerce option, you’re reducing administrative time while expanding your reach. You can more easily satisfy your customers while working on growing your business. Your virtual terminal will accept and process credit or debit card payments, integrating with your POS system or accounting software. Then, it will automatically coordinate shipping the purchase to your customer. Your online store can even integrate with your current website, enhancing your community image and keeping your brand consistent.
For both current and potential shoppers, an online store brings your goods and services to an audience that may not be able to swing by the store. Consumers can browse your items and educate themselves on smarter shopping decisions whenever and wherever they want. This allows you as a business owner to improve your overall customer service by creating more availability of your products.
What do I look for when choosing a virtual merchant provider?
Some virtual merchant services work with a wide variety of businesses where others are specific to an industry, such as restaurants. Depending on your offered services, you’ll want to begin with a virtual merchant provider tailored to your business. Examine whether the online process is simple and user-friendly. If it’s complicated or unclear, your online store could have the opposite effect on your customers, driving them away.
Explore the online store options, such as allowing customers to create accounts for easy return shopping. Ask questions about any additional shopping cart features, such as allowing customers to purchase everything in their cart with the click of a button or sending out reminders to customers that they have remaining items in their cart. Also, if you’re out of an item, will the online store notify the customer when it’s back in stock? These features not only help create a positive shopping experience, they also increase your customer retention.
Additionally, you’ll want to examine the pricing, from the installation of the virtual merchant card reader to any monthly or maintenance fees. Ask questions about the virtual payment gateway to make sure it comprehensively handles customer payments. Confirm that the virtual terminal will integrate with your POS system or your accounting software like Quickbooks. The more seamless the integration of your online sales, the easier for you to maintain your ecommerce site while focusing on other areas of your business, allowing you to drive growth and profit.
Ask questions about the virtual terminal’s security. Protecting your customers’ data should be paramount, to help demonstrate your business’ integrity. Any downtime, fraud, or threats to your customer data can decrease trust and loyalty in your brand.
Finally, you also want to confirm that there is both initial and ongoing training. Make sure that both you and your team understand how the online store works and what to do if questions or customer complaints arise. By being able to respond quickly to any issues that may occur, you’ll continue to improve your customers’ shopping experience and increase retention.
With ecommerce showing no signs of slowing down, adding an online store to your website is a win-win. The benefits of offering an ecommerce experience through virtual merchant services will help you increase your revenue, allowing you to make sales passively through your website. This online option will also decrease your administrative time, allowing you and your team to focus on high-level issues.
At NAB, we can help guide you through the setup of your online store with our virtual merchant services, providing you with seamless integration. We have the technology you need to adapt to consumer behaviors by accepting payments in the modern world. We’ll help you tailor your virtual terminal processing to your specific business, giving you peace of mind. To set up a consultation, contact us here or give us a call at 877.840.1952.