Not every payment platform is the same: some offer many features and flexibility but may come at a higher cost. Others may have more competitive pricing, but do so at the expense of features. Business owners must do their homework to find the best deal for the right features with so many options available.
Several factors can help you decide between different payment platforms. Some have to do with fees and expenses, while other considerations focus on your needs and customer preferences. Here are some common differences among payment platforms and tips for making the right choice for your business.
Assess your needs
Why do you need a payment platform? It may seem like a simple question, but the advancement of this technology means you can ask more from the technology than just POS features.
For instance, are you looking for portability first, or is it more important to be able to seamlessly integrate your payment software into other platforms your business uses? Do you want to prioritize a user-friendly UX, or are you more concerned about how the hardware looks at your register? Do you want to be able to support alternative payment methods, like Bitcoin?
These questions may seem challenging, but knowing your needs can help you whittle down your options to a smaller number of potential payment platforms. If you have specific needs from your payment platform, you may be able to pick a leaner and less expensive option.
Look at bonus features
Some of the most powerful tools of payment platforms go beyond their ability to process transactions. Many are also set up to be powerful financial and marketing tools that can help your business in other ways—you just need to know what to look for.
Some merchant services providers, typically those in the online payment gateway industry, also offer analytics and insights into how people buy your products or services. This includes information about recency, frequency, and the cost of the products sold. These tools can help you understand how customer loyalty factors into your income, how to market your products to the right customers, and general trends about your business’ sales.
Right-size your provider
Payment platforms can be big-ticket items or small costs that fit well into a small business’s budget. It can also be helpful to know whether payment platforms have tiers of pricing or different subscription structures.
Before committing to a payment platform, get a sense of how much of an investment you’re willing to make upfront. Some options may have higher costs to start, but end up costing less to operate over time. Others may not require as much setup or initial investment, but take a bigger slice of your transactions in exchange.
Payment gateway and merchant services providers charge different amounts depending on your anticipated volume of transactions. Companies that process a high number of transfers per month might enjoy lower fees, but the volume required may be hard for smaller operations to qualify. In that case, a smaller provider may be a better choice, even if fees appear higher.
Plan for the future
As important as it is to pick a solid provider for your present needs, it’s also important to identify a payment platform that can grow alongside your business. Companies that offer tiers of service—be that more transactions per month, different fees, more point of sale terminals—can help you get the right amount of sales support for where you are at different growth stages.
Keep an eye out for how your payment provider’s service tiers change. Identify those that may have the right kind of features to help you fuel growth down the line. You may need to call upon them in the future, and you’ll want to know they’re there when you do.
Picking the right payment platform partner
There is more variety in the world of payment platforms than ever before, spurred on in part by the rise of e-commerce for small and medium-sized businesses. With so many partners to choose from, business owners have to consider their current capabilities and needs: picking too big a package may end up costing you down the line, but too small may hamstring growth.
Consider options that have different levels of support that match your needs—even those you’re anticipating in the future. Financial professionals can help you make sense of the landscape and sift through some of the options that might be best suited for your business.