When we say eCommerce, we use it as a short-hand for buying online. Usually when you pay for something immediately by card. But accepting card payments isn’t always an option for a business. If you are setup to invoice, you may be better with an alternative.

eCommerce for a business that invoices

For example, we worked with a company who supplied work clothing to other businesses. What they wanted to do appeared simple: allow employees of their customers’ to order goods. This sounds like typical eCommerce, but the problem was payment.

It wasn’t realistic or desirable for employees to have company credit cards. Instead they wanted to invoice the business on a monthly basis.

For this client we built an eCommerce website, but without payment processing. The website had a shopping basket, a checkout process and individual employee accounts. To all intents and purposes it looked like an eCommerce website and functioned like one.

This had several benefits for both our client and their customers. The client could group the orders into a single invoice, rather than having an invoice per order. And their customers didn’t need to dedicate someone to collate what staff needed.

eCommerce with payment processing

For an eCommerce website to take a card payment requires a payment gateway. Payment gateways have a single function: to handle credit, or debit card transactions.

While you buy online you may think you are making a payment directly with the company you are buying from. More often than not you are actually using a payment gateway. In this case the payment gateway is integrated into the website.

Other times you will notice that you get redirected to a pre-built form when you buy. This form is often hosted by the payment gateway provider.

The reason many integrate a payment gateway is to create a seamless experience. But, functionally there is no difference between the two.

Payment gateway providers charge for their service

There are many different providers, so what and how they charge will vary. For example at the time of writing:

  • Sage Pay charge £19.90 per month with a limit of 350 transactions and 1.99% for Visa and MasterCard transactions
  • Payment Sense charge £8.30 per month to process up to £50,000 per year and 2.5% per transaction for credit cards
  • Stripe charge 1.4% plus 20p per transaction up to £30,000 per month

It is worth doing your homework to see which one is most suitable for your type of business.

It can be tempting to think you could just develop your own payment gateway. But this would involve some very deep pockets and isn’t worth the investment.

eCommerce is not all or nothing

Many people think eCommerce either handles all aspects of buying and selling, or none at all. This doesn’t have to be the case.

A bespoke website can allow you to gradually add those features when it’s viable. You can start with a website to showcase products, then add a shopping basket and checkout later on. Further on you can add customer accounts and stock management. Finally you could integrate a payment gateway.

This helps to spread the cost over a longer term which is often useful when starting out.

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