Any business looking to move online, or expand and adapt an existing ecommerce operation will have a raft of operational challenges to negotiate - from website design to the clear display of terms and conditions; refund policies and contact telephone numbers. All of these need to be addressed but arguably the most urgent challenge for any fast-growing online business is to get their payments capability in place.

All the elements have to be carefully coordinated. The integrations between each stage - from the product details in the online catalogue, to the shopping page, right through to the payments page, need to be seamless. The payments process itself has to be efficient and secure.

If a merchant works on each of these in isolation it’s likely to be a painstaking; error-prone process, possibly taking months to complete. Acquiring a merchant account can take months while choosing a payments gateway and implementing fraud prevention could add several weeks to the timeline.

That’s all without considering such critical parts of the process as hiring a developer to integrate the company’s site, gateway and cart software, bringing a customer service team on board and selecting a shopping cart partner. Factor in screening and certification for PCI compliance and currency conversion for international orders and the scale of the challenge becomes ever clearer.

This is where third party payments processing providers can be crucial, bringing the technical skills to quickly and easily integrate the different elements of a payments processing system together, and to partner with and seamlessly connect to all the major shopping carts.

Much of this integration can be carried out pre-implementation and its complexity should be hidden from the business operating the system and critically too from the customers. Onboarding should be intuitive. Merchants can select a specific shopping cart solution, accept a processing agreement, implement a cart module; test the payments process and be fully up and running in a matter of hours rather than weeks or months. For end customers, the result is a smooth and straightforward buying process; for the merchant it’s a payment processing system that drives profitability.

The best payments processing providers can deliver much more than this to customers though. Typically, their in-depth understanding of ecommerce means that they can offer consultancy and strategic advice on everything from website design to distribution strategy to sales techniques and where required they can offer customer service and support into the bargain.

Ultimately therefore any merchant looking to move into the online world would be best advised not to look to go it alone. They need to move fast to take advantage of the opportunities out there in the marketplace but they also need a system and an approach that is efficient, robust and secure – and that’s where partnering with an experienced third party payments processing can provide the best solution to their needs.

By Steve Wilson, Managing Director, Allied Wallet Europe