In the 21st century, easy payments have become a critical and expected part of the digital customer experience, because today’s consumers are now accustomed to buying products and services quickly and easily online. The COVID-19 pandemic, which shut so many bricks-and-mortar stores and government offices, only served to strengthen digital commerce as a critical channel for B2G, B2C and B2B organizations.
What Are Online Payment Gateways/Portals?
You’ve already experienced a payment gateway, also known as a payment portal, if you have ever logged onto a site just to pay a bill – say, a credit card bill, a retailer shopping plate bill or a utility bill. The term “payment portal” and “payment gateway” are oftentimes used interchangeably, however payment gateway is more commonly used. Online payment gateways are simply the entry point on a website through which you are able to log in and access individual account-level information. You may use a payment gateway to pay your bill, check your balance, etc. Companies like AIS Network are able to integrate a payment gateway into a website. In fact, for the public sector especially, we have done this many times. Our proprietary GovPal online payment gateway, which was exclusively designed to handle eGovernment payments, is currently in use at the Office of the Attorney General in Virginia. It is also used in an ecommerce capacity for the Virginia Department of Forestry’s first online seedlings store, which we designed and continue to protect and maintain.
What Is a Payment Processor?
There’s yet another that handles the transaction itself, and that’s called the payment processor. The processor acts as a facilitator of the transfer of funds between the acquiring or merchant bank and the issuing bank by handling the transaction data. The processor allows the acceptance of card payments and acts as the backend for the payment gateway. A payment processor is necessary for all card-based transactions regardless of whether or not the sale is happening online, in-person or through a mobile application.
Why Is a Payment Gateway Beneficial?
Today, consumers automatically anticipate that vendor or government websites will offer convenient payment options when it comes to paying for products, services, subscriptions, fees, dues, permits, utilities and even taxes. Whether you’re a government, a business or a nonprofit, being able to provide your constituents or customers with a secure and reliable payment experience – accepting common or desired forms of payment such as a credit or debit card — is essential to earning their trust and building a sustainable business for your organization.
Why is a payment gateway beneficial? First and foremost, get with the times! Consumers are simply paying online more than ever before. A Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta report showed that online or mobile purchases of goods and services increased from 17 percent of all purchases in 2019 to 24 percent in 2020. According to the U.S. Census, total e-commerce sales for 2021 were estimated at $870.8 billion, an increase of 14.2% from 2020. And, consumers made 57% of their payments using a debit, credit or prepaid payment card, according to creditcards.com.
Second, treat payments as strategic, not operational and the benefits will become apparent. In its 2021 “Digital Commerce State of the Union Survey,” Gartner industry analysts Dayna Ford and Akif Khan recommend managing the payment experience as “a differentiator and an opportunity to increase profitability.” Use it to:
Drive revenue. By embracing digital commerce, an organization’s costs can be reduced through sales process automation and customer self-service. For B2B or B2G organizations, implementing a payment gateway may also help to reduce collection cycles and expenses.
Improve customer satisfaction. Constituents and customers are all about convenience. Why not build their trust and make them happy by offering a really easy way to pay for what they need?
Innovate or transform the business. Do away with heavily paper tasks, back-office manual processes and spreadsheets. Build a payment gateway into your website and connect it to a more efficient back office to launch your organization into the 21st Century. The payment gateway’s more robust reporting features will make you wonder why you didn’t do this years ago.
Customer acquisition via new channels and new geographies. We all love new customers. For example, some city residents would be more apt to buy even more guest parking permits if they could do so quickly and easily online – from anywhere in the world – instead of traipsing down to the business office at city hall.
For these reasons and more, secure payment gateways are becoming an increasingly popular option for governments and businesses. It is a fixed method to allow constituents and customers to input Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to complete a transaction.
Importance of Security: PCI DSS Compliance
If you have a payment gateway, you’ve probably already heard about PCI DSS. For those who are not familiar, PCI DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard and is a set of requirements intended to ensure that all companies that process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Basically, a PCI DSS-compliant payment gateway helps ensure that the payment data of your customers are secure. AISN adheres to PCI DSS compliance but does not store the PII of anyone utilizing the payment gateways that we provide.
Choosing the Right One
There are many different options for providing a secure payment gateway for your customers and/or constituents. We understand it can be initially overwhelming to find something that works best for you. The team at AISN is available to help you review your options and then choose and implement the best option for you and your clients.
For more than a decade, AISN has been helping businesses and Virginia governments build, maintain and support payment gateways and award-winning websites with confidence, and we’d love to help you too. Particularly if you are a Virginia government entity, implementing the payment gateway you’ve always wanted requires no RFP. You can use our pre-existing eGov contract with the Virginia IT Agency; it has pre-vetted rates and is available for all Virginia public entities to use.