Payment Gateway APIs: What Every Developer & Marketer Should Know

Written by: Scott Fitzgerald

No matter what your company makes, sells, or does, we’re willing to bet that you count happy customers among your most important business assets.

Despite that, you may not be doing as much as you think to make their experience with you a memorable one. If the purchase of, say, that fabulous file-sharing software isn’t as carefree and effortless as possible, it could lead to a moment of indecision—and possibly even a change of heart—when the time comes to enter their credit card number. In many cases, a payment gateway API could be just what you need to eliminate those bumps in the road, and create a more seamless customer experience.

APIs in general enable easy integration of applications, which makes for more innovative, enjoyable digital experiences. A payment gateway API integrates with your existing digital processes to connect your company’s checkout system to a payment acquiring network. It’s an alternative to the hosted checkout pages traditionally used by eCommerce businesses, allowing customers to make purchases from you without leaving your website to process payments. Payment gateway APIs directly affect your relationship with your customers, making them worth a second look if you aren’t currently using one.

We asked our director of marketing, Scott Fitzgerald, and our director of development, Faouzi Kassab, for the lowdown on payment APIs from both a marketing and a development perspective. Here’s what they had to say…

The Payment Gateway API—A Marketer’s Perspective, by Scott Fitzgerald

Marketers love that payment gateway APIs allow you to maintain control of the user experience. As marketers, we work hard to project a brand image and to keep that image consistent across all channels and interactions. The alternative to an API—the third-party hosted checkout page—is where that carefully constructed brand can potentially fall apart. Picture an enthusiastic shopper filling a cart to the brim with intended purchases, who then experiences a change in thought process when the experience shifts from shopping to paying. Should I really buy this?

While a payment gateway API doesn’t have the power to defeat a customer’s self-doubt, it does reduce the point of friction at checkout that can slow down the momentum of a customer’s good feelings about a transaction. Think “Can’t wait to try this!” instead of “Should I buy this?”

4 Benefits Of A Payment Gateway API

Aside from maintaining control of the user experience, which is the most important reason to use a payment API, there are other benefits from a marketing perspective:

1) Your business can interact with customers in more than one place. A robust API will increase the number of places you can interact with your customers exponentially. In addition to your company’s traditional online environment, you can leverage the same payment infrastructure to enable payments in your mobile app and on your company’s Twitter or Instagram feed. Imagine the possibilities for contextual payments, way beyond simple web checkout!

2) Your business will have real-time purchasing data to inform smarter marketing decisions. Forget about once-a-month check-ins to decipher your transaction patterns. A well-developed payment gateway API provides a ton of data beyond simple payment information—and the real-time data feeds can be used immediately to help you understand and act on buyer behaviors. Easy access to this actionable data is key to driving your business forward.


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3) Your business can offer customers a wide variety of payment options. Ideally, your business should be able to accept any number of payment types, including all types of credit cards, alternative payment options (like PayPal or Visa Checkout), and international currencies and payment methods. It’s possible with the right API. Your customers will appreciate the flexibility and sales won’t be limited by geographical area or specific payment types.

4) Customer data remains safe and secure—and out of your hands. In the past, businesses chose to use hosted pages because they didn’t want the security risk of holding credit card data on their own website. Today, some payment APIs are sophisticated enough that you can build your own purchasing experience—and take it all the way out to the edge of the payment process—while the API provider remains responsible for PCI data by securing the sensitive credit card fields. The API you choose should give you the flexibility to handle all types of transactions (mobile, mobile apps, eCommerce, and others) while still providing the security and resilience that your CFO demands.

The Payment Gateway API—A Developer’s Perspective, by Faouzi Kassab

For developers, payment APIs offer an easy way to extend your web experience all the way through the payment stage while keeping full control of the user interface. The API keeps users on your website with a user experience you create and control. The process is simple: You capture payment information and deliver it to your payment gateway to execute the transaction.

When you’re ready to look for a payment gateway API that fits your business, here are a few things to consider:

5 Things A Developer Should Look For In A Payment Gateway API

1) A current/modern design. APIs have been around for years, but the API interface is continually changing and new standards are constantly emerging. Today, the most common API design is RESTful, which has become the “API standard” of web-based services. (If you’re interested in reading more about RESTful design, check out this article.) Why is a RESTful API important? Two reasons: It makes the developer’s job easier when it comes to integration, and it indicates that the gateway is technology-focused and uses modern designs and practices.

2) Security. As with any transaction that involves credit cards and other financial account information, security should be a significant concern. Find out what PCI scope you’ll fall under if you use a particular API. Ideally, you want to transfer the bulk of the PCI compliance burden to the gateway and away from your company. Also, security goes beyond PCI. Find out how the provider secures its servers/environment, and ask about the company’s own developer procedures and training. Finally, find out what options you have for securing your interface, and if the API has easy-to-use fraud protection built-in.

3) Richness of functionality. Ultimately, the API you choose should offer the functionality you need to solve the business problem at hand—that is, meeting whatever your specific requirements may be for conducting successful customer transactions.

4) Ease of use (for you, the developer!). Part of the appeal of using an API is to make things easier on developers—why reinvent the wheel if someone’s already done it, and done it well? That logic only works if the payment gateway API integration is simple, the functionality is easy to use and test, and the process can be up and running fairly quickly.

5) Thorough documentation. As a developer, I’d rather not have to pick up the phone and (if we’re being truthful) would prefer not have to speak to a human being at all to get the job done! I suspect I’m not alone here, so excellent documentation goes a long way. Explore the provider’s website for a developer’s page like this one and see if the information answers most of the questions you think you’ll be likely to have. If that’s not the case, keep looking.

Developers and marketers, consider this: Customer checkout is where the money’s at, so give it the time and attention it deserves. Payment gateway APIs take minimal effort to use but work hard to ensure optimal transactions. That’s an experience that makes everybody happy.

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