What your Bank isn't telling you about setting up Ecommerce in the Caribbean
I already have a business account at my bank and can accept credit card payments. Can I connect this account to my website?
An eCommerce account is not a Point of Sales business account. Your business needs to open an eCommerce account to accept payments online in the Caribbean.
You must apply for an eCommerce account so that your bank can provide you with a Merchant ID that you can give to First Atlantic Commerce (FAC).
FAC uses your unique Merchant ID to link the online transactions on your website to your bank account. You will need a payment gateway company like FAC to facilitate this link for you on your website.
Getting approval for an eCommerce account requires the same “know your customer” (KYC) procedure as an applicant for a regular business account would. This means you have to be able to provide your bank with a viable business plan and maybe even a beta website (an example of what your website would look like).
Your bank’s website would have what requirements they need for opening an eCommerce account.
For this reason, Christopher Burns, CEO of FAC, recommends that you apply for your Merchant ID in conjunction with meeting website developers and FAC.
FAC offers a checklist for you to ensure best practices such as Terms & Conditions, Refund Policies, Logos and more, so they help hold your hand through the process.
Do everything in parallel but don’t leave the banking part for last as it takes a while to get approval for your eCommerce account. Hence, you need to set a realistic timeline.
Your Ecommerce Business Plan
Whether you’re approaching a website developer to design your website or your bank to open your eCommerce account – you need to provide a viable business plan.
This involves really thinking through the process:
Transportation and Delivery: Once someone purchases your product, how will you deliver it to them?
Pricing: How will you set your prices so that they are both competitive and deliver enough sales revenue to cover your overhead costs?
Marketing: How will you market your website to ensure you reach a broad customer base? After all, success depends on people knowing that your business is online and can accept online payments, so advertising is important (and it’s also an expense to consider).
Speaking of expenses…
Be Aware of eCommerce Transaction Fees
Taking your business online allows you to reach a wider target base and increase your revenues.
Depending on your bank, you may have monthly fees and/or per-transaction fees, that need to be added to your Expense Account. Ensure you include this when setting your prices and establishing what volume of transactions you will need for your online business to be economically viable.
Is Ecommerce Viable in the Caribbean?
Consumer culture varies by geography, so keep in mind that what works for the USA or Europe won’t necessarily work in the Caribbean.
Right now, FAC has a lot of telecommunications, travel and government clients in the Caribbean, but not many retail clients. However, this can be to your advantage – remember that Jeff Bezos started an eCommerce business long before it became mainstream. And more and more people in the Caribbean are using credit cards and shopping online.
Amazon is actually one of the top 5 websites visited in the Caribbean. So there is a demand for online retailers in the niche e-commerce market of the Caribbean.
Furthermore, local banks are rolling out new debit cards that can facilitate online payments. Your customer base for online shopping in the Caribbean is about to get bigger.
Will your business be ready to supply them?
Currently, small business online retail in Trinidad consists mainly of the “click and collect” model – where customers order online and pay in person when they pick up the product. By having an eCommerce account and facilitating online payments, you incentivize customers to use your website for its convenience.
And that’s not all – online retailers like Amazon actually use online payments as a business strategy. This is because a quick and easy online payment incentivizes impulse buying among consumers. And various studies have shown that people spend more – up to 83% more – when they use their credit cards than when they have to use cash.
This is due to rewards programs, incentivization and the psychological aspect of cash in hand. So if your website allows people to make easy purchases 24/7 online – expect an increase in revenue.
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