Selecting a website platform is critical for Caribbean businesses, as a misstep can lead to significant financial and time loss.
The core issue at hand is the compatibility of the chosen platform with local payment gateways in the region, a factor often overlooked until it's too late.
This article aims to guide you through the process of picking a website platform wisely, ensuring that your business can efficiently receive payments.
This will set you up perfectly for the start of 2024.
You should also be reminded that your website is your most important digital asset in the Caribbean, because none of the e-commerce solutions available on social media are permitted for the Caribbean region. This means that all digital sales happen on your website and you should be using social media to drive traffic back to your website to complete purchases.
The payment gateway predicament
Caribbean entrepreneurs typically focus on platform usability and aesthetics, pushing payment-processing considerations to the backburner.
This oversight becomes apparent when the first sale is made and the realisation hits that funds in platforms like PayPal can't be withdrawn to local banks owing to regional restrictions.
There are a couple of countries able to withdraw funds from PayPal, TT being one of them, but it can only be deposited to specific banks and Visa credit cards.
Those banks/financial institutions include JMMB, PSCU, Venture and Rhand, and only to their Visa debit cards. Once your Visa debit card comes from a bank that is on the Linx network, it will not connect to PayPal.
Payments first approach
The mantra '"payments first" should guide every platform decision you make. It's irrelevant how well-received a platform is if it doesn't support payment withdrawal in your region.
Investigate whether you can get paid through a platform before committing to it.
Key payment gateways
Three major payment gateways service the Caribbean – First Atlantic Commerce, Wipay, and CX Pay – which has the widest reach. Some countries have local gateways like NCB Bank and Sagicor for Jamaica.
Research is essential; inquire with your bank about compatible gateways.
Building your website
Start by visiting the websites of these payment gateways and note the platforms they support. This list is your starting point for building your website. Failing to use these platforms will result in payment issues.
For those seeking more flexibility, consider registering your business in the US. This allows you to use platforms like PayPal or Stripe without restriction.
Consult a local accountant for guidance on US business registration and tax obligations.
Making international sales
Using Caribbean payment gateways does not limit your international reach. Clients from abroad can still purchase your products, and with a US business bank account, you can maintain your earnings in US dollars.
Whilst the banks in TT may not physically give you the US dollars, you can wire-transfer the money to your suppliers or to friends and family in other countries to withdraw the funds for you.
Here are the website platforms that integrate with the primary payment gateways at the time of writing:
– First Atlantic Commerce: Magento, 3dcart, WooCommerce, Shopify, and others.
– Wipay: WooCommerce/WordPress, OpenCart, Magento.
– CX Pay: A wide range including Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce/WordPress, Magento, and various others.
Check the respective websites for the most current and comprehensive integration lists.
Fygaro is another platform worth considering. It offers website-building and payment-processing, compatible with First Atlantic Commerce and PayPal.
Research thoroughly to determine which platform suits your business needs. If a platform isn't listed on the payment gateways' websites, you won't be able to receive payments through Caribbean gateways.
Avoid taking platform advice from sources not familiar with Caribbean business operations, and always verify whether the advice-giver has their business registered in the US or another country, which might influence their platform choice.
Picking the right platform for your Caribbean business website is not just about aesthetics and functionality. It's primarily about ensuring that you can get paid. By prioritising payment gateways and their compatibility with various platforms, you safeguard your business against unnecessary financial and time setbacks, plus position yourself for successful online transactions.
Always remember: payments first.
Keron Rose is a digital strategist who works with Caribbean businesses to build their digital presence and monetise their platforms.
Learn more at KeronRose.com or listen to the Digipreneur FM podcast on Apple Podcast, Spotify or Google Podcast