For the past several years, the government of St. Kitts and Nevis has been actively pursuing initiatives that would foster an authentic digital economy in the Federation. The approach saw action being taken on a variety of fronts, from the sponsorship of persons seeking advanced education in Information Technology, to the development of programs and policies for the creation of an e-government infrastructure. Coupled with the continual advancement in today’s web technologies, we now stand gratefully within the hallways of opportunity, where creative and innovative ideas can be explored, all upon the backbone of a thriving digital paradigm.
With this emergent mindset, we now must capitalize on the benefits afforded to us. Here we reflect upon the benefits to small businesses of the Federation. In the large scope of a digital space – how can a subset of e-commerce benefit small businesses of St. Kitts and Nevis? Thereafter, we need to answer: How can I get this service?
Let’s begin by highlighting three core benefits.
- Expanded reach. In days gone by merchants were limited by the scope of their geographic location. Today your website serves as a vehicle whereby you can garner interest in your goods and services via the World Wide Web. The added capability of an e-commerce enabled website affords one the opportunity to capture remuneration for sales quickly and securely.
- Increased revenue. Moving beyond the parameters of a physical store ushers in the advantage of broadening your visibility into cyberspace, and with this greater expanse can be the potential for greater revenue. Depending on your commodity, an online shop can serve well to market your goods to an online consumer base.
- Perpetual availability. I can vividly recall a gracious call I received from a UK-based merchant during my tenure as a developer for a marketing company in Windsor. We had recently completed an e-commerce website for her business which traditionally only saw sales from a ‘brick-and-mortar’ presence with limited opening hours. Post live publication of the website, sales started to come in at ‘anytime’ and she called to express the joy of seeing overnight email notifications of website sales. E-commerce gives you the ability to be open to your customers 24/7 and present for business even when you have to close your eyes and take a rest.
With these three benefits highlighted, let’s now turn to address the elephant – how can I get this service? Here is a brief summary of the steps involved for getting an e-commerce enabled website. I am going to outline key steps and begin by first stating that for the context of this article there will be 3 main parties involved in any e-commerce implementation: The website, the acquiring bank, and the payment gateway.
- The website. Generally speaking, you’ll need a website with which to showcase your goods or services. This can be anything from a physical item, to an appointment, donation, tour, virtual product or a downloadable item. Your unique requirement determines whether that website should have a simple payment form or a more elaborate shopping cart system.
- The acquiring bank. This entity refers to the bank or financial institution which accepts the sales from your website. This is largely achieved by the merchant or business owner opening up an internet merchant account with the bank. In St. Kitts and Nevis internet merchant accounts can be opened with most commercial banks as well as the local St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank. When your online customers make a purchase on your website, it is your internet merchant account which serves as the catchment point for your website’s credit/debit card transactions.
- The payment gateway. The third component in this setup is the payment gateway. This entity sits between the website and the acquiring bank and serves to validate or authenticate the transaction that occurs on your website. When your online customer enters their credit/debit card on your website to make a purchase, the payment gateway facilitates the checking of that card (ie. Is this a valid card number? Is the expiration date valid? Are the funds for this transaction readily available? and so on). Once approved, the customer receives visual confirmation from the merchant’s website and the settlement process into the acquiring bank commences. In my experience I find that the settlement process with the St. Kitts Nevis Anguilla National Bank normally takes about 2 business days. Locally-based representative payment gateways like CenPOS are readily available and can be easily engaged for further information on this service available to St. Kitts Nevis.
Given the aforementioned outline, here are the steps one can take towards getting an e-commerce website:
- Consult the merchant account representative. The merchant officer will assist and guide you through the process of opening an internet merchant account with the bank by the completion of a merchant account application. You’ll also have to negotiate a discount rate which determines what percentage fee will be paid to the bank for each transaction you make through your site. Internet merchant account services in St. Kitts and Nevis form an integral part towards having online payments settled locally and quickly as opposed to service providers like PayPal where holds on online payments are considerably longer. In St. Kitts Nevis, the CenPOS Ltd. Sales Executive is Mr. Gary Smith who can outline the application and support process (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 1 869 766 2273).
- Go live. Once your site is developed and the internet merchant account is established, the developer can now activate live transaction features of the e-commerce software and get the site up and running.
This provides a basic guide for the journey towards enabling your business for e-commerce. The benefits are attainable and can be a viable asset in your company’s tool-belt. Web development e-commerce services are now readily available to businesses of St. Kitts and Nevis. If you would like to learn more, reach out today.