The retail services market is flooded with Web-based developer tools that allow small businesses with little tech expertise to develop payment capabilities. But to companies like vCita, these toolkits are still too hard to use.
There's space for another layer of technology that simplifies the many application programming interfaces (APIs) and software development kits (SDKs) available to merchants.
To use these kits in their current form, "you would still need a person with technology or development skills," said Ran Oelgiesser, chief marketing officer of vCita.
The Seattle-based vCita recently announced LiveSite Online Payments, a "plug in" program that works on top of existing payment e-commerce payment interfaces from companies such as Stripe and PayPal, creating a layer that's designed to be more accessible to a non-technical user.
"The business owner doesn't touch any SDK or API, he or she customizes a dashboard that 'normal people' can understand," Oelgiesser said. "You want to accept payments on your website? You hit a button for that."
vCita charges $25 per month on top of the other processor's fees. The service includes templates for the different functions and works like a dashboard. vCita focuses on service-oriented business, such as plumbers or painters, which have a very small headcount. "They generally have a limited budget and limited tech skills," Oelgiesser said.
APIs and SDKs are big business in the payments industry. PayPal, for example, spent $800 million in 2013 to buy Braintree, a company that provides tools to many prominent independent e-commerce and m-commerce developers.
APIs are not hard to use, but there is a chance to simplify them for small businesses, according to Mary Monahan, executive vice president and research director for Javelin Strategy & Research.
"Many small entrepreneurs may be frightened enough to steer away from any kind of IT implementation at all and would be willing to spend fees just to get it done," Monahan said.
Moonclerk, a company that targets a non-technical small business market with payment technology tools, has about 1,600 customers, and has found a market niche for businesses that want to accept digital payments but lack the technical expertise to do so on their own, said Dodd Caldwell, co-founder of Moonclerk.
"We've found that most small businesses don't have the proper staff to build something on top of an API internally and many times they don't have the budget or technical knowledge to hire a developer to build something on top of an API externally," Caldwell said. "There's where we've found a sweet spot."
In many cases, when companies have in-house developers, they want that staff to focus on other issues and are willing to have the interface-related work done externally, Caldwell said.
In general, e-payments technology is becoming more accessible to small businesses, Monahan said.
"It used to be a lot harder than it is now," she said, adding setting up payments in the past typically required a merchant account that included a manual application followed by a long process that included high turndown rates and a slow integration.
"Since the innovation of the [mobile point of sale] venders, the market has opened up and is becoming much more competitive," she said.