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How Best To Implement Multiple Currencies Into A Web App

By Angelo Z


In the era of globalisation, eCommerce businesses can reach a worldwide market, but how can you make your platform better to transact for your users? 

It’s simple. Offer payment options in the currency your users transact in to increase your sales and conversions by taking out the need for them to do price conversions themselves.Standard e-commerce platforms could make use of plugins for these price conversions, however, custom web applications require Application Programming Interface (API integration) to make these price conversions possible. 


This article explores the various options available to enable multiple currencies on websites and web applications, including the use of APIs, the management of prices in the back-end, and payment processing. Additionally, the article discusses the exceptions to processing payments in certain currencies. 


Here’s the scenario, you have a website or web application that either sells products or services. These can be physical or digital, like a SaaS (software-as-a-service) subscription-based service.  The beauty of the internet is that you are able to sell your products and services to virtually anyone around the world.A key factor that contributes to the increased conversion of sales on your eCommerce website is the ability to offer your products and services in multiple currencies.You may wonder why you’d want to offer multiple currencies on your website. This sounds complicated and like a mammoth task to keep all the prices updated for all these currencies, right?


Your customers may be more likely to purchase your products or services on your eCommerce store if you offer payment options in the currency that they already use. By offering your products and services to your customers in their currency, you eliminate their need to do price conversions which can increase your sales and conversions. 


WHY OFFER MULTIPLE CURRENCY OPTIONS ON YOUR WEBSITE?

By offering multiple currencies on your website, you make it more convenient for prospective customers who are situated in different countries and use different currencies. This gives customers the ability to make purchases in the currency that they are most comfortable with and can make the checkout process user-friendly and much quicker.Additionally, it allows you to cater to international shoppers and expand the customer base who can transact on the website.  


WHAT GOES INTO ENABLING MULTIPLE CURRENCIES?


STANDARD E-COMMERCE SHOPS

Standard off-the-shelf eCommerce solutions such as WooCommerce and Shopify offer a variety of plugins and extensions that automatically convert the prices on your website to different currencies.These are fairly straightforward to install, configure and integrate which makes it easy to offer multiple currencies to your shoppers.


CUSTOM SAAS WEBSITES AND ONLINE STORES

When it comes to custom development websites and web applications such as travel websites, educational platforms, and SaaS applications, things get a bit more complicated. Typically with these types of web platforms, there is a high degree of complexity revolving around the purchasing process, the integration with the payment gateway, and the management of the products and services from a back-end perspective.Luckily, incorporating multiple currencies into these bespoke systems is entirely possible. The best way of achieving this is to use an API (Application Programming Interface). An API is a set of protocols and rules that allows different software platforms (such as your website and a currency conversion system) to communicate with each other. It serves as an intermediary between different software systems, allowing them to exchange data and perform specific functions, you can read more about APIs here. In order to get multiple currencies on your web application, you can use a currency conversion API that provides dynamically converted prices based on the information you send itThe information you send is typically a base price, amount, and the requested conversion currency.There are many APIs that offer currency conversion, some are free and some are paid for, so it’s best to know the volumes of conversions needed when assessing the different options as pricing is often structured in tiers based on the volume of conversions needed. 


MANUALLY UPDATING PRICES AND CURRENCIES 

Prices for your products and services can also be manually updated on your website for different currencies. However, this method will be quite time-consuming and may not be practical for websites with a large number of products.We generally don’t advise going this route as solutions can be developed and integrated to automate this as described above. 


HOW ARE PRICES MANAGED IN THE BACK-END?

The back-end of your website is used to manage your products and services, orders, and prices. Generally, you would have all your prices in a single currency in your back-end, for example, US Dollars.Orders that have been successfully placed will contain all the products and/or services that were bought as well as the base price, together with the converted price and currency that the customer purchased the products in.


REAL-TIME VS PERIODIC CURRENCY CONVERSIONS

A factor to consider is whether your website will require real-time currency conversion or if it’s acceptable to have periodic updates to the currency conversions. This may be the case if there are thousands of products and the costs to do currency conversions become high. In which case, getting the currency conversion rates periodically may be a better solution.How this works is that the currency conversions are stored in the website’s database and referenced when a conversion of a price is needed.These currency conversions are updated periodically (for example every 6 hours or daily) through the integration with the currency conversion API. 


PAYMENT PROCESSING

When it comes to processing eCommerce online payments, we integrate the website, web application, or eCommerce store with a payment gateway. There are numerous payment gateways that exist to process these payments.It is best to use a payment gateway that supports multiple currencies: Some payment gateways such as PayPal, Stripe, and Square, support multiple currencies. This means your customer can pay in their currency and the payment gateway will automatically convert it to your base currency.


WHAT ARE THE EXCEPTIONS?

There are certain exceptions when it comes to the processing of payments in certain currencies. For example, in South Africa due to our tight exchange controls in place, South African payment gateways are only able to accept payment in South African Rand (ZAR).What happens in this instance when offering products and services they can be shown in multiple currencies. The checkout amount can also even be shown in the currency that the customer has selected, however when the payment is actually processed by the payment gateway, we need to convert the price back to South African Rand and send this amount to the payment gateway to conclude the payment.With the double conversion, it is advised to round down the price that is actually processed so that the customer is never overcharged. 


WRAPPING UP 

By offering multiple currencies on your website, you can greatly benefit your business by increasing sales and conversions

Standard eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce and Shopify offer easy-to-use plugins and extensions that can convert prices to different currencies. For custom web applications and bespoke systems, an API can be used to incorporate multiple currencies. However, it is important to consider the pricing structure and volumes of conversions needed when choosing an API. 

You could manually update prices for different currencies, however, this is not recommended due to its time-consuming nature. The back-end of your website can manage prices in a single currency, while orders will contain the base price as well as the converted price and currency. The frequency of currency conversion updates can also be adjusted based on your needs. 

Lastly, it is recommended to use a payment gateway that supports multiple currencies to make the checkout process more user-friendly for your international customers.


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