Secure eBusiness Solutions

Thursday, 25 October 2007

Selling Online

There are now over 1.87 million small to medium sized businesses in Australia and they are all thinking ecommerce. These include trades people, small stores, small farm businesses and in fact all types of businesses. Less than 9% are selling products online today and less than 20% even have a website. However Australia is falling behind the rest of the world in the ecommerce race even though total ecommerce revenues hit $45 Billion in Australia in 2006 with online shopping revenues growing around 30% annually. Small business in clamouring to get a slice of the ecommerce action.

There are many factors influencing this trend. Some are obvious and some not.

  • Greater availability of broadband for home and business users.

  • Faster and cheaper broadband

  • More people are staying online longer

  • Transport costs are higher so going shopping in the traditional way can be expensive

  • Consumers have less time and want to shop around the clock

  • Consumers want choice and do their comparison shopping online – so why not buy online

Interestingly a recent survey in the UK found that people over 55 spent more time online than those aged 16 – 35. This surprised many who saw it but it is a result of the greater availability and the ease of shopping online. The same may be true for Australia with the median age now at 37 and aging. Smart online shopping operators will not forget where the money is really. The over 50 age group is growing more rapidly than any other age group in Australia. (see ABS Chart) It is important to ensure that whatever you do online takes into account this important demographic.

An online business is just like any other business. You need a Business Plan, Capital, Products or Services and Infrastructure. It is no secret that no one knows how big you really are on the net. But you need to be professional and run your online business like a “bricks and mortar” business.

Here are some tips:

Concerntrate on what you know works; many web site developers or designers that you talk with will tell you that success is all about the look and feel of the site. You will hear that you need to have great Search Engine Optimisation and Marketing (SEO and SEM). Some people believe that they have to have a unique product or service. While others believe it is just luck. Well while some of the above is true the real secrets to success are to have a plan and not try to accomplish too much.

A plan for your eCommerce business is very important. Every business needs a plan that helps to keep the business on track and to measure results. Developing a plan helps you understand the intricacies of your business. Sharing the plan with others that you trust can help ensure that you are not off with the fairies.

So what do we mean by not trying to accomplish too much?

The story that you hear sometimes goes like this. The business owner has a great business idea that could build to a good revenue generator. Typically they have a primary job (or at least another job), they might also be responsible for running the home and looking after the kids. So already they are putting in a 60+ hour week. Now they want a web store and they have 100's maybe 1,000's of products to sell. They look around and evaluate a number of eCommerce providers and they do their homework. They might try a few out and they ask a lot of friends for advice. Finally they make a decision and make the plunge and sign up for an eCommerce web store. 6 months later the store is only half finished.

They are not happy with the look and feel. They have been spending money and not making money. There is not enough time to get everything done and it all starts to get too hard.

So what’s wrong?

First they are trying to do too much. Start with products that you know will sell and only start with a few products maybe 10 or 20. Whatever you find easy to maintain. It is better to have a few products on the store well presented and with good images and descriptions than hundreds or thousands badly presented. If you know what will sell then start there.

Bring buyers to your store and not just visitors. The success of an online shop is not how many visitors you get it is how many buy then come back and buy again. Once people buy from you and trust you they will come back and buy again.

If you have a catalogue with 100's or 1,000's of products then publish it on your website so that it can be downloaded. That way people can see what else you have and can send a message and ask.

When someone buys from you give them exceptional service. Make sure that you ship the products as soon as possible and make sure you give them a call or send an email to follow up. Personalisation makes people much more comfortable.

You need to promote your store but start local and grow global. Get a flyer printed on a good quality colour printer or go to any of the fast print outlets. Get a few hundred flyers and take a walk around you local neighbourhood and stick them in the letter boxes. The flyer should have some information about you, pictures of some products and the URL of your website. Offer a promotional discount based on a coupon number on the flyer.


SEO and SEM, Google Adwords, pay per click, all that stuff is important but it is easier to get right with 20 products than with 2,000. So if you want to be successful online you have to start somewhere but maybe think a little smaller if you have other demands in your day.


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