Secure eBusiness Solutions

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Selling Online - What do I Need To Know?

There are many people right now thinking of selling online or dealing with the conflicts between their offline retail business and competition from online stores. Starting an online business selling products or services is a great way of handling competition. You can compete with existing online stores and with overseas online store. You need to look for the competitive advantage and your unique sales proposition. Remember your strengths and work to service your customer to the best of your capability.

There are some costs which you can expect before you make your first sale. Your online store is a sales channel and acts like a sales person for your business. Selling online using a Pure Online Model can be very cost effective as there are less human resource and infrastructure costs unlike a "bricks and mortar" business.

If you have an existing offline retail business then adding an online store, going multi-channel, can increase your geographic reach and therefore revenue. But remember the online store operates 24/7/365 and you will need to service a new and different customer base.

Do not be fooled selling online is not free and your results will be directly dependant on your investment, quality of service and products. There are costs which exist for both online and bricks and mortar businesses;
  •         Cost of products
  •         Warehousing
  •         Logistics (delivery, returns and refunds)
  •         Human resources
  •         Traditional marketing
  •         Business taxes and fees
  •         Accountant and financial institution fees

All these traditional costs still exist and do not magically vanish if you sell online. However the level of these costs might be significantly less for a Pure Online business and for Multi-channel then  you will have most of the traditional areas covered.

If you are reasonably technically capable and do not mind doing some work yourself then the budget can be less than $100 a month for the online store. If you have a professional designer and web developers create a design and add content then your budget will need to start around $2,500 - $5,000 for the build plus a monthly fee of around $100 / month covering hosting and software. The more design and functional complexity the more cost and therefore budget required.

The bigger the online store i.e. more products, categories, visitors and orders, then generally the higher the monthly cost. Your monthly costs will include such items as hosting, software, maintenance, content management, search engine optimisation and search engine marketing.

But you can start small and add functionality later so the online store and your budget grow with your business. Successfully selling online requires as much business acumen and planning (maybe more) as any traditional business. Getting started is not hard but there is a lot of jargon and technology that can be confusing to a non-technically minded person.

Online Business Checklist 

You will have to get your head around a number of issues as you build your online business. You might leave it all to someone else to handle but understanding the issues can lead to a more successful result and less chance of failure.

Business issues are really the fundamentals that have to be in place before you start and will dictate how your business operates.

Business plan issues need to be considered as they will have an impact on how your business develops and where you focus your time and efforts.

Technology issues might all be outsourced to some other person or company to handle but it is important that they are all handled well. Failure at a technology level might bring your whole plan and business unstuck. So whether you do it yourself or have someone do it for you create a list and tick off the items. There are some great eCommerce (shopping cart) software solutions available and they are feature rich and effective. The best advice that you can get is to make a list of the features you really want (functional requirements), ask 3 or 4 solution providers for their proposal and try before you commit. Just about all good solutions providers offer a free trial which might just be a test or demo but will familiarise yourself with the solution. If you envisage doing it yourself and you cannot understand how to manage the basics like uploading content and processing orders then it is best to find out upfront.

Online Shopping Cart Software is the key component of any online store so the eCommerce shopping basket or online shopping cart has to work well.

What is a eCommerce Shopping Cart?

The quick answer is that it is a capability that is enabled on a website that will allow you to view a product online, add it to the shopping cart or basket and then securely "check out" or pay for the product. Web 2.0 allows for a great level of functionality with the shopping cart and new features that enable more social interaction. In general most websites do not have shopping cart capabilities but it is necessary if you are going to sell online through your website. The shopping cart must be flexible and safe. Once you have added products to the basket it should lead you through a progression of steps to a final payment process. Along the way it will collect information about the buyer, the shipping address, special requirements, add tax if needed and then allow you to securely enter credit card or payment details via secured pages with an SSL Certificate and using HTTPS.
You can rent a store that does not need to have additional shopping cart software added. The shopping cart and software you use is often the critical part of the delivery of an eCommerce solution that goes wrong. The solution delivers a web store shopping basket with some important functionality that is included with every online store. It's not some 'added feature' or plug-in and that's what makes the online shop and online shopping cart software and solution so easy to use and so successful for our customers. It can help make your business a success as well.
The online shopping basket or online shopping cart is the place where most sales are lost in an online ecommerce business. So the functionality, simplicity and security of the shopping basket and checkout process is very important. The shopping basket or cart must contain the features that allow your customers to easily manage their own sale.
What are the key capabilities and features of Integrated Shopping Cart solution? Here are some items to look for:

  • Clear graphical order steps and process
  • Multiple languages
  • Multiple currencies
  • Advanced item/quantity/weight/size selection capabilities
  • Minimum basket price option
  • Advanced basket price calculations
  • Multiple customer groups linked to price lists and discounts
  • Value and quantity-based discounts
  • Links to products in the basket
  • Multiple shipping methods (e.g. Australia Post, Temando, Shipping by Weight and Region, Exception method)
  • Multiple shipping addresses (for registered customers)
  • Multiple payment methods (e.g. PayPal Express Checkout, eWAY, Payment Express, TNSI)
  • Multiple tax areas
  • Payment method by region or tax area
  • Relationships between shipping and payment
  • Easily modifiable help text before and after the basket
  • Flexible content for quantities
  • Customer entry field for order information
  • Clearly outline tax components (GST)
  • Gross and net tax calculation methods
  • Basket to wishlist (and reverse) function
  • Coupon code and ability to redeem in basket
  • Ask a question about
  • Ratings and Review
  • B2B or B2C
  • Product and customer specific payment and shipping
  • Acceptance of terms and conditions before checkout
  • Ability to register as member during checkout
  • Ability to log-in in basket
  • Advanced cross sell capability
  • Advanced out-of-stock handling
  • Basket encryption and SSL protected
  • Multiple methods of discount in basket
  • Integration with payment systems
  • Mini-basket view
  • Smart basket icons and links
  • Social media integration for product and content pages

  • Facebook shop
  • Integration to portals like eBay, Google Shopping and Amazon
  • Support for price comparison engines (e.g. Getprice and
  • Mobile device support (e.g. iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows Phone, Tablets and smartphones)

  • Support for all browsers
  • Support for all types of content (e.g. video, Flash, images, PDF)
  • Auto re-sizing of product images and content images
  • Marketing capabilities like Newsletters and Coupons
  • Easy to use Content Management System
  • Free templates for store design
  • Free image library
  • Access to gadgets to connect to external services
This is not a complete list but can get you started. Remember features do not make a good online store. You need good content and you need to promote your store online and offline.

Hopefully this article will give you some good ideas and get you started. But please contact me if you have any questions.