Let’s have a look at some of the statistics. According to the 2008 Australian Commonwealth Bank Investment Trends Business Owners Survey, they found 42% of business owners had a website, but only 18% of them allowed consumers to buy online. I was quite interested to read this because it shows there are still more opportunities for business owners to capture their share of the online market.
Why Do Business Online?
There are many benefits in doing business online and I have outlined five most compelling reasons:
1. Make money 24 hours, 7 days a week. Imagine waking up and turning on your computer to see that you have made hundreds of sales overnight! In today’s time poor consumer market, we see people shopping online at any time of the day, so having a 24 hour, 7 day a week shop can capture sales you didn’t even know about.
2. It is easy for consumers to shop online and no more waiting in lines. One of the secrets to shopping online is no more waiting in lines to get what you want. Make it easier for consumers to buy from you and they won’t even need to leave their home.
3. Reduces your overheads. The cost of running an Internet business is quite minimal and once your systems are in place your customers become your most profitable asset. With no customer service staff and no overtime to pay, your Internet business can be very lucrative. I am an example of this, as my dragonboat business is an automated system with only one staff to run it.
4. Allows you to focus on a niche market. Some of the most successful small businesses carve out a niche market where they don’t have to compete on price alone. This allows them to expand their customer base globally and dominate their niche market.
5. Streamlines your systems and improves your cashflow. It is very easy to automate your systems with an Internet business as technology is so advanced that it can do virtually anything. It allows you to feed information into your back-end systems and allows you to control where money goes. Additionally, cashflow will be improved with faster electronic transactions without having to wait to go to a bank to deposit the money.
Getting Started With Your Online Business
Once you have decided that your business is suitable for capturing online sales, you will want to start planning how to put it together. There are many parts to an Internet business and more in depth knowledge to acquire, although here is a summary of the components you will need:
The Front End:
* Setting up a website. This is the easy part, and also the presence of your business online. The first step is to register a domain name, choose a hosting company and build your website.
* The shopping cart. Once your website is setup you can either have an integrated shopping cart with your website or add a shopping cart software. Both do the same job, the difference is to do with how much you can afford to spend on the website.
I’ll explain what is included in a good shopping cart:
o Marketing tools and information including cross selling tools
o Order management tools
o Pricing rules allowing you to offer bulk discounts, special time sensitive pricing promotions and so forth
o Stock management tools
The Back End:
* Payment gateway. This is important for you and the consumer to have. It is a secure connection between your website and the bank or merchant provider that will send private transactional details. A consumer will feel safe when they are purchasing from your website and provide security from fraud.
* Merchant provider. This is the financial institution that will validate credit card details and make the payment into your bank account. It can be either your banking institution or an online provider such as PayPal or eWay. Shop around to see what is suitable for your business that will provide you with the best package possible.
* Accounting system. More and more e-commerce systems have an accounting package module built in and also give you the option to export data into a well-known accounting system such as Quickbooks or MYOB. No matter what accounting software you use, make sure you have this in place as it will save you time and money over the long term.
There are more components that can be added to both the front and back end of an Internet business. I have provided a basic skeleton to get started for any business owner wishing to set up their business online.