Moving your business online
Let’s take a look at some of the stats. According to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia’s 2008 Investment Trends Survey of Business Owners, they found that 42% of business owners have a website, but only 18% of them allow consumers to buy online. I was quite interested to read this because it shows that there are still more opportunities for business owners to capture their share of the online market.
Why do business online?
There are many benefits to doing business online, and I’ve outlined five of the most compelling reasons:
1. Make money 24/7. Imagine waking up and turning on your computer to see that you’ve made hundreds of sales overnight! In today’s poor consumer market, we see people shopping online at all hours of the day, so a 24/7 store can snag sales you didn’t even know existed.
2. It is easy for consumers to shop online and no more waiting in queues. One of the secrets of online shopping is not to wait in lines anymore to get what you want. Make it easy for consumers to buy from you and they won’t even have to leave their home.
3. Reduces your overhead costs. The costs of running an internet business are pretty minimal, and once you have your systems 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 profitable. I am an example of this as my dragon boat 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 solely on price. This allows them to expand their customer base globally and dominate their niche market.
5. Streamline your systems and improve your cash flow. It is very easy to automate your internet business systems because the technology is so advanced that it can do almost anything. It allows you to feed information into your back-end systems and allows you to control where the money goes. In addition, cash flow 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’ve decided that your business is a good fit for capturing online sales, you’ll want to start planning how to collect it. 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:
* Create a website. This is the easy part and also your business presence online. The first step is to register a domain name, choose a hosting company and create your website.
* The shopping cart. Once your website is set up, you can either have an integrated shopping cart with your website or add shopping cart software. Both do the same job, the difference is how much you can afford to spend on the website.
I’ll explain what goes into a good shopping cart:
o Marketing tools and information, including cross-selling tools
o Order management tools
o Pricing rules that allow you to offer group discounts, special time-sensitive price promotions, etc.
o Inventory management tools
* Payment login. This is important for you and for the user. This is a secure link between your website and the merchant’s bank or provider, which will send private transaction details. The user will feel safe when shopping on your website and will provide security from fraud.
* Merchant supplier. This is the financial institution that will verify your credit card details and make the payment to your bank account. This can be either your banking institution or an online provider such as PayPal or eWay. Shop around to see what’s right for your business, which will get you the best package possible.
* Accounting system. More and more e-commerce systems have a built-in module for accounting packages and also give you the option to export data to a well-known accounting system such as Quickbooks or MYOB. No matter what accounting software you use, make sure you have one as it will save you time and money in the long run.
There are more components that can be added to both the front and back end of an internet business. I’ve provided a basic skeleton to get you started for any business owner looking to build their business online.
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