The internet lets small businesses reach markets that were previously impossible. How can you create an e-commerce website or add merchant services to your existing site?
Promoting your business online is essential for being successful today. A traditional business doesn’t offer anywhere near the same scope and potential that an online business does.
Getting online could be just what you need to grow your business.
Smartphones and tablets have changed the way the world shops. By being able to accept online payments you’re opening up a whole new marketplace for your business.
An e-commerce website lets your existing and potential clients read about your business and order what they want when it suits them. Closed businesses, public holidays and ‘back in 5 minutes’ don’t exist in the online world.
According to PR Newswire, 89% of people carry out their research using search engines. This means you need an online presence to be found by these people. It’s easy for them to find your competitors, so you have to position yourself to offer what people want, when they want it.
Selling online lets you reach customers who like the convenience of the web.
The internet means you can deliver your business globally. Build an engaging website with a user-friendly shopping experience and you could have thousands of people around the world shopping with your online store.
With an online store there’s less need to have a physical location, which saves you money and gives you the freedom to do business from anywhere. Of course, this depends on the type of products or services you sell.
Compared to opening new branches in new countries and employing new sales staff, an online business is comparatively less expensive and gives you greater reach.
It might be ideal for you to sell through an existing third-party online marketplace, like Amazon or eBay. This option doesn’t need a large investment and you won’t need to develop your own website.
These online marketplaces let sellers list their goods and services for a fee or a commission. The benefits of using an existing marketplace include low set-up costs, easy product listings, high traffic to the site and integrated payment procedures.
Any e-commerce website would have secure web hosting, an online payment system and an online shopping cart.
No matter how you approach online selling, having an integrated shopping cart is an absolute essential. It means you can sell directly to anyone who visits your site.
You can design your own unique site, or choose an off-the-shelf solution, which offers less scope for personalisation but will be less expensive.
Options for payment
Every online payment system needs an Internet Merchant Account (IMA) and a payment gateway.
Your e-commerce site should accept debit and credit cards, authorise payments and transfer funds to your account.
The largest cost when you decide to sell online is likely to be the design and build of your ecommerce website. Make sure you treat it like an investment. If you get it right you can reap the rewards.
Selling through an online store reduces your need for customer service staff, office space and other related costs.
If you create a customer forum and a FAQ section you’ll be able to help your customers help themselves, giving you more time to concentrate on running your business.
You can make further savings by using online service providers and taking all facets of your business online, such as purchasing, invoicing and organising delivery.
Your break-even point is where your costs equal your revenue. When you start your online business, calculate the costs involved with setting up an online payment system, such as:
'Break-even' is simply the number of units you need to sell to match the total costs during a period of time. Variable costs, such as shipping fees, can push this target higher.
You can calculate your break-even point over any time period based on how much you believe you’ll sell in a week, a month or a year. If you sell more than one product or service online you’ll need to estimate the sales mix of those items.
Your website will compete against local and international businesses. To stay ahead of the competition you’ll need to update your site regularly and give your customers a reason to return.
By giving people a reason to return they might purchase from you while they’re on the site. Make sure you always proofread anything that’s going on your website. Mistakes can turn people off your business, and lose you sales.
Your site should be easy to find by people searching for your business using search engines like Google. If your content is search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly this will help your site get a higher ranking in search results. Find out the key words your customers search with so you can optimise your site.
It’s vital to your success that you monitor visitor statistics using a web analytics package. It can help you understand how many people, are visiting your site, and how they’re getting there.
Google Analytics and AWStats are frequently included in services by web hosts or you can download them free of charge and as commercial packages.
This guide is intended as general advice only, and not intended to cover specific circumstances and needs. The information in this article is also not linked to any of the products offered by Clydesdale Bank PLC.