Want to make money on the web? Ecommerce is there for you. But how do you get an ecommerce business up and running?

An ecommerce business follows the same principles as any other business. You buy or produce products or provide a service. You market the goods or services and sell them at a profit.

The big differences are:

  1. Overhead expenses are less, because you can start up from home.
  2. Marketing costs are less – your catalog with new products or services can be changed on-line at little or no cost.
  3. Trading hours can be unrestricted to the extent that customers can place orders at any time of any day.
  4. Trading area is unlimited – orders can come from all over the state or country and from all over the world.

Steps to start an ecommerce business:

  1. Choose a product or service. The best products are those that bring repeat business. The product or service should be one that you can be enthusiastic about. You need to become an expert in your business and be prepared to offer personal service, even though your customers are in another town, state or country.
  2. Find a reliable supplier with prices on which you can make a reasonable profit, and with reasonable delivery times. The ideal supplier will hold the stock and deliver when you have customer orders. However you may pay more for that, so weigh up the options.
  3. Research the market for the product or service and the prices your competitors are getting.
  4. Set a price list with delivery charges. Take a sample to your Post Office or courier service. Be careful to make your prices with postage competitive with similar items in local shops.
  5. Do a budget to see what volume of products or services you need to sell to make sufficient profit after all costs to make the business worthwhile. Be certain there is a market for such volume.
  6. Choose a business name and a domain name that reflects the nature of the business. Say you want to start selling widgets in Melbourne. Joysmith.com could be selling anything, but based on its name alone, the website will not be listed by Google for widget sales. Melbournewidgets.com has two search words in the name. Register a name that reflects the business. Register a name with your country`s extension as well as a dot com. Avoid any name that is similar to an existing name. Choose carefully as you don`t want to change the name later and start again.
  7. Open a bank account for business receipts and payments. You can download them periodically to a spreadsheet for your tax records.
  8. Payment options for new businesses may be limited to PayPal and bank deposits. Banks will offer you credit card facilities but at costs that makes them unviable until you have sufficient volume of sales.

Web design

  1. Find a web designer who will build a website for your business to display your products or services, with shopping cart, ordering, payments and online updating of products. An ideal website will allow you to feature product specials on the home page.
  2. There are a number of free open source public domain ecommerce packages available. These may be suitable to start but they have disadvantages. In order to accommodate all businesses they use coding that may not be search engine friendly. On a custom designed ecommerce website, the URL computers.com.au/ software.php?c=Educational is good SEO, but on a free open source website a URL computers.com.au/index.php?p12345=x6789012z is not search engine friendly. Some systems require installation by a web developer anyway.
  3. Choose a web hosting plan that`s not expensive, is sufficient for your needs, but which can be upgraded. Choose a host in your own country.
  4. Get at least your home page hosted and online as soon as possible, so that Google lists it. Before Google can list the website, Google needs to know it exists, and the quickest way is to have a link to it on an existing well indexed website. This may be your web designer`s site, or your web host`s site, or a local directory website – e.g. Chamber of Commerce. Get as many links as possible from good websites but avoid “link farms”.
  5. The reason for having your home page listed as soon as possible is that the age of the site is one of the many factors that Google uses to position websites in its search results. There are many other factors that you should make yourself aware of and comply with. Your web designer should be able to help here. But also do your own research.
  6. Make the priority of your website to be search engine friendly rather than pretty. Your website must certainly look attractive and be easy to navigate, but if nobody finds it because it is not optimized for search engines, then you have wasted a lot of time and money.

Do your research, budget, start small, but plan for both the short term and the long term. Many of our clients started their business on their kitchen table or spare bedroom, then later expanded into their own shops and warehouses. On the other hand, a few will drop out because of lack of interest, choosing unsuitable products, or being uncompetitive.

Become an expert in your product and provide a good service.

These articles were first published on www.platywebs.com.au and have been re-published on many other websites and ezines over the years. New readers are still finding them to be of value and up to date with today’s conditions. We believe they illustrate common sense and the value of thinking through situations. Please check out the other articles advising on small business, web design, search engine optimisation, web hosting and domain names.