Growing your business online

The wonderful thing about the Internet is having a global market to showcase your business. If you build a better than average website with a user-friendly shopping cart experience, thousands of people could be visiting your online store at the same time.

The traditional small business model of a physical store selling specific items that consumers need or want just doesn’t have the scope or potential of a web venture. Having an online presence is an essential tool for being successful in today’s business world.

Choosing to trade online

Choosing to trade online

Did you know that 80% of Kiwis now search online before purchasing products and services?*Sooner or later you’ll have to make the decision to sell your products or services online. There are a few ways you can go about this from building an e-commerce website to selling through online marketplaces.

Building an e-commerce website

By creating your own e-commerce site you can have total control over the design and detail of your online store. The advantages of building your own custom made site are:

  • Creativity – the world is your oyster when it comes to creating the image of your business online.
  • User friendliness – you can make sure that your website is easy to navigate and doesn’t have any overlapping images or text.
  • Adaptability – you’re able to tailor and develop your site to the specific needs of your business.

You’ll need secure web hosting, an online shopping cart and an online payment system. By launching an online store you’ll be able to sell and interact directly with your customers.

A critical decision is whether to add a shopping cart to your website. When making this choice, take into account the type of business you have, where most of your customers are located, and if you need to be paid upfront.

Pre-made websites

You may choose to use a pre-made website – a template already set up in a standard form where the images and text simply fit into pre-defined areas. A pre-made website may be best for your business if:

  • You are just starting up – businesses getting off the ground normally have limited cash flow.
  • You have a small budget – the initial set up cost for a template site can be very low.
  • You need a site built quickly – all the design work is already completed so all you have to do is enter your text and images.

See how to get your business a quality pre-made website through one of Westpac’s small business resources.

Consider checking out GetOnline, which allows you to build your own website free** using pre-made layouts, and includes a feature that enables your business to receive payments via PayPal.

Third-party online marketplaces

You may consider selling via an online marketplace like TrademeEBay or Amazon. This option won’t require a large investment and you won’t need your own website.

Online marketplaces let sellers list and sell their goods or services for a fee or commission. The benefits of using these sites include low set up costs, easy product listings and integrated payment methods.

You can enable customer payments to be made into your business bank account, PayPal or other service account.

To see how Westpac can help grow your business, check out this small business case study.

Payment solutions

Payment solutions

Your e-commerce site should allow customers to pay with debit and credit cards. It will need an Internet Merchant Account (IMA) and a payment gateway. A few options include:

Why accepting payments online is important

With an e-commerce website your customers and potential clients can get information on your business and order what they want anytime – businesses don’t close for the night in the online world.

You need an online existence to have a chance of selling your products or services to consumers with mobile phones and tablet devices. Your potential clients lead busy lives and some prefer to buy what they want while on the go.

View NZTE’s exporting online article for some considerations before trading online.

Costs of selling online

Costs of selling online

Treat your new website like an investment because it will probably be the biggest cost your business will have when choosing to go online. Some other expenses you can expect when creating a website and setting up an online payment system include:

  • Domain name and hosting fee – normally involves an initial fee, plus an annual renewal cost.
  • Shopping cart or merchant service costs – to pay for the service provided by a bank so you can accept credit and debit cards.
  • Backing up your data online – it’s commonplace to back up your files to a cloud based service, usually with a cost involved.
  • Packaging and shipping costs – naturally an online business will have to ship their goods far and wide.

Have a look at Westpac’s cash flow forecast tool to help you prepare for online expenses.

Managing an effective website

Managing an effective website

Your website will be measuring up against both local and international businesses so you’ll need to maintain and update it’s content often to stay ahead of your competition. Fresh and unique content encourages people to return to your site, while keeping it free of mistakes protects your credibility.

Make sure your site is easy to find through a search engine, like Google or Bing. You can help get your site a higher ranking in search results by writing Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) friendly content.

Research your customers to find out what words they would use to search for your business.

Analytics

You’ll want to know how many potential customers are browsing your site each day – and how they’re getting there. A web analytics package can monitor visitor statistics on your website, so you can evaluate its success.

With Get Online there’s a dedicated section called ‘Be Found with Google’ where you’ll find a number of great features to help customers find your website. Once you’ve created your website, it will automatically be submitted to Google by MYOB Atlas to help your business be found in the search results.

A few analytics packages can be downloaded for free such as Google Analytics and Clicky are two examples. Get some more tips on how to grow your business in the guides below.