Growing your business online.
Moving online can be part of growing a successful business. The opportunities available to business owners by having an online presence is hard to quantify - here we look at some of the benefits of online growth.
Advantages of selling online.
The wonderful thing about the internet is having a global market to showcase your business. If you build a better than average, search engine optimised website with a user-friendly shopping experience, you can attract thousands of new customers to your online business.
The traditional business model of a physical store selling specific items that consumers need or want doesn't generally 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 grow online.
Did you know that 95% of Kiwis use the internet every day1? Sooner or later you'll probably need 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 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 may choose to use a pre-made website - a template already set up in a standard format where your business' 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 - using a templated website will let you quickly test your idea
- 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 use simple tools to add your business specific details.
Third-party online marketplaces
You may consider selling via an online marketplace like TradeMe, eBay, Facebook 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.
Your e-commerce site should allow customers to pay with debit and credit cards. It will need an online merchant facility and a payment gateway. A few local options include:
- Mastercard® MiGS and MPGS
- Visa Cybersource.
Why accepting payments online is important
With an e-commerce website your current and potential customers can get information about 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 customers lead busy lives and some prefer to buy what they want while on the go.
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 ongoing 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
- Website and shopping cart - this could be joint or separate fees depending on the website setup
- Merchant service costs - to pay for the service provided by a bank so you can accept credit and debit cards
- 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.
Your website will be measuring up against both local and international businesses, so you'll need to maintain and update its 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.
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.
There are several web analytics tools in the market. Google Analytics has a free version that is commonly used but, with a little research, you may find an alternative that is a better fit for your business.
Things you should know.
2 These tools are intended as a guide only and are not intended to constitute financial advice.
The material on this webpage is provided for information purposes only and is not a recommendation or opinion.
We recommend you seek independent legal, financial and/or tax advice.
Links to other sites are provided for convenience only and Westpac accepts no responsibility for the availability or content of such websites.