There are a lot of advantages to conducting business online. One is that you have considerably less overhead expenses. Because you can connect with customers and suppliers using a laptop and/or a mobile phone from home, you don’t need to pay rent on a commercial space. Another advantage is that you have a potentially wider reach: not everyone can go to a mall in Manila or Sydney, but just about anyone with an Internet connection will be able to access your online store.
Yet despite this, many people are still hesitant to open up an online store. Some of them cite security issues, logistics issues, and so on, but most of them simply don’t know where to begin.
Fortunately, today’s topic is all about how to open up an online business, particularly in Australia, so let’s dive right in:
1. Think about what you’re going to sell.
First things first: will you be offering a product or a service? In the case of the former, will you be making it yourself or will you be sourcing it from a supplier?
As with any business, consider how much you’ll sell your product or service for and if there are enough people willing to purchase it so that your business will be sustainable. For example, if there are no Filipino stores and groceries in your area, but there are several Filipinos living there, an online grocery selling Filipino goods might be viable.
2. Come up with an online business name and register your business.
Ideally, your online store’s name should be memorable and unique. It should also be appropriate for the product or service you wish to offer. (“The Tinky Winky Legal Consultancy Group” doesn’t sound like a credible agency, for instance.)
It would also be a good idea to officially register your business here. (It only takes 15 minutes and about AU$30.) Being an officially-registered online business makes it a lot easier to establish and build credibility, especially among first-time online shoppers who are wary of bogus sellers. This also gives you leverage in case other unlicensed copycats of your product or service happen to emerge later on.
While you’re at it, set up an email address for your online store as well.
3. Build your online shop.
Having coding knowledge is a plus if you’re setting up shop online, but there are a handful of platforms out there that provide you with templates you can easily customize even if you don’t know how to program a website.
Shopify is a great platform to start with since it’s free and they provide you with the basics (theme, means for uploading your product list and plugging in your PayPal account, etc.) for getting started.
Once your online store is up and running, you’ll need to advertise to draw traffic (and hopefully, customers) over onto your site.
There’s no one-size-fits-all formula for online shop advertising, so you may need to tinker with several approaches before you find out what works for you. Putting up an FB page is usually a good start, as is asking your immediate family and friends to like and/or share it on their social media accounts.
You may also want to check out Google’s AdWords or engage an SEO specialist to make sure your page ends up on the first page of the search engine’s results, thus increasing your chances of drawing potential customers in.
5. Track your shop’s performance and make improvements when necessary.
You can’t improve what you can’t measure, and the same is true for online shops.
One challenge of operating an online store is that your contact with customers is limited. It just isn’t as easy to get their feedback and get to know their particular wants and needs.
Tools like Google Analytics help address that issue. With this, you can keep an eye on data like your conversion rate (i.e., how many site visitors actually make a purchase), your traffic sources (which countries your most frequent visitors come from), your product performance (which ones are the bestsellers and which ones aren’t too popular), and so on.
With that kind of data, it’ll be a lot faster to figure out what works for your online store and what doesn’t, effectively shortening your learning curve and potentially increasing your profitability.
6. Create and engage a community.
The most successful online stores are the ones that engage with their customers the most.
This is where your social media accounts come in. Leverage on the power of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get the word out about upcoming new products and services, online sales and promos, and even seasonal contests. You’ll be surprised at how these things can significantly increase website traffic and sales (!) when done right.
Actively interacting with your customers on social media also sends out the message that your brand is fully invested in quickly addressing consumer concerns and resolving any hiccups, which can only be good for your business in the long run.
7. Set up your delivery service.
Consistently and effectively fulfilling orders is just as important as generating your sales. You do want steady repeat customers, right?
Australia’s market is comparatively small at just 22 million people, so you’ll want to consider tapping into nearby international markets like New Zealand, for example. Shop around for reliable and established third-party logistics suppliers that can store your stock and/or ship them out automatically as soon as a sale is finalized on your website.
Lastly, the final step for setting up an online store is, to borrow from Nike, “Just do it.” Far too many brilliant e-commerce ideas get waylaid by analysis paralysis, also known as the false belief that your online store needs to be perfect when you launch.
Informed action is key here, so it’s best not to wait too long before getting started. After all, another great thing about online stores is that it’s easier to change its structure as needed once you start operations.