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How to sell online!

Since the start of the Internet in the 1990s, businesses around the globe started selling their products on the Internet. This new selling system means businesses can not only sell their products to local customers, but also to potential customers around the world; all they need is a PC, Tablet or even a smart phone connected to the Internet. Before thinking about selling your products or services online, you will need to plan how you are going to sell them. What is the best shopping cart available in the market? How much does it cost to design your business website? What payment system are you going to use on your website - how to process payments online? It isn't easy, is it? You will need a thorough plan about selling online. In this article I will explain how you can sell your products or services online.

Design your online store website

In order to sell your products online, you will need to look for a web design company or a freelance web designer to design your online store website. There are two options to choose when it comes to building an online store website - custom hosted online store website that you can do yourself such as Magento or Shopify, or if you are not comfortable with computers, you will need to hire a web designer to design your online store. A hosted online store means that the software company owns and maintains the “back-end” code for the website. You are allowed to change the design of the site but you cannot modify most of the built-in functions or features. On the other hand, if you find it complicated to do it yourself, you will have to hire a web designer. There are hundreds of web designers to choose from, each stating that they can do everything you need. A non-hosted online store means that you are going to have to pay for hosting yourself and maintain your site code and hosting environment. You will also need to carefully consider security.

The cost of designing an online store website may vary from one web designer to the other - depending on the level of sophistication you want to have. So, your price will depend on your specific needs and budget. For a small business with about 50 to 100 products , it is estimated the cost will be between $1000 - $5000 AUD. You will need to shop around in Google and you might find someone who charges less than these prices. At Desena Web Design, we charge $1500 for an online store with unlimited products.

Shopping Cart

Have you heard your friends or colleagues talking about shopping carts or shopping baskets and online shopping? If you have done shopping online, you would be familiar with these terms. But what exactly is a shopping cart?

According to Wikipedia.org (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shopping_cart_software), a shopping cart is a piece of e-commerce software on a web server that allows visitors to an Internet site to select items for eventual purchase. The software allows online shopping customers to accumulate a list of items for purchase, described metaphorically as “placing items in the shopping cart” or “add to cart”. Upon checkout, the software typically calculates a total for the order, including shipping and handling (i.e. postage and packing) charges and the associated taxes, as applicable.

An online store is different to a physical offline shop where you can visit and buy the products. When you visit a physical offline shop, you browse the items on the shelve, you touch them and try them on, if you like them then you will take the items to the cash register and make a payment. Unlike the physical offline shop, you browse items on an online store using your computer. There is no human interaction. You are interacting with web pages that list your favourite items - you browse the items by clicking on the image to see a larger size so that you can have a closer look and click on the more details button to read more about a particular item. If you like the item and decide to buy it, then you will have to click on add to card button, which acts like a cash register or a checkout in the real world, the shopping cart will take care of payment, shipping and handling and even calculate taxes.

There are hundreds and even thousands of shopping carts available in the market, making it very hard to decide which one is the best for your online store. There are a number of free open source shopping carts that are free to use and there are also a number of hosted and commercial shopping carts available on the Internet. The free open source shopping carts such as open cart, prestashop, zencart, ozcommerce etc are available free for download. Some web designers use these open source shopping carts for their ecommerce websites. When you choose a web designer to design your e-commerce website, you have to make sure that the shopping cart they use for your e-commerce website comes with built-in dashboards that facilitate non-technical people when adding and editing products, modifying store rules and editing text content. Even though a programmer isn’t required, it still takes time and budget to input products. If you do not have computer skills or resources to do this, then your web designer will take care of maintenance.

Online payment system

Both offline and online stores need a payment gateway. At an offline store, customers can pay for your products in cash or with their bank card or credit card if you have an EFTPOS machine. With an online store, there are 3 ways to take payments when people buy online:

Direct bank deposits

If you do not have a payment gateway, you can process payments on your website using direct bank deposits. Customers can go to your bank and make a direct deposit or if they have an online banking account they can transfer to your bank account. There are some disadvantages of direct bank deposits:

  • You have to share your bank account number with people you do not know
  • Keeping track of payments can be difficult
  • Customers can accidentally send money to the wrong account

Pay with credit on your website

If you want to take credit card payments on your website, you could look at getting a payment gateway. With payment gateway, people can pay securely on your website and the money goes directly to your business bank account. To be able to accept credit payments on your website, you must meet the following requirements:

  • You need to get an internet merchant account with your bank
  • Required two years history with the bank to get approved
  • You need to purchase SSL (Secure Socket Layer) from your chosen web hosting company. The SSL is used to encrypt your website to prevent scammers or fraudsters to steal sensitive information, especially your customers credit card details.

Use third party payment gateway

If you do not want to process credit card payment on your website you can choose third party payment gateway such as eway (http://www.eway.com.au), securepay (http://www.securepay.com.au), Paypal (https://www.paypal.com/au/home) and many more. We recommend PayPal for our clients because of its reputation. You do not need an internet merchant account if you choose this payment gateway system. With PayPal payment system your customer is taken away from your site to Paypal's website to make a credit card transaction. With PayPal payment system you do not have to worry about the security on your website so you do not need to worry about purchasing SSL (Secure Socket Layer).

No matter which options you choose, whether it be a custom hosted online store website or hire a web designer to design your online store website, you must invest your time and money into your online store. You must learn how to add, delete and modifying products on your website and advertise your online store in Google and any other search engines and business directory, otherwise you may be wasting your money and time.