Want a website that serves your customers and does all your banking for you as well? Jonathan Crossfield looks at the essential ingredients to a successful eCommerce system.
The internet has changed the way the world shops. A skateboarder in Brazil can buy knee pads from Canada with a couple of mouse clicks. A comic collector in England can find that rare issue of Spider-Man in Japan without leaving the bedroom. Akubra hats are popular with ex-pats in France.
Global internet sales mean businesses can stay open day and night and anyone with the right product can produce a no-effort income. But to tap into this potential, your website needs to keep your life simple and give your customers ease of use and security.
Thankfully, cost-effective shopping carts and secure payment systems are widely available. Every day, e-commerce powerhouses are being launched out of bedrooms and basements. Traditional businesses are reinventing themselves online.
However, there are still pitfalls to be avoided. The greatest business idea is worthless if the customers don’t buy. Providing the best environment for the customer – not convenience for the business owner – is the key to successful eCommerce.
Consider the customer experience
Online shopping behavior is fundamentally different from any other retail medium. To create a functional eCommerce store, you need a clear understanding of the online shopping experience.
If you haven’t already, visit Amazon or any of the other big online stores. Buy a small book, get some theatre tickets or subscribe to a service. Whatever you choose, carefully analyze the process of using shopping carts. What annoyed you? What surprised you? When did you want to click back? How many times were you asked to enter information? Did you complete the transaction? Was there an email follow-up?
For your website, there are a number of shopping cart applications and online payment systems available. As always, there are good and bad features to weigh up when choosing the best solution for your business. When considering the features and packages available, try to look at them through the eyes of your customers, not your own. After all, you won’t be using the shopping cart, your customers will.
Internet users are fickle and notorious for having short attention spans. Mouse fingers are always itchy to click away at the slightest inconvenience. By simply understanding how customers behave, you can choose a shopping cart design to encourage sales.
Yet even the best shopping cart can fail if the online payment service doesn’t encourage users to click the button. Credit card fraud is still a major concern for the majority of online shoppers. Consequently, it’s vital to provide a safe transaction if you want to convert as many customers as possible.
Building a user-friendly and secure eCommerce website doesn’t have to be expensive. There are several extremely popular solutions that are proven to be effective in removing worry from your sale.
- Beginner. You’re a new online business looking for a cost-effective, professional and secure sales solution.
- Expert. You’re an established business needing more control and fewer fees with sales going straight to your bank account.
Is it for you?
- You’re just starting out
- It’s too early to invest in a payment gateway
- You want a simple, flexible solution
Setting up an online store as a side business was a simple process for Andrew Blundell. Having worked with walkabout.com while traveling in Canada five years ago, it was a short leap to building his own Australian version at walkaboutdownunder.com.au.
Selling everything from Akubras to Driza-bones, Blundell is tapping into a popular market for travelers, outdoor types, and ex-pat Aussies.
Blundell’s full-time job left him limited time to devote to the store, so he needed a website that could function easily as a side project. It was important to find the balance between customer needs and his own.
Blundell needed a website that could look after itself and an efficient payment system. Lacking the time to manually process orders and the finances to set up a traditional online merchant account, Blundell needed a basic payment solution. This solution also needed to be popular with its customers.
“As I was just starting the business, I didn’t want to sign up with a bank or payment gateway system,” he says. “I didn’t know how successful the site would be, and I didn’t want to spend fees each month for transactions I might not be using.”
Solution: Shopping cart with PayPal
- Extremely fast setup
- Process international payments
- Creates more functional websites that attract customers
- Shopping carts from $299
- Free PayPal setup
Blundell met with Netregistry’s Justen Freeman, who explained some of the available shopping cart software options.
“Netregistry has established specific relationships with the shopping cart software providers so it can tailor them to particular industries,” says Freeman.
Freeman also helped Blundell select a web designer familiar with shopping cart software who could create the final site. Usability was a major factor in this choice.
“I’m not technically minded with respect to coding,” Blundell explains. “I needed something that was user-friendly and that I could tailor to my needs.”
The payment solution was completed in five minutes by registering with PayPal. PayPal has no monthly subscription fees; you are only charged when you sell something. This is an important cash flow benefit for a new business.
“Consumer confidence in online payment methods is critical for building customer loyalty for businesses trying to build an online presence,” explains Andrew Pipolo, managing director at PayPal. With over five million accounts in Australia and millions more worldwide, PayPal is no longer simply the payment end of eBay. “Although eBay is still where the majority of PayPal transactions take place, more than 8500 merchants in Australia now offer PayPal as a way to safely pay for a variety of goods and services online,” says Pipolo.
Merchants include DealsDirect, ezyDVD, Harris Technology, iSubscribe, Jetabroad, OO, Roses Only, RSVP and Sanity.
“PayPal operates in 190 markets and offers support for 17 different currencies, which makes it an easier way to transact across geographical boundaries,” he adds.
Blundell’s website smoothly blends design and functionality, providing an easy shopping experience with an Australian flavor. More importantly, he doesn’t need to spend much time on administration.
“There are a few limitations, as it was bought off the shelf,” he explains. “But it has all the features I need: I can monitor traffic, change and track orders and automatically send out invoices. It’s brilliant.”
Combining the shopping cart and PayPal made Blundell’s business very easy to run. However, PayPal can add more value.
“Recently, PayPal launched its Mobile Checkout service,” says Pipolo. “PayPal members and merchants can send and receive online payments through mobile devices, another new technology Australian businesses can explore.”
To learn more about how PayPal can help support your business, visit www.paypal.com.au.
IS IT FOR YOU?
- You want to use your own merchant account
- You want to avoid customers having to register with PayPal
- You want to reduce fees
Raman Mehrotra built ayurve.com.au 10 years ago as an information website for his existing beauty salon business. He used his limited knowledge of HTML to create an online service he hoped would attract attention and generate inquiries.
As traffic increased, so did requests for online bookings and mail-order beauty products. Mehrotra listened to his customers and transformed ayurve.com.au into a successful eCommerce business.
“For any new online business, it’s important to be realistic,” Mehrotra explains. “Try to build a website that gives customers exactly what they want.”
Over the last decade, the site has evolved as the business developed. Recently, Mehrotra decided to redesign the site in line with the latest eCommerce ideas. This would also mean revisiting how transactions were processed into Ayurve’s bank account.
“We were looking for a service provider who could manage and set up the website from start to finish,” he says. “That included shopping cart installation and the payment gateway, the full package.”
Solution: Shopping cart with payment gateway
- Streamlined application process
- Guaranteed security
- Functional websites with customer friendly features
- Fully customisable
- Shopping carts from $299
- Payment gateways from $55 per month
Although Mehrotra had some technical knowledge, he knew the complex new website needed a reliable, tested approach. ”I needed a basic shopping cart that could be configured for different options,” he says. “Netregistry recommended a package we could adjust to our needs.”
Mehrotra wanted the site to offer gift certificates and vouchers. Netregistry found a solution that was compatible with Ayurve’s back-end systems.
With the shopping cart installed, Mehrotra needed assistance applying for a merchant account to support online transactions. Netregistry provides a simple application process for merchant accounts, working with banks including NAB and St.George.
“You need effective payment solutions to keep your business running smoothly,” says Caroline Jack, an eCommerce client manager for St.George. “Managing your transactions through a payment gateway and merchant account ensures that funds from customers are cleared the same or next day. This is important for merchants looking for consistent cash flow.”
Payment solutions vary in cost and features. Some integrated payment solutions charge transaction fees on top of the standard merchant service fee. As the volume of transactions increases, combining a payment gateway and a merchant account can be a cheaper option.
“All transactions are subject to merchant service fees, no matter which merchant account you use,” Jack explains.
“However, our eCommerce merchant account does not charge a per-transaction fee in addition to the merchant service fee.”
Netregistry’s payment gateway offers a flat monthly fee rather than transaction fees, so customers can save a considerable sum every month as their business volumes grow.
“As the merchant’s business grows and transaction volumes increase, minimizing transaction fees leads to increased margins,” Jack says.
Many businesses already have merchant accounts attached to their EFTPOS or credit card facilities.
However, online trading requires you to have a separate merchant account.
A Secure Socket Layer certificate is essential to provide the most secure environment for transactions.
SSL encryption prevents your customers’ private information from being intercepted between your website and bank account.
“Merchants must carefully secure the data customers enter onto their websites,” says Jack. “You’re very unlikely to make money from consumers if they don’t feel safe transacting on your website.”
Netregistry can provide SSL certificates as part of your eCommerce package.
“Netregistry’s payment gateway offers merchants a total end-to-end eCommerce solution including domain name registration, website hosting and development, and search engine optimization,” says Jack.
Mehrotra’s rejuvenated website is off to a strong start.
“Planning the back end of the website with a good system and good payment gateway means it’s easy to use,” he says. “Once everything is set up, money pretty much flows straight into the bank account.”
The website’s success has prompted Mehrotra to consider further expansion. He is also using his new voucher system to give customers an alternative appointment if their chosen time isn’t available.
“Whatever happens, our goal is to always keep the website user-friendly,” he says.
To learn more about how St.George can provide effective eCommerce solutions, visit www.stgeorge.com.au/merchant_services/ or call 133 800.