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Data show’s digitization is the key to small business success

Digital technologies such as the internet, social media and mobile have transformed the way businesses in Australia operate. But while most large and medium-sized companies have already made significant digital investments to help them become more competitive, many small businesses have yet to embrace them.

Small business leaders have been warning about this issue for several years, but so far their efforts have been in vain. Most small businesses in Australia, particularly those based in rural areas, still don’t have even a basic website. This represents a threat to their very existence, especially now, with the arrival of COVID-19.

A recent survey by NBN Co has revealed that nearly half of the consumers canvassed have increased the amount of online shopping they do during the shutdown. But more worryingly, research for the Small Shop campaign has revealed that shoppers are less likely to return to brick and mortar stores any time soon, even as restrictions are lifted.

So it’s clear, the retail landscape in Australia has shifted significantly over the past six months with buying online becoming the new normal. But that doesn’t mean people are shunning small businesses. Far from it, more than two-thirds of respondents to the NBN survey said they actively looked to support small businesses during lockdown but were restricted due to their limited digital presence.

Now is the time to invest in digital

The arrival of COVID-19 has taught small business owners a harsh lesson, that they can’t rely on old and outdated business models any longer. To survive in a post-COVID-19 world, small business owners need to embrace digital technologies such as the web, mobile and social media not tomorrow, but today.

And just in case you were in any doubt about the effectiveness of such technologies. A recent report by PwC estimates that small business owners could unlock more than $49 billion of private-sector spending over the next decade by investing in digital. What’s more, they estimate that more than half of this expenditure will be realized in rural areas.

This data is backed up by the success of the ‘Buy from the Bush’ campaign. In the first four months, the campaign ran, the 275 businesses involved increased online revenue by an average of 300%. The total revenue generated was more than $5 million which represents an average of $18,000 for each business.

Roadblocks to digital adoption

So with obvious successes like these, why are most small business owners still avoiding digital? Fear of the unknown is often the answer. Most small business owners are not digital natives and are not sure where to start when it comes to building websites and running social media accounts, let alone managing an eCommerce store.

So in this blog, we thought it would be a good idea to highlight the tools you need to get your business online quickly. Because once you understand the basics you’ll realise that running an online business is a lot less stressful than running a brick and mortar one. So easy in fact, once you’ve made the transition you won’t want to go back.

Doing business online

When it comes to doing business online having a website is a minimum requirement. But unless you are a service-based business you won’t generate much business from a website alone. To be truly effective you need to invest in an eCommerce solution which allows customers to place and pay for orders directly online.

eCommerce is growing rapidly in Australia, increasing by an average of 24.4% year on year, and that was before COVID-19. In 2018 Australians spent a massive $27.5 billion online which represents 10% of total retail sales. So if your business is not online you are missing out on millions in lost revenue.

Why is eCommerce so successful? Because it’s convenient for customers. Not just during a pandemic, but all the time. This study from RetailWire, highlights that more than two-thirds of shoppers are willing to pay more for convenience when shopping for groceries and around 60% are prepared to pay more when shopping for clothing, electronics and personal care items.

At Coral Creative we have built a reputation for providing eCommerce website design Brisbane companies can use to build their online presence quickly. For more information about our range of website design services get in touch with us by completing the form here.

The tools you need to succeed

So to succeed online you need an eCommerce website. But building and managing an eCommerce website is a magnitude more difficult than designing a simple website. Well don’t worry, it might seem difficult now but once we’ve broken it down into the handful of steps you need to take it’s not that difficult to get your head around.

The roadmap to digital success

Succeeding online is a multi-step process. The first part of the journey is evaluating your needs as a business. Not just today, but several years from now. To do this start by asking a few simple questions about your business and the types of products you sell. This will help you understand what type of eCommerce solution you need.

Here are some questions to consider:

  1. What type of product or service do you sell? Can this be easily converted to online sales?
  2. How big is your product catalogue? The more products you sell the more difficult it will be to get them online.
  3. Do you offer product variations? Are products available in different sizes and colours for example?
  4. Where are your customers based? Do you intend to offer products nationwide or can you deliver them locally?
  5. Is your business seasonal?
  6. How do you intend to collect payment? There are many solutions for this including third-party solutions such as PayPal, Stripe and your bank’s merchant account.
  7. If you intend to ship nationally or internationally how will you calculate shipping?
  8. Do you need the ability to upsell and cross-sell different products?
  9. Will your online store standalone or will you make use of other platforms such as Facebook, eBay and Etsy?
  10. Do you intend to operate your brick and mortar store alongside your online store?
  11. What are your growth plans? Do you intend to expand significantly or are you happy remaining small?
  12. Are there any other businesses you can collaborate with to help promote and strengthen your offering?

Choosing the right eCommerce platform

Once you have answers to the above questions you’ll be in a better position to choose an online eCommerce solution which is suitable for your business. So now might be a good time to discuss what an eCommerce platform is and what you need to look for when choosing one.

In its simplest form, an eCommerce platform is an application which makes it easy to manage online products, take payment and fulfil orders. But there are many solutions out there which expand on this basic functionally significantly.

Some of the most comprehensive platforms integrate warehousing, email marketing and provide cross-selling functionality which can dramatically increase your average order value.

So don’t just assume any eCommerce platform will do the job. It’s worth taking the time to understand what functionally each platform has before building out your store. Because once your online store is up and running it can be difficult and expensive to transition to another platform.

With that in mind here are some things you need to look for when choosing an eCommerce platform:

Support

This is one of the most important things to consider. Some platforms only deliver the platform itself and offer little in the way of support. These are often the cheapest solutions, but if you intend to build your business on a platform its a good idea to choose a more comprehensive solution which offers support.

The amount of support you need will depend on your skill level. If you have some basic HTML or CSS knowledge building and managing your store will be a lot easier. If you’re a complete novice however, you will take great comfort from knowing that the platform provider is there for support when you need it.

Some platforms provide support for free, but this is often limited to forums and knowledge-based articles. The other option is to pay a monthly subscription. These are well worth it, but make sure you factor the cost when pricing up the platform. Also, look for any hidden charges and cancellation fees which can greatly increase the cost.

Another thing to bear in mind is that most of the biggest platforms are based overseas. So you will need to ensure they provide 24//7 support if you are to receive timely responses to your queries during the day in Australia. One solution to this is to partner with a website design agency based in Australia who can provide support for you.

Payment processing

Taking payments is an essential part of running an online store. But with several online stores hacked over recent years, many small business owners are nervous about taking payments online. Fortunately, there are several solutions available which are specifically designed to help small businesses take online payments.

The easiest way of taking payments online is to partner with a third-party payment processor. This allows you to make and receive payments securely. There are several low-cost options available including Stripe, Paypal and Square. Your bank may also provide online merchant services but this may prove to be an expensive route.

Payment processing can be set up in two ways. The first and easiest way is to send customers to the payment processors website to enter their card details. Under this method, the payment processor handles all the security and data requirements. The alternative is to allow secure payment on your website. Under this method, you are responsible for ensuring customer data is kept secure.

If you intend to operate your brick and mortar store alongside your online store you should also consider integrating payment processing for both. Stripe makes this easy by providing both online secure payment and Point of Sale (PoS) functionality which allows you to take payments both online and offline.

At Coral Creative our team of website designers have years of experience providing secure website design Gold Coast consumers can trust to keep their data safe. If you would like more information about securing your website or if you need help choosing the right payment gateway for your business get in touch today.

Managing your online business

Managing an online store is not just about uploading products and taking payment. You also need to think about integrating it with other online and offline platforms such as social media, order fulfillment and accounting software. Here’s a look at the functionality to look for in your chosen platform.

Social media integration

According to data from Statista, more than 30% of internet users between the age of 18 and 34 have used social media to make a purchase. So you must integrate your store as tightly as possible with all the major social media platforms.

Integration can take several forms. You can sell directly on social platforms such as Facebook. Or you can promote individual products to social media users. You can also use social media to generate reviews and provide special offers and discount codes. So think about how you can maximise the use of social media to promote your business.

Order fulfillment

You won’t get far with eCommerce without the ability to fulfill orders. So you must make sure any platform you choose can be integrated with your chosen shipping company. Most platforms offer basic integration with popular providers such as FedEx, UPS and Australia Post.

A more comprehensive integration will allow you to automatically calculate shipping costs and allow the customer to track their orders online. When you get bigger you may want to consider partnering with a third-party fulfillment company such as ShipBob who can handle the packing and shipping of products for you.

So when it comes to fulfillment look carefully at the integration options for each platform and think about the kind of fulfillment services you will need both today and in the future.

Accounting software integration

You should also look at integrating your online sales with your accounting software. When your store gets busy, manually entering sales data can become a time-consuming and tedious chore. So make life easy on yourself and choose a platform which integrates with popular accounting platforms such as Xero and Quickbooks.

Email newsletter integration

Email is one of the most cost-effective ways of promoting your online business. So your eCommerce platform must integrate tightly with your email list. There are several email list management platforms available including; MailChimp, Aweber Drip and Get Response.

Basic Email integration should include the ability to automatically sign new customers up to your email newsletter. When your store becomes larger you may want to develop a more comprehensive integration to automatically send out abandoned cart reminders and product review requests.

The digital integration experts at Coral Creative are experts at delivering integrated website design central coast companies can use to build more efficient business models. Get in touch with us by completing the form here to discuss your integration needs.

eCommerce solutions

Now you know what kind of functionality is available for your new online store, you can start looking at the platforms available. Getting your business online doesn’t have to be difficult or even expensive, several great platforms have been developed to help get you started at relatively low cost.

For a basic eCommerce store, the solutions from Wix, Weebly and Squarespace will get you started selling online quickly and easily. But if you sell products in several variations or have hundreds of product lines. You will need to look at one of the market-leading eCommerce platforms listed below.

Each of the following platforms provides a comprehensive set of tools for building a powerful eCommerce driven website. But there are advantages and disadvantages to each of them which you need to understand if you are to make the right choice for your business as it grows.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms which is used to power millions of eCommerce sites around the world. The platform is unique in that it’s a plugin for an existing content management system, WordPress. WooCommerce provides a comprehensive set of tools which allow you to build a powerful online store.

One of the best things about WooCommerce is that both it, and the WordPress CMS the product is built on, can be installed even if you already have a current WordPress website. But to make the most of this powerful software you need to partner with a team of developers who have experience building online stores with it.

At Coral Creative we have built a reputation for delivering eCommerce based web design Gold Coast companies can rely on to get results quickly. So get in touch with us today about developing your online presence with WooCommerce.

Advantages

  • Can be easily expanded with the use of plugins.
  • Comprehensive list of Integrated payment gateways.
  • Free to install, but will require some setup costs.
  • Based on the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), WordPress.
  • Shopping cart has automated tax and shipping functionality.
  • Can be easily integrated with accounting and email list management software.

Disadvantages

  • Can be difficult to deploy if you don’t know what you’re doing.
  • Support is based on forums and online documentation.
  • Not a cloud-based solution so you will need to manage your own hosting.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a standalone cloud-based eCommerce platform which is fully customisable and provides a comprehensive set of tools. Standard features include a comprehensive inventory management suite, third party payment gateway integration, back-office application integration and gift voucher support.

The platform also comes with a comprehensive support package which includes live chat, email and phone support along with access to a knowledge base, webinars and community forums. Best of all the company is based in Australia so you won’t have any problem contacting support when you need them.

Advantages

  • A managed cloud-hosted solution so you don’t have to worry about security or hosting.
  • Comprehensive integration with third-party apps including Xero, Quickbooks, MailChimp, Freshbooks, eBay and Google Analytics.
  • Over 40 third party payment gateways are supported including Stripe, Square and PayPal.
  • Lots of pre-built templates available to reduce the cost of development.
  • Excellent support across multiple channels including live chat, email, telephone and an online knowledgebase.
  • Full eCommerce feature set with the ability to easily add functionality with modules.

Disadvantages

  • The platform’s many options make it difficult to deploy so you will need to work with a professional web developer or web design team to get the best results.
  • A typical installation will be more expensive than WooCommerce.
  • BigCommerce does have a blog module but the functionality is limited compared to WordPress. It should be more than adequate for most small business blogs though.

Conclusion

As you can see developing an eCommerce website is not a simple task, but you can greatly improve your chances of success by breaking the process down into small easy to manage chunks. Start by evaluating the needs of your business and then look at which platform is the most suitable.

A small business can get online easily using the basic eCommerce solutions from Wix, Squarespace and Weebly. But if you have more than a handful of products and are looking to expand your business in the future. You would be better advised to develop a more comprehensive solution on either WooCommerce or BigCommerce.

As for which of these platforms is best, if you already operate a significant WordPress powered blog then WooCommerce is the way to go. On the other hand, if you are developing an eCommerce and digital presence from scratch, both WooCommcerce and BigCommerce provide great functionality and both offer scalability going forward.

If you need help getting your business online, get in touch with Coral Creative today. We offer a large range of digital services and provide the most cost-effective website design Australia has ever seen. Our development team has experience building sites on both WooCommerce and BigCommerce platforms.

So get in touch today and we’ll show you how we can build your online presence to help your business compete in the post-COVID-19 economy. Contact us by completing the form here or give us a call on 04670 29760.

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