How to Start an Online Shop or an Online Business

How to Start an Online Shop or an Online Business

How to Start an Online Shop or an Online Business

Innovate Your Business and Start Selling Online - following are some helpful tips and advice

There are a number of options available that enable your business to sell online but we recommend to most customers that they use a fully hosted eCommerce Solution. A hosted eCommerce Solution, sometimes called a "Cloud" or "Software as a Service - SaaS" means that everything that you need is provided in one package. It includes the use of software and hosting with service and support provided. Importantly hosted solutions come with updates, upgrades and maintenance as part of the deal and they are the service providers responsibility. eCorner is an Australian based hosted eCommerce service provider but there are other companies providing similar services around the world. Hosted solution typically are based on a monthly fee that covers use of the solution. The fee will generally vary based on the size of the online store and the features that are available.

There are other options like open source software and shared hosting but you will need web technical skills to go that way or you will need to find a web developer / designer to do the job for you. To go this direction you need to either choose the software that you want and then find a suitable hosting company or find a developer / designer who may make the choice for you. Once your website is completed you or your developer will be responsible for all the updates and security maintenance that is required to get the site working and safe. Make sure the developer that you select will be around after the website is finished to help maintain it.

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How to start an online shop

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Ten Steps to eCommerce Success

Being successful in e-Commerce is a matter of planning and then following the steps. You can find a detailed explanation of the Ten Steps To eCommerce Success at

Each step gets you closer to your goal of a successful online business. Following are a summary of the key items and also some estimated costs for for business. Both of these articles will give you a good understanding of how to start and what to do.

Multi-channel, Social, Mobile - These are all part of selling online

Using a hosted online store you do not have to worry about the technology, hosting or security as it is all done for you.

Having a viable and well thought through business plan is really important to help keep you on the right track. You can develop your own business plan easily and then share it with your advisers or partners. You can find more information about what is in a eCommerce Business Plan here.

If you use the right technology and hosting partner we will take care of all the technical stuff and also provide you with a service level agreement. That leaves you to get on with the business.

You can get more information at our FAQ page on Costs & Issues Starting an Online Business.

TIP # 1: - starting an online store can involve some work; you need to manage orders and customers, update and add content, manage marketing and social media, and setup the store. So you need to be able to use the administration and content management system provided. The best way to find out if you can manage it for yourself is to try. eCorner provide a free 30 Day Trial system so you can try it for yourself.

Our solution is hosted here in Australia, but the world wide web means that you can sell to any country or from any country without an issue. Our systems are regularly upgraded in features and functions free in the hosting environment and with a maintenance agreement if your website is with us on a dedicated server.

What is your business model?

When you sell online you can support different business models. Typically it will be B2C - Business to Consumer or B2B - Business to Business. Some online stores want to support both. B2C is the basis of most online retail. If you want to sell to other businesses like wholesale or re-sellers then the model will be B2B. The main difference is that not everyone can access and buy from a B2B online store and in general the customer will need a user name and password to login.

What languages and currencies do you want?

You may only want to sell in Australian Dollars right now but things can change. The solution that you choose should be multilingual and multi-currency meaning it can support many languages and every currency type in the world. You will need to setup tax, payment and shipping to support your requirements. 

The Business Stuff - a few things that you have to do apart from starting an online store

business_model b2c or b2bFollowing is a quick summary:

  • Setup a business and get an ABN (an ABN is needed to get a domain name) you can get more advice at the Australian government website - Digital Business.
  • You need a domain name preferably a if you run an Australian Business or for New Zealand. Always register the .com domain also ifit is available.
  • You need a business email addresses.
  • A website with a shopping cart like our cloud hosted online store package.
  • You may need to have a design and some development for your website
  • We have Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) built in so no additional costs
  • Setup a Google Webmasters account.
  • When your website is live you may need to do Search Engine Marketing (SEM) – pay per click (PPC) with Google Adwords as an example.
  • You may need an SSL Certificate (recommended if you accept credit cards).
  • You will need a payment gateway or payment provider and maybe an online merchant bank account.
  • You will need a shipping company - like Australia Post to deliver products.
  • Don't forget the traditional business costs, taxes, charges etc.
  • You will need some human resources - maybe that is just you. But if you have a full time job remember that the online business will not look after itself.
  • Web analytics to track visitors and business conversion data.
  • Social media accounts - we recommend Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Linkedin and YouTube. Although not essential social media will help you get started.
  • You can also setup accounts at eBay, Amazon,, Google Shopping and Getprice to sell your products via multiple channels.

Does your website have legal policies?

Website terms and conditions and terms of use are a must for any ecommerce website, while a privacy policy is a good idea if you’re planning on using customer information for marketing or to sell to advertisers. Our Australian partners LawPath provide an Online Starter Bundle that includes all the essential legal documents you’ll need to get started.

There are many issues to address for a successful online store - eCorner has them all covered for you

ecommerce An Online Store - A hosted eCommerce Online Store package from eCorner can give you everything you need to successfully sell online and all managed from the administration system. All of the features are out-of-the-box which means you do not have to worry. More importantly they are maintained by eCorner so we will make sure that all the features always work. This allows you to manage your business and not have to worry about the technology.

Internet Marketing - regardless of what you build you still need to promote your business so marketing is essential to success you can read an inetresting article at Linkedin on Marketing.

Payment Solutions - in order to make a sale online you need to collect a payment and you can read more on this further on. All of our hosted ecommerce packages and our ecommerce software integrate with Payment Gateways such as PayPal and eWAY that allow you to accept payments and Credit Cards Online. All of our Payment Partners comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS) and eCorner is PCI DSS V3.2 Compliant.

Shipping and Freight - this can be a complex area if you are selling large, fragile or dangerous items. Butf for most online stores it is covered with the built in shipping calculators supported by eCorner.

Customer and Order manager - customers are your key assets so managing the order and customer data is essential. You can find more information on this further on in the article.

Customer support - customer service and trust are linked together in an online business. If you have a happy customer then you have a return customer.

TIP # 2: - If you want to accept payment online and collect customer personal information then your online store will need to be secure and support SSL encryption. When taking payment online you will also need a hosting company that is PCI DSS Compliant. If you show that your store is secure it will improve your shopping basket conversion rate.

Multi-channel - eBay and an Online Store Just Got Easy

eBay_logoIf you have done some eBay selling or maybe have some experience in the web then you can get the most from a hosted eCommerce solution. There are many advanced features in the eCorner Stores Packages that you can utilise with a bit of confidence and experience. One of those is our advanced eBay connector. It allows you to list and manage sales from your store directly onto eBay. It supports all the eBay features as well as eBay stores. Getting the design just right may need some assistance but once that is done then adding content and building the store is straight forward for an experienced person. eCorner is there with free phone and email support and there are lots of tips in our Selling On eBay Frequently Asked Questions . Want to sign-up for eBay now?

TIP # 3: - If you support multiple channels to market like an online store, eBay and other shopping portals or even a bricks and mortar store you can improve your results by as much as 300%.

To be Successful selling online you need to have Successful and Return customers

Graphic Design - Create a great User Experience

eCorner hosted online stores mean happy customers
With a Hosted eCommerce Solution like eCorner you generally do not need to spend anything. If you have something special in mind for a custom logo or banner then it might need to be designed by a professional graphics designer. In general we would recommend that you get started with the designs available from eCorner. These are very flexible and you can change colours, add logos and banners. If you want a special design then we can help by working with you to refine your requirements but take a look at what is available from eCorner for free first. A custom design can cost as little as $600 - $1,200 to produce and add to the online shop.

Great Content Means More Customers

If you ask most eCommerce professionals what is the most important aspect of a successful online store they will all tell you that it is CONTENT. You will often hear that CONTENT IS KING which means that the more effort you put into the content the better will be the result. Content includes the images that you use, the product descriptions, the names of products and pages and the layout of the content. The online system that you use should include a Content Management System (CMS) so that you can add and change the content within your own business and not need costly technical resources.

Payment Gateway - make sure your customers feel Secure

If you want to accept credit cards online we recommend that you use a Payment Service Provider and process the credit cards via a Payment Gateway. There are strict regulations around the use and storage of credit card information which are regulated by the Payment Card Industry via their Data Security Standards you can find more information at their website or through your bank.

All eCorner Stores are PCI DSS compliant. Payment Gateways have to be integrated into your website. eCorner has already integrated a number of leading Payment Gateways including PayPal (Standard, Express and Payflow), eWAY, Dialect Solutions, Payment Express, SecurePay and Worldpay. These are made available as part of the package from eCorner. You will need to setup an account with the Payment Service Provider (and maybe also and online merchant account with your bank) to take online payments.

Buy now pay later services like ZipPay, Afterpay and Openpay can also help to get you more customers and more sales.

Shipping and Logistics - get your products to your customers efficiently

eCorner provide a wide variety of shipping methods built in which you can setup on your website. These handle just about any possibility. We also provide integration to Australia Post for calculating shipping cost in the shopping basket. The actual shipping cost to send your packages is not part of the eCommerce package and you need to make sure that you calculate and add shipping cost correctly.

Connect to accounting systems to automate your business

xero-logo-hires-RGB-236 Orders that come in online need to be added to your business accounting software such as MYOB or Xero for example. Most eCommerce software has the ability to export orders to a file that can be used to update other systems. There are also connectors that can automate that process such as OneSaas.

Now with Xero integration. All of our online store packages are now enabled with direct Xero integration. Orders received on the online shop from direct customers or eBay orders are sent to your Xero account. Learn more about Xero Integration....

TIP # 4: - Return customers cost you less to retain that getting new customers. Return customer's order value is generally higher than first time customers. Offer your customers coupons, discounts and special offers to promote customer retention and loyalty.

Web Analytics - Visitor and Page Tracking - Know your customers

A good online shop can often fail because the owners don't know what is really happening on the website. In order to understand the activity on the website you need to collect information about what visitors there are and what they do. This is collected by a web analytics program like Wagtail or Google Analytics. Every eCorner store comes already integrated with a free version of our business and analytics system - Wagtail. However you can also use analytics like Google Analytics on your online store.

SEO and SEM - Get your Online Store found by Search Engines

Search Engines like Google and Bing are responsible for driving 80% of the traffic and sales to your online store. If your store is not set up to be friendly for search engines then you will not be as successful as you want.

Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing can cost a lot of money. Luckily if you have decided on eCorner you will find that the websites have SEO capabilities built in. We have an extensive SEO Manager that will advise you on every product and page that you create to ensure you get the best result. This can save you $1000's on SEO specialists. You really just need to follow the guidelines and advice in our FAQs and your website will be search engine friendly. Search Engine Marketing is a cost you need to consider carefully. We have seen good web businesses fail because they spent too much on Cost Per Click programs which were not targeted. Again we have some good advice in our FAQs.

We also have built-in capability to support your Google Adwords conversion tracking code should you decide to do search engine marketing and pay per click on your website. We can support the tracking code for any paid search or affiliate marketing program.

Following are example costs that you can expect as an small to medium sized business

TIP # 5: - You costs will be based on the size of your inventory, what your business does and your overall requirements like features, design, multi-channels, social and mobile.

HOT TIP: - You costs will generally be based on the size of your inventory, what your business does and your overall requirements like features, design, multi-channels, social and mobile.

The following table provides some guidance for a first years budget to setup the website side of an online business. The shop size generally reflects the number of products (SKUs) that are for sale on the store. This determines the data base size and give a reasonable guide to complexity. Although you can get very busy shops with lots of visitors and sales but with only a few different products available. For the purpose of providing some cost guidance we have created four store types from small to larger and complex.

NOTE: Costs are based on eCorner supplied products and services and are for indicative purposes only based on our experiences with our customers.

Annual Recurring Costs Hobby / startup Small business Growing retail Enterprise
Estimated no. of products 50 2,000 10,000 unlimited
Domain (per domain 2 years) $99.00 $99.00 $99.00 $99.00
Business email (1 user) $99.00 $99.00 $99.00 $99.00
SSL Certificate (per certificate 1 years) Free $90.00 $90.00 $90.00
Total Initial Annual Costs $198.00 $288.00 $288.00 $288.00
Mthly Recurring Costs        
Website - Online Store $19.95 $49.00 $99.00 $550.00
Search Engine Optimisation basics (SEO) included Included Included Included
Payment integration (excludes transaction costs) Included Included Included Included
Shipping Integration (excludes shipping cost) Included Included Included Included
Total Mthly Recurring Costs $19.95 $49.00 $99.00 $550.00
One Time Costs (Optional)        
Design (estimate) (varies based on design complexity) DIY $400.00 $1,500.00 $3,000.00
Customisation (estimate) not required not required not required $5,000.00
Add products & content (can be based on DIY) DIY $200.00 $1,000.00 $3,000.00
Total One Time Cost $198.00 $600.00 $2,500.00 $11,000.00
1st Years Budget Estimate (from) $440.00 $1,431.00 $4,122.00 $18,034.00

You can download the informative document that can help you start your online business and build your online store. Download the eCommerce handbook.

Make sure that you understand all of your requirements for your eCommerce business.

Ask the right questions about your ecommerce requirements

Before you get started there are some helpful questions.

You need to have some ideas about what you will be doing online so that you can select the solution or package that will best suit your business. Following are a list of questions that you can start with. To get to the best result you need to have thought through the answers to these questions.

Using your Free 30 Day Trial Online Store you can find out what these questions mean and help to refine your requirements.

TIP # 6: - Understand your requirements and learn some of the terminology used by online store vendors. Then prepare a list of your requirements and prioritise them (high, medium, low) this will help you to get a solution that will work best for your business.

What type of products are you selling?

You can sell anything online but the functionality required may change with the types of products that you sell. If they are physical products like clothes or toys then most systems will be OK. But if it is perishable items like food you might need special pricing. Or virtual items like software or music that needs to be downloaded then you need to ensure the store can support those. Or you may want to sell services where your customers can select and available time during the checkout process.

How many products (SKUs) will you have online?

The size of the online store and issues like compare and search are affected by the number of products which will also impact cost. There are a number of aspects to package sizes like the number of products, number of categories, how much storage space and how much internet data capacity.

Do you need product variations?

Will your products be offered in different colours or sizes. Variations means that you have a master product but then variation products based on an attribute like size as an example. What are the limits on the number of variations and check if variations are counted as products (SKUs).

Sell to - countries, currencies & languages?

If the online store is mainly focused on Australia then you need just support English and Australian dollars. But if you are selling overseas then there are issues like currency, shipping, tax, language and payment to consider.

How will you collect payment?

Most online stores accept credit cards and PayPal. You need to have setup accounts with a bank, payment provider and PayPal. If you want to sell overseas or accept foreign currency then that needs to be considered during setup.

How will you calculate shipping cost?

During checkout your online store adds a shipping cost to the order. Some stores use free shipping and absorb the cost. But it is not unusual to calculate the cost and add it. Australia is complex due to the size. Australia Post is the normal shipping method but supports up to 20KG only. If you are selling internationally you may need multiple shipping methods based on country.

Do you want to list on eBay and other portals?

Using a multichannel approach can greatly improve your chance of success. Some online stores can seamlessly interface to other systems like eBay.

Would you like to send newsletter?

Linking your online store to a email newsletter can be great marketing but the system will need to support that.

Marketing - Cross sell and up-sell?

Do you want to be able to cross sell accessories and related products. The online shop system you select should allow you to set products to manually cross-sell. But it is also important to have automatic cross-sell based on what people really buy.

Social media integration and a Facebook shop?

Do you want to have links from your products on the store to social media pages like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. This can greatly improve your presence online.

Do you want to sell on mobile devices?

More than 20% of sales online come from a mobile device like a phone. This is also growing rapidly. Your customers should be able to search and buy from a mobile device.

Do you want to be found on search engines?

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM) are important to be competitive online. The online store needs to have smart tools to help you achieve good SEO and SEM.

Do you want blogs and forums?

If you spend some time creating good content and blogging about the things that you sell it can help get more sales.Blogs and forums should be part of your online store system.

Do you want to manage the website yourself?

Online stores and websites can be set by developers and only they can add or change content. That is OK if you have the budget. But many online store owners want to be able to add, change and delete their own content. Upload new products with images. Create new content at will that means do-it-yourself (DIY) which requires a good Content Management System (CMS).

TIP # 7: - Download this list of questions as a Excel spread-sheet, add your own questions and answers - download list here

If you would like more information, or need some help with your online business, contact eCorner Assist.

eCorner Assist

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