eCommerce refers specifically to buying or selling products or services over the internet. eBusiness encompasses eCommerce, but also includes all other business processes conducted online, such as customer service, managing production control, recruiting and more.

Increasingly people are turning to the internet to buy products. Accepting payments online through eCommerce can include:

  • online donations
  • subscriptions
  • invoice payments
  • gift certificates

If you're looking to sell products online, you need to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business.

What is an eCommerce platform?

eCommerce platforms provide businesses with software allowing customers to:

  • see and select products for purchase
  • place these products in a wish list or shopping cart
  • order the products in the shopping cart and provide delivery instructions
  • pay for these products through an online payment facility using direct debit or credit card

Cyber security aware consumers are becoming more reluctant to give businesses credit card details online, and prefer to utilise secure online payment facilities (such as PayPal and SecurePay – a business of Australia Post), where money is transferred from customer to online seller without the need for the customer to provide credit card details.

Both of these facilities can be linked to your business website for customer payments.

An introduction to eCommerce

An introduction to social media for small business

Tim Gentle, Small Business Victoria Workshop Leader

[Visual: Tim Gentle sitting at table]

G'day. It's Tim Gentle here, and we're talking social media. Now when I think of social media, I think of it like the heartbeat of the internet. That's where you participate and how you are perceived in social media.

So what are the benefits? Well one that I really like is that you get to people at the early stages of the buying cycle. To break that right down, it's like when you're sitting on the couch and you're thinking about going on holiday. You're browsing on your iPad, and slowly but surely little social gems come into your feed. It's a bit like when dad brought home that QANTAS jet, you know, now I'm flying Qantas. So social media isn't all about the now, it's about the early seed.

Now also it can help you with your search engine rankings. How you are perceived, and how you participate in social media, is part of the algorithm that Google use to rank websites. So on occasions you need to get involved in social media just so you get good rankings.

Now it can help increase conversion rates on your shopping cart. If you use social videos to, you know, show how to use the product, or maybe reviews about you as a company. These are all things that people look for and it's called social proof.

Now when we participate in social media, we wear five hats. Let's walk through those.

The first hat is marketing. That's all about your brand. It's about customer service, about research and about generating leads.

Now another hat we wear is informative. We want to inform people about, say, an event we've got coming up or a product and service we sell.

Now the other hat that we wear is supportive. We want to support people. We want to encourage them. They might be participating in a fundraising event.

We also want to energise people. We want to get people excited, and that's all about social media.

And the final one is to listen. Make sure you listen to what your customers are saying and what your competitors are doing.

Right. I wanted to leave you with some social media tips to make sure that the effort that you put in, you reap the rewards. All right. We'll start from the very top.

I always ask my customers what they want in their social feed, so you need to know what the fish are biting if you want to catch the fish.

Now have top level support. What I mean by that is if you've got a directorship, or if you've got management, they need to support social media, because in social media you have to be able to accept the good, the bad and the ugly. Just like the real world, it's not always going to be positive and you need to have a policy in place if people say something negative about you.

Now always be transparent and be honest. People want to get the human factor when it comes to social media. And don't let perfection get in the way of progress.

So another tip is to be consistent. If you're in a bad mood one day maybe just pull out of social media and attempt it tomorrow. But at the same time, you know, don't be this one day and that another day.

Another thing is website integration. Do you know that you can feed in your Facebook feed or your Twitter feed into your website? That's a fantastic thing. And always measure success. A lot of these social media platforms have insights which tell you what people are looking at, what they are sharing and what they're liking.

Alright, well my name's Tim Gentle and I'm one of the Small Business Victoria workshop leaders that put on an array of workshops for you as a small business to grow. My suggestion, check out some of the knowledge, attend the workshops and grow your business online. I'll catch you soon.

[On screen: Victoria State Government – Authorised by the Victoria Government, Treasury Place, Melbourne. Spoken by Tim Gentle.]

eCommerce platform tips

When you're deciding which eCommerce platform is best for you, consider the following:

  • How do your customers typically like to pay and what platforms might they be familiar with?
  • What fees are charged, and do these fees include ongoing monthly fees and per-transaction charges (flat rate or a percentage)?
  • How easy is it for you to set up the platform on your existing website, and what it will look like?
  • Consider the legal aspects of privacy, spam and electronic transactions, such as a privacy policy.
  • Will the platform offer service and support to you when you need it?
  • Does the platform integrate bookkeeping, point-of-sale, inventory and order management, client service, marketing, financial, and marketing functions?
  • Does the platform support SSL authentication and PCI compliance to keep your business and customer data safe? Your other security needs might depend on your store's current and future requirements, as well as your budget.

Selling without a website

Want to sell online but don’t have an existing business website? Australia Post's eCommerce is a step-by-step product for setting up an online store. Your business will need to be registered with SecurePay to accept credit card payments. Payments can also be made via PayPal, direct debit account and cheque.