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Business guide to Coronavirus

How to launch your online store: A 3-step guide 

Trading restrictions have forced many bricks-and-mortar retail businesses into closure while the government works to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, e-commerce is booming as more consumers make the switch to ordering goods online. 

But there’s no need to panic if you don’t have an online presence yet or your website is seriously outdated. There are plenty of quick and affordable ways to set up an online store right now and get the cash register ringing again. Here are the three basic steps to follow. 

1. Decide which products to sell 

If you sell a diverse range of items, you’ll need to decide which lend themselves best to being sold online. Also, take some time to estimate your return on investment (ROI). After factoring in costs such as packaging, delivery, insurance and sales tax, how many sales will you need to make to cover these new expenses? 

If suitable for your business, you could also consider drop shipping. This is when the supplier sends the product directly to the customer. This allows you to focus on selling the product, while someone else handles the storage and shipping. 

2. Choose your e-commerce platform 

It’s now simpler than ever to create a slick, professional-looking e-commerce website, at little cost and without having to learn any coding. Website builders like GoDaddy, WordPress, SquareSpace and Wix offer abundant user-friendly e-commerce features, allowing you to build a fully functional online shop in just a few hours. 

Important factors to consider in an e-commerce platform are: 

  •  Design customisation: Does the platform offer a good range of design templates? How easy is it to customise the appearance and functionality of your storefront?
  •  Mobile-friendliness: The e-commerce platform should cater for mobile and desktop users. Check that shoppers will be able to browse and buy products using their phones, tablets and PCs. 
  •  E-commerce features: Think about all the helpful features that make online shopping easier. Which will be most helpful for your business? Consider things such as: 
    • An easy-to-navigate product gallery. Make sure to include high-quality product photos, along with attention-grabbing descriptions. 
    • Allowing customers to create an account so you can save their email, shipping address, etc. This can help make the shopping experience a lot smoother. 
    • The ability to connect with different online payment providers, such as PayPal, VISA and EFTPOS. 
    • An abandoned cart feature, which asks shoppers if they’re still interested in items they added but haven’t purchased. 
    • Easy ways for customers to get in touch, such as a contact form or online chat. 
  • Pricing: The cost of an e-commerce website can range from $10s to $1,000s a month, depending on the features and capacity you require. So it should be easy to find a plan that matches your business needs and budget, and to shift between plans as needed. 
  • Marketing tools: Many e-commerce platforms include tools that can help you to grow your online presence, including email marketing tools and search engine optimisation (SEO).

3. Optimise your sales funnel

Your online marketing activities shouldn’t stop once your shopping website is up and running. Some ways you can improve the customers’ experience, and be rewarded with more sales, include: 

  • Offering free or discounted shipping for customers who spend above a specific amount. 
  • Being transparent about your shipping fees and providing a shipping cost calculator. 
  • Optimising your content for online search by incorporating relevant search keywords into each landing page. 
  • Adding a page which explains your shipping and returns policies, plus any other important information the customer needs to know. 

One final but important tip: don’t underestimate the power of ‘organic’ SEO. Creating useful and engaging online content – such as blog posts, videos and podcasts – can be a powerful and cost-effective way to get noticed, build trust and draw visitors to your website. 

Actively interacting with your followers on social media is also a great way to understand their needs and pain points. And with that, you should be ready to start selling online in no time. 

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