As with Registration, the most basic means of operation involves downloading/printing a paper form which can be completed with the customer's chosen mode of payment (i.e. cash, cheque or credit card details), and then returned to you by hand or by post. This may be the most suitable alternative for organisations whose focus is on the older demographic.
Most businesses and organisations will want to investigate more sophisticated options to sell their goods and services online. The option decided upon will depend on the actual volume of sales that your organisation is likely to achieve.
Online marketplaces are third-party websites that allow you to sell online without investing time and money into creating your own eCommerce website. Examples of such 'classified ad' style listing services include Gumtree, eBay and Tradingpost.
There is typically no inbuilt payment gateway. The way in which money is exchanged is determined by the parties involved in the transaction.
Some sites explicitly ban certain services (e.g. Tradingpost refuses Western Union money transfers), while others promote associated companies (e.g. eBay prefers PayPal).
Depending on which site you choose, you may pay fees to list your products and also a 'Final Price Fee' which is a percentage of the sale price.
Businesses or organisations confident of achieving higher volumes can opt to set up a 'Store' on an established shopping and auction site. Websites such as eBay or Quicksales provide quick and easy ways to get started, with shopping cart and payment functionality as part of their package.
Hosted eCommerce Solutions
There are many fully hosted eCommerce solutions, e.g. eCorner or Shopify, and a quick search for "hosted ecommerce solution" using your favourite search engine will find many companies that offer a package. Hosted solutions are generally based on proprietary software, but the setup and maintenance is much easier as the hosting service will provide upgrades in features and functions as part of the Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Issues to consider when assessing hosted solutions include:
- Setup fees – some providers will charge an initial fee
- Transaction fees –in addition to monthly package fees, transaction fees are based on your revenue or turnover each month.
- Support fees – how technical support is delivered (i.e. by phone, email, live chat, FAQs etc) and whether there is any charge for it.
- Storage allowance – the amount of data (e.g. downloadable documents or images, etc) that can be stored online; excess storage charges may apply.
- Bandwidth allowance –the amount of data that can be transferred monthly to and from your online store may be limited; 'excess data' charges may apply.
- Limitations in scope –the package must fit your business requirements.
- Location of hosting – the country where you are hosted can have implications on performance, support, maintenance and search engine optimisation (SEO).
Depending on the type and purpose of your organisation, it may be worth ensuring that the hosted solution is based in Australia, or can at least demonstrate that they understand and comply with Australian legal and tax requirements (see Part 7). The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website has more information on its GST essentials page.
Build Your Own Shop
Establishing your own eCommerce website gives you the flexibility to tailor each part of it, and to integrate it more closely with your Customer Relationship Management system.
A number of different commercial and open-source (i.e. free to use and adapt) shop software packages are available online. It is generally fairly easy to learn how to use the software, or have a developer build a store, and find somewhere to host it.
The main attraction of this 'do-it-yourself' approach is that the initial costs are low, but the longer term costs of maintenance and management can be very high.
Arts Sector Case Study – Music eCommerce
There are many eCommerce websites that allow the purchase of music online, iTunes being the perhaps the best known. However, there are also a number of sites (e.g. SoundCloud, TuneCore and Bandcamp) that operate at a smaller scale; these services can provide valuable opportunities for exposure and act as vehicles for marketing.
SoundCloud is a US-based service offering a marketing and sales gateway for musicians as an alternative to the standard distribution model (i.e. circumventing the 'Artist & Repertoire' structure). Cloud storage is provided for the upload of demo tracks and cover artwork.
TuneCore is another service that offers a distribution and marketing facility that integrates with commercial download sites and internet radio 'stations'. A percentage of the sales price is taken to support their registration, distribution, licensing and royalty collection activities on behalf of participating musicians.
In the crowded music marketplace, it can be hard to get heard by more than family and friends; Bandcamp is a cooperative platform for artists to sell their music and merchandise to their fans, assisting browsers to discover new music and directly support performers.
Case Study – Helen Perris, independent singer/song writer.
Helen Perris, singer, song writer and music teacher uses SoundCloud to promote her music to a world-wide audience. In the video below she explains how it is "useful for getting feedback on your new tunes... you can put demos up there and... tweet it out to your fans or put it in your newsletter and invite them to have a listen and to comment".
Helen Perris uses TuneCore to market her music. In the next video she explains: "If you're an independent artist like me, then to get your music onto iTunes and all of the streaming services, you have to use a third party like... TuneCore. You can get all of your music onto Spotify, Adio, Diesa, Mog, Amazon Music, 7 Digital Music [and] JB HIFI".
Bandcamp is really useful for Helen Perris: "I don't have to worry about setting up a cart on my own website, I can just directly link to my Bandcamp page and people can stream my music, download it...and they can order CDs and other merchandise".