Many organisations will start selling through third party sites and then establish their own eCommerce website when they want more control and flexibility.
Planning an Online Store
You should think about ways to provide the best experience for web users. Try to make the entire process of online shopping as simple as possible. The more straightforward the experience, the more likely users are to place an order with you — and hopefully come back!
Consider things like:
- providing detailed information about delivery options;
- allowing users to make purchases easily – being able to buy with two clicks is ideal;
- not collecting more personal information than you need;
- providing a site search feature; and
Choosing a Sales Platform
A sales platform is the system that you use to sell products and services and/or collect donations or registration fees. Examples of different online sales platforms are detailed in this section, starting with the cheapest and simplest and moving through to the most expensive and flexible.
Many people initially start selling through existing online marketplaces and then establish their own eCommerce website once they begin to identify different areas where they would like more control and flexibility.
Most developed eCommerce sites use a 'shopping cart' feature, which allows selected items to be bundled, their prices tallied, and the means of payment to be chosen prior to 'checkout' (i.e. completing the transaction)
An online search of "australian shopping cart solutions" will identify an array of companies offering to sell solutions, including Ozcart and Neto. It may also be worthwhile visiting review sites (e.g. Top 10 Reviews) which offer a comparison of products; if nothing else, you will be able to see checklists of the features that you should consider.
Open source software packages (e.g. OpenCart) are also available for the more confident developer. Such programs are nowadays so sophisticated that they include software extensions that can be downloaded to integrate with your choice of payment gateway and shipping provider.
Adding eCommerce Features to Your Own Website
If you have created a website using a freely available Content Management System (CMS), then there are free or inexpensive software options (plug-ins) for creating an online store.
Because you are adding features to your own website, you will have more control over your online store than you would if you were selling from within an online marketplace. It also means that your online store can be located at your own web address.
Table 1 lists some of the eCommerce plug-ins available.
Table 1 – eCommerce Plug-ins for Open-source Content Management Systems
Content Management System
eCommerce Plug-ins Available
• WP e-Commerce
• Cart 66 Lite
• Drupal Commerce
Creating an Online Store with eCommerce Software
Specialised eCommerce software packages are available to guide you through the process of creating a standalone eCommerce website from start to finish, including:
- My Online Shop
These options typically require a monthly fee. The companies that produce these software packages will usually also offer graphic design, web development, full hosting services, and marketing as well.
Create a Pop-up Shop
If your business is large enough to make the pursuit of additional marketing channels worthwhile, you can move beyond a single website-based shop. For example, the National Trust runs their own 'Shop' from their own website; the 'Miss Fisher' Catalogue page shown in Figure 1 is effectively a short-term 'pop-up shop' created (in this case using Shopify) in order to showcase items associated with a specific event at a specific venue.
This has the advantage of adding to the impact of the event, and making it easier to find sale items online because the event name is at the front of the searcher's mind as well as the URL/web address.
Social media sites such as Facebook can also be used to host a pop-up – or more permanent –shop, created using built-in tools or via third-party packages.
Facebook's own store creation feature now requires you to have a 'personal' account; you can create one with all privacy settings set to maximum to protect your identity.
Suppliers such as StorefrontSocial, EasySocialShop and StoreYa sell packages that allow customers to purchase from you whether they are Facebook users or not; often they will redirect customers to your actual website to complete the checkout. Alternatively, Aradium offers a product where the entire transaction process appears to take place within Facebook (e.g. the URL www.aradium.com will resolve to www.facebook.com/aradium.