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Selling OnlineIn this section we've included a range of information that discusses many of the issues involved with going online.
What do you need to sell online?At its simplest form you'll need:
- A computer with some kind of Internet connection that will allow you to send and receive email, and view orders.
- A hosted web site, that will allow people to see your web site all day every day. This is often provided by ISPs or Application service providers (ASPs).
- A web site that contains information about your products or services and allows you manage them.
- A name for your web site or online business entity (called a domain name).
What's in a name?Every business that goes online needs a domain name, a name that can be used to identify and connect customers with the business through services such as email or a web site. Depending on the target market for your customers, there are many choices in selecting a domain name.
Getting the right nameWhen going online, you will need at least 1 domain name in order to receive email or have a web site. There are regulations concerning the registration of names in Australia, and typically you may register a domain name that has a combination of letters from your registered business name.
Consider the following points when choosing a domain name:
- Shorter names are better than longer ones, though many short names are not available.
- Ensure if possible that the name has only 1 phonetic spelling, eg Aus design could be ausdesign.com or ozdesign.com.
- Names containing hyphens are harder to use/remember - often people leave out the hyphen when reading a domain to someone!
- Choose a name that is different to other competitors or sites offering similar services to you.
Getting the name space rightThere are a large number of choices when registering a name. The most common choices fall into the following categories:
TOP level domains (US domains)
You might choose a domain that ends in .com or .net if you will have many customers across the world. Apart from having a slighter shorter name, these domains have some recognition as being more 'global' in nature. It is much harder to find available names in this space that reflect your business accurately.
Most businesses in Australia would register their business under .com.au.
For Australian customers it is easy to recognise that they are dealing with a business in Australia if the name ends in .com.au.
For more information about registering domain names in Australia www.ausregistry.com.au
Types of online applicationsThere are many choices for businesses considering setting up online applications, which range from low level do it yourself tools to allow the creation of a site, to high level content management systems that allow sophisticated editing and management of online information.
Static or HTML sitesWeb sites can be created using HTML editors (HTML stands for Hypertext Markup Language, which is the stuff web browsers read to display a web site). Popular editors include Macromedia Dreamweaver, Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe GoLive.
HTML based sites are relatively easy to produce on a small scale, but it does take a fair amount of maintenance to continually update information. It is also difficult to come up with a professional looking image without the help of specialists.
Because many businesses have enough to worry about without learning what HTML is and does, we often recommend using higher level tools that make it easier for business.
Static HTML sites output from ApplicationsThere are a range of online applications that operate by having a local database of products or services, which produce HTML output of all the products and services in the store. This static content is then uploaded to the web site.
Often these sites have fairly limited administration systems, and have difficulty in more than 1 person working within the store at once (for example 1 person processing orders, and one updating product content).
Often these types of stores are also fixed to one checkout or ordering site that looks the same, regardless of what store connects to it. Or worse, there is no way to get the checkout to point to another site, locking you in to one provider.
Dymanic online stores with a DatabaseDynamic online stores normally have a database of products available on the web site, with dynamic scripts that produce HTML content on the fly as a customer requests it.
Though these stores are harder to develop and extend, they provide much functionality which is normally very easy to use.
When well designed, these applications allow any web site to have online ordering or editing of content capabilities. Tools are normally provided for the management of orders, products, customers and much more.
We believe that these types of applications are best suited for use by online businesses since they are easy to learn and use, but offer much functionality and power.
Security onlineEveryone hears of 'horror' stories of Internet hackers, viruses, and fraudulent ordering, and this image continues to be reinforced by media stereotypes. (You won't hear about the next computer virus being 'averagely' destructive).
Of course a well considered online business does need to be aware of these issues, and more importantly what to do to avoid having a problem.
SSL CertificatesStands for Secure Sockets Layer, and is a technology used to encrypt sensitive details between your web site and your customers web browser. Having an SSL certificate allows the protection of credit card and address details, and gives confidence to the customer that they can order in safety from your web site.
Secure web sites are denoted by starting with https:// rather than http:// and normally have a small gold padlock towards the bottom of the web browser.
SSL certificates do cost each year if you have your own, however many people use a shared SSL certificate offered by their ISP as part of their web site hosting.
Firewalls and Virus scannersThese devices allow only certain pieces of information from your web site to the Internet, and scan incoming mail messages for possibly damaging attachments.
It is a good idea to run virus scanners on your local computer, while your ISP would normally provide firewalls to ensure that your web site is safe.
If you have Internet connectivity it is worth asking your ISP about firewalls that should be installed on your local computer or router that connects to the internet.
Correctly patched equipmentBecause problems are identified with all kinds of technologies (whether Microsoft or some other vendor), it is important that web sites and publically accessible computers are regularly patched to ensure they are not vulnerable to attack. ISPs should be vigilant in this area.
Fraud onlineYes. There is online fraud - and depending on your industry the amount may vary from a little to so much that is difficult to sort out real customers from fake ones.
This doesn't mean that all businesses have to throw in the towel - there are many ways of protecting yourself to ensure that fraud is minimised.
- Verifying an order
- Delivering goods
- Credit cards and chargeables
- BPay as a fraud free alternative
- MPI software