Things you must know about setting up an online shop

Setting up your own, ecommerce online shop can be a great idea. Many people have made good money selling their own products online. That said, however, the practical side of running a shop needs to be considered.

While there are plenty of merchant solutions available, including some excellent merchant services and services like PayPal, the mechanics of running a shop aren’t quite as simple as they might seem.

A few pointers:

You need to be absolutely clear about terms of sale. In Australia, sales of products are governed by the Australian Consumer Law, civil law and the Trade Practices Act, which is the governing legislation. When you offer a product for sale, that product is instantly covered by this legislation. Forget about the theory of online business being somehow immune to legal obligations. That is not, and never has been, the case.

Shipping costs money and that cost can cut into your bottom line. When offering products for sale, you must factor in the price of shipping. Most Australian online shops have a separate shipping calculator using Australia Post rates as a basic calculation option.

Refunds need to be clearly spelt out. There is an obligation on anyone selling products to refund money for various reasons, for instance if the product is defective. Refund terms may vary, but you need to be absolutely clear regarding your refund policy.

Product advertisements must be accurate. Product advertisements are covered by consumer law, and they can get you in a lot of trouble if the information provided is misleading. Many online merchants use built-in advertising, sourced from manufacturers and affiliates, but they don’t check it, and find themselves lumbered with multiple problems.

Something as simple as a difference in the number of days warranty, or omission of terms of warranty for example, can be embarrassing and expensive. Many products actually must be covered by warranty, by law. Always check to make sure that you are providing accurate information regarding your products.

Managing the user interface of your shop may require a lot of work. This nuts and bolts work can be a lot trickier than it looks.

The usual layout when offering products for sale is pretty simple, as follows –

Thumbnail picture > product page > product and pricing information > purchase > check out and payment.

While this process is usually quite straightforward, if it goes off the rails for any reason, or one part of the payment process doesn’t work, things can get messy. You can actually lose money in a situation like this, if the payment was made but the transaction didn’t proceed. You would still be liable for payment, if the payment has been recorded on the customer’s credit card, for example.

Sometimes situations like these require a manual fix. At the very least, you will also need to know why something as basic as a simple purchase didn’t work properly. While these problems are sometimes trivial, in some cases, they can relate to serious issues, and your website may need to be backed up and returned to health.

The sooner you do something about a problem like this, the better.

Website problems are in fact the usual suspect. Generally speaking, the merchant services rarely if ever have problems. If this sounds like a potentially frustrating situation to you, you’re quite right. It’s also a potentially time-consuming, risky exercise, trying to find out what went wrong and fix it for yourself.

Some website errors can’t be fixed easily. You may need to use your backups, and essentially “reboot” the website.

Best practices for online merchants are:

  1. Leave the finicky, time-consuming problem solving work to the experts, preferably a web designer, to check for functional errors. Messing around with your on-site payment mechanics can lead to trouble and it really is better to get help when you need it.
  2. Make sure that your web host can help you out with a good backup system when you need it.Hopefully, like good insurance, you’ll never need to use it, but it’s always reassuring to know that it’s there.

If you’re looking for help setting up an online shop, talk to us. We can do it all for you, including backups, problem solving, web hosting, and managing the machinery to make your shop work well.

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