Andrew (Managing Partner) from Revium addressed attendees at the 2008 Australian Olive Expo held in Canberra, on solutions and options for eCommerce in the olive industry. Following on from the Expo, David was asked to put together an Article for the Olive Grower & Processor  publication for their January-February 2009 edition. Below is the contents of the article.

eCommerce – What’s it all about?

Simply put, eCommerce is the process of buying or selling products in an online environment. With the current global economic conditions, more and more businesses are gearing their operations towards the web, in order to reduce overheads and target their products and services overseas.

When it comes to selling products online, for most companies, getting the ball rolling is often the hardest part. Many businesses will continue to ‘plod along’ in their day-to-day operations, knowing all to well of the possibilities of selling online, but never actually taking the plunge.
Taking the initial dive into the world of online selling is not as hard as most people think – however, planning is crucial. Understanding the basics of eCommerce is a must, and companies should spend time doing their own investigations into how other companies go about selling online and most importantly what their competitors are up to.

In order to sell products online, the first thing any company needs is a web presence. In saying that, a web presence doesn’t have to be a website with all the bells and whistles, however it will consist of three main components. A domain name, which is your company’s online address (i.e Website hosting, to ensure that people can access your website 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and last but not least the website site itself containing the  information on your business.

Options for selling online

The basics of eCommerce are just that. Basic. Selling online doesn’t have to cost a fortune and often the best approach is to start small in order to ‘test the waters’. At the simplest level, products can be added to your website and a downloadable order form can be provided to visitors. Orders are either faxed or phoned through and the payments are processed via normal means.

Moving up the ladder, companies may wish to provide a single online order form that allows customers to pick and choose from a range of products. The total amount is tallied at the bottom of the form and payment details are submitted online. Orders are received via email and payment is processed using a credit card terminal.

At the more complex end of the spectrum, sophisticated eCommerce facilities can be added to a website that provide complete management over the products that are shown to customers, as well as order and customer management facilities for the company. Features such as personalised customer accounts, virtual shopping carts (allowing customers to manage their details of their order), stock control, product search tools and email-marketing features are just a handful of features that can be used to effectively manage an online shop and maintain relationship with your online customers.

When taking credit card / payment details online there are security issues to be wary of. While customers are becoming more and more confident about purchasing online, customers are still overly cautious about who they provide their precious information too. It’s important that any payment forms on your website are housed in a secure environment. When you visit any major online store you’ll notice the padlock at the bottom right hand corner of your screen. This indicates to the user that they are on a secure server (meaning that any information transmitted between their computer and the website is encrypted). Where possible, companies should reinforce the security messages throughout the content and imagery in the site. Simple things such as security guarantees and padlocks can go a long way towards making a customer feel comfortable when handing over their payment information to you.

How payments received online are processed should also be considered closely by companies selling online. Most commonly, there are two main approaches. Batch payment processing collects the payment information (whether by email or an order management system) and they are then processed using an EFTPOS terminal or similar. Real-time payment processing, while more costly, instantaneously transfers the money from the user’s creditcard into your bank.

Marketing your online business

Setting up a web presence and selling online is one thing. However, getting visitors to your website is the final piece of the puzzle! Having the latest and greatest eCommerce system is not always going to guarantee you a truckload of sales. However, a proper eCommerce strategy with the right online marketing will go a long way in increasing your business revenue.

The first step is having your site built right from the word go. Ensuring your site is constructed in a manner that enables it to be referenced by popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Windows Live will put you in good stead for getting visitors to your online storefront. Things such as keyword rich content, incoming and outgoing web links, properly set up page titles and META information (information used by search engines to reference websites) are all things that any good web developer will pay attention to when they develop your website.

Additionally, companies may wish to invest in paid online advertising to market their online store. Google Adwords service is the most cost effective and measurable way to drive traffic to a website. Google Adwords is known as PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising. You choose what keywords you want to advertise on and your ads show to consumers searching on that word or phrase. Daily advertising budgets can set and you can measure every cent you spend!

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