Ecommerce is short for electronic commerce. It means buying and selling products or services through digital platforms like:

  • websites
  • online marketplaces
  • social media.

Benefits of ecommerce

Selling online can have many benefits for your business:

  • You can sell to customers anywhere, including other countries.
  • Customers can find your products or services through search engines.
  • Customers can shop anytime, including outside your regular business hours.
  • Having products or services online makes them easy to promote.
  • Selling online usually has lower costs than a physical shop.

Ways to sell online

There are different methods and platforms you can use for ecommerce. Do your research before choosing the best option for your business, customers and what you sell.

Adding an online store to your website makes it easy for customers to buy directly from you.

An online store generally:

  • lets customers browse products or services and add them to a ‘shopping cart’
  • processes orders
  • offers secure payment
  • helps manage shipping and logistics.

The simplest way to add an online store to your business website is by using an ecommerce platform or plug-in. These products integrate with your website and take care of all ecommerce functions, including payment.

Ecommerce platforms usually have ongoing subscription costs. They may also charge a fee for each transaction.

If you need a more complex ecommerce website, you should hire a web developer to create a custom solution.

Find out more about setting up a business website.

An online marketplace is a website or app with products from many different sellers.

Some well-known online marketplaces are eBay, Amazon and Etsy. Food delivery apps are also a type of online marketplace.

Some benefits of selling through on online marketplace:

  • It’s easy to set up and start selling.
  • Lots of customers already visit the online marketplace.
  • The marketplace has its own policies for privacy, cyber security and payments.

However, online marketplaces are less flexible than your own ecommerce site. You can’t set your own policies and logistics or customise the look of your online store. Fees also tend to be higher than using an ecommerce platform on your own website.

Some social media platforms let you add a store to your business’s account. This makes it easy for customers buy products you promote and advertise on social media.

However, social media stores generally don’t handle payments. Customers are redirected to the online store on your website to make a purchase.

Some social media platforms (such as Facebook) also have an online marketplace for selling products and services.

Find out more about using social media for business.

Tips to protect your online customers

  • Check that the payment methods you offer are secure and easy for customers to use.
  • Protect your customers’ personal information.
  • Make sure your terms and conditions are clear, accurate and easy for customers to find.
  • Tell customers about any laws or consumer guarantees that apply to transactions.

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