How Australian Retailers Can Get Online in an Arvo

For Free

shopping cart on keyboardMuch has been written lately about how Australian bricks and mortar retailers and businesses lack the knowledge, skills and resources to go online.

In order to ease their transition to online business here are over a dozen free or inexpensive solutions to get started.

My last post Australian Business Just Doesn't Get the Web certainly stirred up a healthy debate around my networks, especially about how fearful and confused many business owners are around online business.

Unfortuantely there is still a lot of snakeoil out there as well as well meaning but misguided advice from web practitioners as to what is actually required. Many business owners have already been badly burnt with expensive or unusable website solutions.

Another point raised was that as online professionals we need to do a better job of educating the market about what they actually need, which is the point of this post.

 

You Can’t Wait for Certainty

I fully understand that many business owners are confused and overwhelmed by the online space, and that others have already been burnt by unscrupulous or ill advised service providers.

However, waiting for certainty is not advised, and really no longer an option.

Very few people really know how to make online business work when they start.

The key to the whole thing is to actually start and learn as you go. That’s how most of today’s successful online businesses got to where they are. They got in early, experimented and learnt as they went.

Fortunately these days it’s incredibly easy and cheap to set up an online business.

 

Solutions for Small Business

Solutions such as Weebly allow anyone to setup an online store in an afternoon for free, and there are plenty of other similar free or inexpensive solutions to choose from including

http://www.weebly.com/

http://www.shopify.com/ $29/month

http://www.ashop.com.au/ $24.95

Adobe’s http://www.businesscatalyst.com/pricing/client $37.95

In fact there are hundreds of perfectly suitable solutions to choose from, these days’ businesses are spoilt for choice.

Many of these, such as Adobe’s Business Catalyst even include the hosting charges, email marketing, CRM, social media and online event booking as part of the package.

If you don’t need to actually trade online, then there are even more free options that will allow you to set up a website in an afternoon. It may take you a little longer to get a professional design and fine tune it, but the core components of a site can be implemented very quickly.

Services such as

www.ning.com

www.socialgo.com

www.blogger.com

www.wordpress.com

all allow you to setup fully featured websites for free in minutes. And there are hundreds more similar solutions available.

 

Solutions for Medium to Large Businesses

The above solutions are mainly suitable for small businesses. For medium to larger enterprises that require more robust applications there are still a range of inexpensive solutions.

Solutions such as

http://www.actinic.co.uk/

http://www.volusion.com

http://www.mivamerchant.com

all offer solutions from around the $50 a month mark. Again, I have just listed a few of the hundreds of solutions out there.

The point is there is no excuse for not getting online today.

 

What Else You Need to Know

As I said, most of the above solutions come with a host of features that will keep you busy for months. And that’s part of the key: You will need to learn how to use all of these features by doing them. There’s no substitute for experience.

The other point I will make is that you will make mistakes, lots of them, so it’s better to make them with a solution that isn’t costing you a lot, before considering investing in custom built solutions.

 

Hosting

Hosting from a reputable provider will cost you around $20 a month and go up from there depending on how much traffic you get. Be prepared to pay for reliable hosting as you don’t want your site going down and losing business because you went with a cheap host.

 

Email is Your Greatest Marketing Tool

For all that’s written about online marketing, email is still far and away the most effective and reliable marketing tactic you can use. Again there are plenty of third party services to choose from. Mailchimp,

http://mailchimp.com/

http://www.campaigner.com/

http://www.constantcontact.com

http://www.aweber.com

Prices start from around $10 a month, and if you have less than 2000 people on your list Mailchimp will let you use their service for free.

Again I’ve only listed a few of the dozens of reputable services that are out there. Just pick one and go with it.

Getting on top of your email marketing is probably the main thing you should do when starting out. Make sure your website has a means of capturing email addresses.

 

Stay Away from Online Advertising

If you’re just starting out and your budget is limited then don’t bother with online advertising. Online advertising is for people who know what they are doing, and if you don’t, then you can quite easily blow you’re marketing budget in an afternoon for little or no result.

Online advertising works, but you really need to be on top of your online marketing game to play it, or prepared to pay someone to do it for you.

 

Feed the Search Engines

The search engines are your friend and they will send you lots of customers as long as you remember to feed them every day. This means adding new content or blogging on a daily basis.

There are other more technical and complicated search engine optimisation  things you can do, or pay someone to do for you, but again if you’re on a budget then generating your own quality content is the best thing you can do.

This is a medium to long term strategy and will probably take from six months to a year before it starts paying off, but it works like compound interest – a little at first that eventually begins to snowball.

The sooner you start generating content the better. I know it seems like a big ask to be generating fresh content every day, but if you’re not prepared to do the work, then don’t expect the result.

 

Install Analytics

Analytics allows you to measure everything on the web; that is to make all of your online activities accountable.  It is a marketers and business analyst’s nirvana. Even if you don’t understand it, get something like Google Analytics installed on your website. It’s free.

The value of analytics is for when you are ready to hire professionals like me to take your online marketing up to the next level. The data is like gold to us (and you).

So just get it installed.

 

The Other Stuff That Can Wait

There are plenty of other things that you could do, such as social media, video, group buying , affiliates but all of those can wait until you have got the basics in place. When you are just starting out these can be a distraction, so put them aside for later.

 

How Long Will Results Take?

One of the unfortunate and popular myths about the internet is that it will provide instant results without you having to do much work.

The reality is that most of the people who have achieved success online have been working at it for years, so adjust your thinking accordingly. There are no free lunches.

 

This is Only the Beginning

I’ve only scratched the surface here of the multitude of services and solutions that are available to you online these days. The main point is to show you how easy and cheap it is to get started.

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