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Standard fact sheet.

Selling online 

Smart tips for small to medium businesses 

Online retail sales are growing rapidly each year with Australians currently spending more than $11 billion annually. Almost three quarters of these sales are made with Australian retailers.  

To help you better understand what consumers are looking for when shopping online, Fair Trading commissioned research into online shopping practices.

Lower prices, convenience and a wider range of goods are the key drivers attracting a growing number of shoppers online. For business, the prospect of accessing a wider customer base and the convenience of online shopping were the main motivators.

Our research found there are a number of steps that your business can take to help give your customers a positive online shopping experience every time. Below are some key findings from our study plus some handy hints to help your business be online smart.

Do you offer secure payment methods? 

PayPal is the first choice for 59% of consumers according to our research as they felt it indicates the site is safe and secure. Your business may be missing out by not offering this payment method.

Credit cards came a close second for online shopping (55%) and offer some protections for consumers from their credit card providers.

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Do you promote the Australian Consumer Law? 

An important point of difference with your overseas competitors as well as private sellers and online auctions such as eBay is that your domestic customers are protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which includes consumer guarantees and product  safety standards giving your customers peace of mind.

A common challenge for businesses in our study was customers requesting a refund or replacement not in keeping with their returns policy. Avoid this by clearly stating your returns, exchange and refund policy including processing and postage fees.

Also, consider including a mandatory ‘I agree’ box to be ticked for the terms and conditions before a sale is finalised plus links to relevant consumer rights websites such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission or Fair Trading.

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Do you have online security? 

Online security is the key barrier for consumers to shopping online. Ensure your website is secure and let your customers know what measures you are taking to protect their banking and personal details. We found that 48% of all online businesses in NSW do not use a securely encrypted webpage for payments or collecting sensitive consumer information.

Make sure your computer’s operating system, browser and anti-virus are up-to-date and have a risk management plan in case of a security breach where your customers’ details are accessed. If you have a network of computers, taking appropriate security measures is also vitally important.

We found consumers often look for an https:// site with a padlock icon but other measures such as providing a physical address, contact number and a means to allow first time customers to check your business’ reputation easily are equally useful.

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Do you state your delivery terms and conditions? 

Consumers generally expect goods to arrive in about 2-3 business days. Delays, lost goods and damaged goods are the most common consumer complaints.

Make it as easy for your customers to read and understand the delivery details including costs, method and time of delivery, and what to expect if something goes wrong. 

Our research found only 45% of small to medium businesses publish delivery times and costs, which is a simple measure to help prevent the most common negative online shopping experience – goods taking longer than expected.

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Do you clearly describe your goods and services? 

A key barrier to shopping online is not knowing exactly what is being purchased.

Goods being unsuitable, of lower quality than expected, or not matching the description provided are common complaints. This leads to goods being returned which was one of the most common challenges for business in our study.

Make sure that your product and service descriptions are as clear and accurate as you can make them – include photographs, conversion charts and any other information that helps consumers decide if the purchase will fit or work for them. This applies equally to domestic and overseas consumers.

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Is your website smartphone and tablet friendly? 

The majority of consumers shop online using a computer or laptop but smartphones, tablets and other internet enabled devices are used by over a quarter of online shoppers.

The percentage of online sales made with these devices grows each year and it may be worthwhile ensuring consumers can easily access and shop on your site using this technology.

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Resources for business 

More details about our research plus information on starting and running a small business are available from the Businesses section of the Fair Trading website.

Looking for more tips to help your business be online smart? Here are some useful websites and resources.

Digital Business
For help getting your business online and practical advice about what the web means for your business, go to www.digitalbusiness.gov.au 

Small Biz Connect
An advisory program to help you develop key business skills, access face-to-face help, and receive expert advice on small business management. For your nearest advisor go to www.smallbusiness.nsw.gov.au and follow the links or call 1300 134 359. 

Australian Consumer Law
To find out more about the Australian Consumer Law and to download guides for business go to www.consumerlaw.gov.au

Driving business online
For information about setting up and growing your small business online go to www.drivingbusinessonline.com.au powered by PayPal.

ARA Retail Institute
The training division of the Australian Retailers Association provides education, consulting and professional development services. To find out more go to www.retailinstitute.org.au or call 1300 368 041.

NAB Business Research and Insights
To download the latest National Australia Bank's Online Retail Sales Index and access research reports and business tips visit business.nab.com.au

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