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, NSW Fair Trading commissioned research into online shopping practices. Lower prices, convenience and a wider range of goods are the key drivers which attract 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.

There are a number of steps that your business can take to help give your customers a positive online shopping experience. 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 percent 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 percent).

Do you promote the Australian Consumer Law?

An important point of difference with your overseas competitors is that your domestic customers are protected by the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) which includes consumer guarantees and product safety standards.

A common challenge in our study was customers requesting a refund or replacement that didn’t align with businesses 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.

Do you have online security?

Make sure that your website is secure and let your customers know what measures you’re taking to protect their banking and personal details. We found that 48 percent 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. We found consumers often look for an https:// site with a padlock icon but other measures such as providing a physical address, contact number which allow first time customers to check your business’ reputation easily are equally useful.

Do you state your delivery terms and conditions?

Consumers generally expect goods to arrive in 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.

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 businesses. 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 to both domestic and overseas consumers.

Is your website smartphone and tablet friendly?

The majority of consumers shop online using a computer or laptop but smartphones, tablets and other 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 making sure consumers can easily access and shop on your site using this technology.

Resources for business

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.

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.
1300 134 359

Australian Consumer Law

Find out more about the Australian Consumer Law and to download guides for business.

ARA Retail Institute

The training division of the Australian Retailers Association provides education, consulting and professional development services.
1300 368 041

NAB Business Research and Insights

Download the latest National Australia Bank's Online Retail Sales Index and access research reports and business tips.

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