Online stores are great friends to small businesses. They’re an excellent way to get started in retail without investing in bricks and mortar or staff. If you already have a physical store, an online presence can extend your reach beyond your local neighbourhood, while giving existing customers a more convenient way to shop.

If you’ve thought about creating your first online store and given up because it was too hard, take another look. Handling online payments isn’t the chore it used to be. Secure, off-the-shelf services have greatly simplified what used to be a troublesome technical task. And they sync beautifully with online accounting to make bookkeeping painless.

What should an online store have?

At its most basic, your first online store needs to:

  • showcase your products – including pictures, descriptions and prices
  • include a shopping cart where customers can build their order
  • process payments via PayPal or credit card
  • protect important financial data, such as credit card numbers
  • give shipping options

Three ways to start one

In the early days of ecommerce, you had to build your own shop from scratch. Most of the components were custom made, which meant you spent a lot on design and development. The backend tools that managed the exchange of money were also expensive and needed technical expertise to set up.

Now you have options, come of which give you point-and-click setup. You can:

  • sell through a third-party platform
  • host a store through an ecommerce provider
  • host your own online shop

As with all choices, there are pros and cons, accordingly we recommend professional advice be sought if you decide to go this route.

*Article adapted from a Xero business guide article.