Manage online sales and payments
To sell your products or services effectively online, you will need to set up your online platforms for transactions and taking payments. You will need to decide which platforms you will be selling and presenting your products on, such as your website or social media platforms.
A secure and reliable payment system is critical if your business operates online.
There are many benefits to promoting your products and services online, such as:
- enhanced flexibility in presenting items without the constraints of a physical store
- increased reach of your business to potential customers
- selling products and services or generating enquiries outside of business hours
- cost reductions due to lower overheads involved with online selling compared to traditional options.
When preparing to invest in promoting or selling your products and services online, you should consider developing a digital business strategy—an outline of your goals, objectives and methods to take your business online.
Ecommerce websites and online shops
Ecommerce is the practice of buying or selling goods and services online. A common method of ecommerce is using a digital store as a part of your website or social media platform.
You can add a function, page or section to your business website to promote and sell your products.
Online stores can be simple or complex, depending on the needs of your business.
Other options for presenting products and services online include:
- a social media-enabled store
- online marketplaces
- a multichannel approach using different methods and platforms.
Ecommerce on your website needs to provide a secure online payment system to meet customer expectations and legal requirements. Read more about legal obligations.
Tips for ecommerce success
- Make sure your website outlines security and privacy protection for your customers so that customers feel confident to use your payment system.
- Use a secure sockets layer (SSL) digital certificate. An SSL certificate encrypts information, such as credit card details, as it is transferred over the internet so that other people can't access it. Your website hosting service or developer can advise you about applying for a certificate.
- Follow up your website service with excellent real-life service. For example, make sure your product is as it appears on the website and that there are no hidden costs. Online reviews make it very easy for customers to spread the word if they have a negative experience with your business.
- Provide information about your business—where you're based, how to contact you and what to do if something goes wrong. These details increase customer confidence.
- Electronic business transactions are subject to the same business laws as traditional transactions. You need to understand your legal obligations such as online fair trading (including privacy, spam and intellectual property) and copyright laws.
Make sure any terms and conditions are clear—this should include your refunds or cancellations policy.
Setting up ecommerce
When preparing to set up ecommerce capabilities, you will need to consider which of your online platforms you want to sell from and the different options for preparing them.
Common ecommerce methods include:
- custom-developed website stores created by a developer
- template stores using plugins on your website
- products that give you an ecommerce package you can tailor to your business
- setting up social media-enabled stores on each platform
- linking from your social media to your selling website.
You will also need to set up methods to receive online payments. You can offer customers 1 or multiple payment options, including:
- online credit/debit card payment
- credit/debit card payment over the phone
- Google Checkout
- Apple Pay
- buy now, pay later services.
A typical online website with ecommerce capability will include:
- a product list or catalogue
- a tool for selecting products (often called a shopping cart or basket)
- an ordering and payment tool.
You need to give your customers precise information relating to ordering, shipping and prices. They will also be interested in refunds, warranties and returns policies.
Customers may be concerned with online shopping safety, so you need to provide them with clear information about your privacy and security policies.
The same laws apply to online selling as traditional selling methods. Make sure you are familiar with the regulations outlined in the Fair Trading Act 1989 (incorporating Australian consumer law) before you begin selling online.
Tips to help you set up your ecommerce capability
- Talk to a website developer about creating (or upgrading) a website to allow you to sell online.
- Investigate what plugins may be available to add sales functionality to your current website.
- If you use a template website, check whether you can upgrade your subscription or licence to add shopping functionality.
Pricing for selling online
When pricing to sell online, it is essential to consider all selling costs, such as:
- selling fees—paid to third parties, such as online marketplaces
- payment processing fees—paid to payment providers and banks for processing online payments
- monthly or recurring fees—flat fees charged for you to access online selling channels (e.g. website hosting and marketplace listing fees)
- applicable taxes or government charges—goods and services tax (GST) (these may vary if you are selling internationally, depending on your buyer's location)
- delivery costs—packaging and shipping.
When selling online, shipping costs can be high. If you sell low-value products, the shipping costs may even be more than the product cost. You should then consider your pricing strategy for shipping costs.
- Pass on the total cost of delivery to the buyer by adding shipping at checkout—adding on shipping costs during checkout increases buyers' risk of changing their minds if they were unaware of the fee. Make fees clear on your site so that buyers are not surprised at check out.
- Charging a flat fee for all shipping—depending on the product and volume ordered, this may not cover the total shipping costs.
- Offering free shipping for orders over a certain amount—free shipping incentives may encourage customers to buy more.
- Offering free shipping on all orders—your product selling prices should increase to cover your costs in this option. It is important to ensure that your prices are still competitive.
Selling options and channels
Apart from creating ecommerce capability on your website, you can also sell your products and services through other channels. You have many options and each has the potential to broaden your customer base.
Using existing sales channels and ecommerce sites rather than your website avoids spending too much money and time while you are building your customer base. These existing sites will likely have current brand awareness and website traffic that you can benefit from.
Each sales channel will have advantages and disadvantages. You will need to consider the time, setup costs and any ongoing fees. You will also need to consider the terms and requirements of each channel and its fit for your business and customers.
Online marketplaces bring together multiple sellers, products and buyers in 1 location. It is like a large shopping centre that allows buyers to shop for products from different stores in 1 location (e.g. Catch.com.au and Etsy).
Selling via an online marketplace is generally quick to set up and offers credibility and a large customer base. The online marketplace maintains the website and security, and provides established processes and tools for purchasing and payments.
Online marketplaces can charge ongoing monthly fees and commission. You are required to comply with the marketplace's terms and conditions. Depending on your product, you may be directly competing with other sellers.
Advantages of online marketplaces may include:
- quicker to launch than a website and online store
- additional channel for you to advertise and sell your products
- established processes and infrastructure for sending the order confirmation and tracking
- larger customer base
- more credibility as buyers have higher levels of trust with more significant marketplaces
- the online marketplace maintains the website and security, ensuring minimal downtime
- ability to easily compare your prices with competitors
- option for buyers to post reviews.
Disadvantages of online marketplaces may include:
- ongoing monthly fees and commission
- less control of the customer online and purchasing experience
- competing with other sellers with similar products
- compliance with the marketplace's terms and conditions
- limits or restrictions on how you advertise or brand your business and products.
Auction marketplaces are online facilities that allow buyers to place a bid online (e.g. eBay).
If you sell using an auction marketplace, you'll need to wait a certain amount of time to finalise the sale (i.e. once bidding closes). If bidding is low, you may receive a lower price than your regular selling price.
Social media sites (e.g. Facebook) have options to set up a store within your business page. Adding payment options to your social media allows you to sell directly to your followers within the social media platform.
Some social media platforms will also have a marketplace (e.g. Facebook Marketplace) that allows you to list goods and services for sale.
If you sell similar products to other sellers, you can list them in comparison shopping engines (Google Shopping).
These sites allow buyers to compare prices for different sellers and are particularly helpful if your pricing is competitive. But it may not be beneficial if you compete on quality rather than price or sell unique items.
Comparison shopping sites charge you fees to use their service. Comparison sites may charge on a pay-per-click basis, so you may incur fees even if you don't make a sale.
Deal sites operate by encouraging sellers to list their discounted products and services in return for business exposure and access to a large selling platform.
Freelancing platforms are online marketplaces for selling services. These platforms allow you to create a profile to advertise your services and provide your skills, qualifications and experience.
Buyers can also post details of services they require.
Affiliate programs allow you to increase your reach by using other people or organisations to advertise your products or services.
You provide each affiliate with their unique selling link. You pay the affiliate a commission for each sale made through their link.
There are many other online sales channels that you can use. These will vary depending on your industry. For example, you can sell music through iTunes or meals through Uber Eats.
These third-party sites will have existing payment options and processes for ordering, customer services and shipping. Third-party sites allow you to focus on your product or service.
Third-party sites will charge you fees or commissions.
Digital downloads allow your customers to buy any media from you—for example, software, videos, games, documents, pictures or ebooks. Your customer will click on a link and download the file onto their computer instantly, saving you on delivery and printing costs.
Businesses such as restaurants, florists and catering companies can expand their customer base by partnering with a delivery service that can provide physical products to customers within short time frames (e.g. Uber Eats and Menulog).
Methods for taking payments
There are various options for selling online and taking payments and you must choose the most appropriate options for your business.
There are also costs and risks associated with taking online payments, so it is worth considering if your expected amount of online transactions justifies investment in your own secure ecommerce website or whether you should explore other options.
You can set up payments on your business website using:
- a merchant account
- an online payment service
- PayID on your eligible account using your mobile phone, email or ABN/ACN (if eligible)
- a payment service operated by some internet service providers.
Merchant accounts and payment services suit businesses that operate online stores and expect high volumes of transactions.
There are several methods for taking payments. You can use some of these options on your website; others have emerged to help businesses establish online payment capacity without developing sophisticated websites.
You will need to establish a merchant facility with your bank that lets you accept credit card payments online. Some banks offer software to help you set up an online store.
Talk to your bank about how they can help and what costs are involved. It can be worth shopping around as banks may have different fee structures for merchant accounts and internet payment gateways.
A payment gateway links your shopping cart to your bank's merchant facility. Some small businesses choose this option because it can be easier and quicker than setting up your own merchant facility with a bank, while also avoiding customers' dislike of multi-step payment processes like PayPal.
You will need a merchant account to use a payment gateway.
Some web-hosting services also provide payment facilities. Ask your web host or designer about how they can help.
Online payment services allow you to accept payments through a third party. PayPal is the most well-known of these services and operates worldwide, so people anywhere in the world can purchase from you.
Many of these services will process payments on your behalf through a payment system built into your website. You can also create a link on your website that takes customers to the third-party online payment service.
Online service providers may also accept payments via mobile devices, which is an important consideration when selecting your online payment service provider.
You can choose to sell your goods through an online auction site, like eBay. The auction site will collect payments from buyers after the auction and transfer them to you.
You can register as a business on auction sites if you use them commercially. Some online auction sites offer you the option of setting up an online store on the site to bring together all your products.
Online auction sites typically charge sellers a fee for listing an item for sale and a commission-based fee per sale.
You can choose to invoice customers to make a manual payment rather than enter into an online payment arrangement.
You may program your website to generate an invoice when a customer wants to purchase a product. Alternatively, you can just ask customers to email or phone you to arrange to purchase goods or services.
You could then ask them to pay with:
- an internet banking transfer into your account
- a credit card via mail or phone
- BPAY (speak with your bank about this)
- an online payment service provider (e.g. PayPal).
Instant payment options are also available using many of these services.
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) services allow your customer to pay for their purchase over time. Customers are not charged interest but pay fees to use these services. Examples include Afterpay and Zip Co.
BNPL is like traditional layby, paid over time—the difference is the customer will receive the goods or service immediately and not when payments are complete. With BNPL, the customer pays the BNPL service provider rather than the seller.
The BNPL service provider pays you the sale amount upfront. You will be charged fees, including a flat fee and percentage of sales amount.
Cryptocurrency is a digital currency—for example, Bitcoin. Cryptocurrency is paid or received using a virtual ledger so you can send it to anyone anywhere in the world.
You will be charged a transaction fee on all cryptocurrency payments.
Cryptocurrency is not the official currency of any country but operates using a pre-defined monetary policy. The value of cryptocurrency can fluctuate.
Summary of payment methods
Own website required
Your website—merchant account
Requires you to establish a merchant facility with a bank that collects payments on your website.
You must have a merchant account with a bank.
There will be both cost and time involved to set up a website if you don't have one.
Ongoing fees must be paid to the bank. Different banks will have specific fee requirements—usually, these will be flat recurring fees or a percentage of the transaction.
You will need to maintain your website, including meeting security and compliance requirements.
It is essential to consider all costs involved and if this is feasible given your expected sales.
The application process with banks can be time-consuming.
Your website—payment gateway
Requires you to establish an account with the payment gateway, which will collect payments on your website and sends the funds to your merchant facility.
You must have a merchant account with a bank.
There will be both cost and time involved to set up a website if you don't have one.
Ongoing fees are paid to the payment gateway and bank.
You need to ensure your website meets all compliance requirements.
Consider all costs involved and if this is feasible given your expected sales.
The application process with banks can be time-consuming.
Online payment service provider
Requires you to establish an account with an online payment service provider, and allows you to collect payment via a built-in payment system, link in a third-party website or mobile device/app.
There will be both cost and time involved to set up a website if you don't have one.
Ongoing fees must be paid to the payment service provider.
Payment is made to the payment service provider initially.
The process to transfer to your bank account may be manual and have limitations.
Some payment service providers will handle customer disputes and may issue customer refunds at their discretion
You are subject to payment service provider's terms and conditions.
Online auction sites
Allows buyers to place bids and will collect payments from the buyer after the auction.
You must be comfortable allowing a third-party site to collect fees and you will need to have time available to wait for scheduled auctions.
Fees for each item are listed for sales, including commission.
You will need to wait a certain amount of time for the sale.
The selling price is variable, and you may not receive the item's total value if bidding is low.
You are subject to the auction site's terms and conditions.
Payments are not made direct to you and will be processed through the auction site, resulting in potential delays in receiving funds.
Manual payments, BPAY and direct transfers
Invoice customers so that they can make a manual payment—for example, using internet banking transfer into your bank account, BPAY, credit card via mail or phone, or online payments service provider.
Consider how the invoice will be generated—for example, through your website, automatically or manually.
There are no additional fees.
As the customer is not paying at the point of purchase, there may be a delay in receiving funds.
You are required to track/confirm payment and follow up if necessary.
Buy now, pay later (BNPL) services
Allows your customer to pay for their purchase over a period while receiving their order immediately.
There will be time and cost to integrate this option into your website or another payment process.
You will be charged fees, including a flat fee and percentage of sales amount.
You are subject to BNPL's terms and conditions.
Payment will be made to the BNPL provider, so there may be a delay in you receiving the funds.
A digital currency paid or received using a virtual ledger.
You need to register to pay or receive cryptocurrency.
A transaction fee will be charged on all payments.
The value of cryptocurrency can fluctuate, so you need to monitor it closely.
Improving the online sales experience
You need to build and maintain customer relationships when selling online. You can do this by:
- creating a personalised experience for each customer—look for ways to make the online experience feel unique
- set clear expectations on what customers can expect from your product and service, both the value and any constraints
- giving details—provide customers step-by-step instructions for using your products or accessing your services (e.g. if you offer online personal training via Zoom, don't assume the customer knows how to use Zoom—you should provide all the information they will need to access the session)
- make sure your customer can get help from your business if needed
- keep customers engaged by checking in regularly (e.g. by hosting online events or live streaming).
Attracting people to your online store
Once you have set up your online store or marketplace listing, you need to consider promoting your online shop. Your aim should be to drive people to your website or marketplace listing.
You may also have them sign up for your email list or follow your social media profiles so you can continue to promote your products and service to them.
You can promote your online shop using:
- social media
- influencer marketing
- YouTube videos or channels
- Google advertising
- content marketing
- word of mouth.
Your website should also have relevant information about your products and services and grab your potential customers' attention.
Selling online checklist
- Consider if you will set up an online store. Are you expecting enough online sales sufficient to cover the time and cost of setting up an online store?
- Consider if you will sell your products using just an online marketplace or along with selling on your website.
- If using an online marketplace, research the available options. Consider what is best suited for your industry, products and customers. Consider the costs and terms of each option.
- Consider how you will promote your online shop. What methods will you use to drive customers to your website or online marketplace listing?
- How do you plan to collect customer email addresses? For example, will you offer a free ebook or discount voucher in exchange for signing up to your mailing list?
- Set up your email marketing campaign to nurture your relationships with customers over time.
- Ensure you have systems to support customers post-sale and encourage repeat sales.
Providing products online
Having products available to purchase online can be a cost-effective way of expanding your business or creating a business that operates fully online.
Providing products online can also be part of a multichannel experience (e.g. your social media campaigns and customer emails can include links to your online store so customers can purchase the product right away).
Preparing your products to be sold
Once you have decided what and how you will sell your products, you must prepare to present these items for sale on the chosen platform.
You will need to consider the following:
- pricing—have a clear pricing strategy that supports your business and competition needs
- descriptions—explain your products in detail and include precise measurements, materials and other information that customers could use to make their purchase
- presentation—take photos or make videos or other promotional materials that are appealing.
Fulfillment options for online products
Once you have decided on how to present and offer your products for sale online, you will need to work out how you will arrange for the customer to receive their order.
Consider the methods of delivery or fulfillment you will use to complete the sale of a product.
- For physical items, will you be able to offer pick-up (click and collect with a digital invoice or physical ticket or coupon) or only delivery? What delivery options will you offer (e.g. Australia Post, courier)?
- For digital media, how will the customer access their purchase? Will they be sent a file by email or have a one-time or continuous access to the product on your website or from cloud storage?
Providing your services online
Offering your services online provides opportunities for you to reach more customers outside of your local area, which can help you to grow your business. When preparing to provide services online, it's important to consider which services elements are suitable for online delivery.
Provide traditional services online
Many services traditionally offered in physical stores and face-to-face interactions can be delivered online. The move from physical selling to online selling is known as 'service digitisation' and uses advancements in technology to expand how you can provide services to your customers.
Consider the range of services that your business either does or could offer, and think about how they could be delivered online.
Think about your services and how you interact with your customers to work out what elements of your business you could offer as an online service.
Examples of traditional services delivered online
- Personal trainers using subscription-based mobile apps or selling programs as a PDF
- Pilates teachers running online classes via Zoom
- Banks offering more services through banking apps
- Publishers offering more books in digital format and selling through more significant platforms like Kobo and Kindle
- Real estate viewings taking place through live video feeds
- Restaurants adding their business to online reservation apps like OpenTable
- Supermarkets expanding their service to online shopping and delivery
- Musicians delivering concerts via web browsers
- Consultations being delivered online using live streaming and video technology
- Training institutes delivering courses online
Consider the following:
- does my business offer services?
- what components of these services could be delivered online?
- what technology would I need to facilitate this?
- does this add value to my service?
Sell your service online and deliver in-person
You also can sell your service online and deliver it in person.
There are various ways to sell services online.
Bookings for restaurants or reservations for a hotel can be managed online. Beauticians, hairdressers and other service providers may allow their customers to make appointments online.
These systems can work with an online database and diary and reduce scheduling issues. They also allow your customers to check or make appointments at any time.
It can also help you keep your customers' details up to date.
Courier companies can allow customers to track their orders online.
Online tracking and delivery scheduling give customers an idea of how long they need to wait for a delivery so they can make sure they're home when a delivery is due.
Businesses such as clubs and gyms can offer customers the option of managing their membership online.
Customers may want to make changes to their membership package, check schedules, change their details or check a record of their bookings online.
You can partner with services-focused marketplaces to use their infrastructure and large marketing budgets.
Tips for selling your products and services online
Follow these tips when preparing your products and services online.
- Display your registered business name, company name and Australian business number (ABN) to promote customer trust.
- Ensure that your online business name is consistent across all platforms.
- Ensure that your website is built and enhanced in a way that will support your selling goals. Read more about building a website and how to improve your website.
- Consider your search engine optimisation (SEO) to make sure that you rank highly on search engines.
- Ensure your website is secure and has SSL security at the checkout.
- Optimise your website for various devices.
- Consider multichannel selling—offer your products and services on various platforms.
- Keep the information on your website (namely prices and stock levels) current.
- Use detailed descriptions for all products and services.
- Use accurate images to represent your products and services.
- Treat online customer service and communications the same as a physical business premises.
- Understand the different laws relating to electronic transactions.
- Find out how to create a digital strategy for your business.
- Learn about digital transformation, including the steps and benefits of moving your business online.
- Access low-cost advice from Australian Small Business Advisory Services (ASBAS) Digital Solutions to grow your digital capability.
- View our free webinars to improve your online business.
- Read about managing online customer reviews.
- Learn about marketing your business online.
- Last reviewed: 11 May 2022
- Last updated: 26 May 2023