eComments

On line business news & marketing tips.

Doing Business on NBN Part 1: The e-commerce opportunity.

The NBN is not just faster broadband. it is also business quality broadband, so for many businesses in regional Australia taking advantage of the speed and data capacity of the new National Broadband Network to start doing business on line makes plenty of sense – whether you have an existing four wall business, or a dream of opening a new on line business.

In fact, you may not even have much choice in the matter. If you have an existing business, your local and regional customers will also have broadband connection and be using it a lot more and they will soon expect you to be on line too. Having a www address is pretty much a cost of entry these days- if you are not on the internet you are not in business. This is why dentists, domestic cleaners and lawn mowing services have their own websites. In other words, the first reason for building a business website is self defence – if you are not on line and your competitor in the next suburb or nearest town is, you could start losing business.

Your business has room to grow on the NBN.

The NBN could really help you grow your business by connecting you to a much larger pool of potential customers. A business website also helps you compete on a more equal footing against bigger competitors and enables you to do business with prospects who were previously outside your business catchment area. It also makes it a lot easier to find you and find out what your business has to offer.

A butcher in a small town could take on line orders and deliver gourmet sausages and BBQ party packs to customers in a nearby larger town every week. A wedding dress designer could get new clients from 150 km around. In fact, if you have a uniquely Australian or local product there is no reason why you cannot market it Australia-wide, or even internationally, wherever you live.

If you already have a business, e-commerce gives you the potential to grow it, and if you’re dreaming of starting a new business from scratch, the NBN gives you a real chance to make a go of it. Twenty years ago, the first thing you did if you were about to start a new business was go to a printer and have a letterhead and business card printed. Today the first thing you have to do is design a website – even if it is just three pages – Home, About Us and Contact Us – you don’t exist until you are on the internet.

Choosing a domain name

If you plan to use the NBN to take a new or existing business onto the internet for the first time, you need to start with the basics – a domain name, a web host, a way of getting paid and a way of delivering goods purchased.

The domain name is your unique website address – www.writingfreelance.com.au – it should be as short as possible, preferably all in lower case, and if it has more than one word, they should run together. (obviously if you are taking an established business on line, you want the name to be the website address, but you might have to tweak it if it is too long, hard to spell or hard to type. For example, “Morris Jones Quality Fresh Meats, Brewarrina P/L” may end up as “brewarrinameats.com.au”, or , “brewarinnabutcher.com.au” or even as “Jonesthebutcher.com.au

Often you have to have more than one word because the word you want is already taken – in my case, I had to register “writingfreelance” because “freelancewriter” and many other variations of “writer” and “freelance” were already taken. It is very easy to check if a name is free just by going to crazydomains.com.au and typing in your name – but it is better to have a shortlist of three or four handy just in case. The standard form is a name ending in .com.au or .net.au but there are many more options available. Please note that you do not need an international domain ( .com or .net) unless you intend to sell overseas, as this will put you on an equal footing with international competitors, also .org.au is strictly for non-profit organisations.

Should your telco be your web host?

The easiest way to get a domain name and set up a site could be to take a hosting package from the telco who is connecting you to the NBN. The major telcos will offer you free domain name registration and include hosting as part of an NBN connection deal, as well as offering and a do-it-yourself website builder.

Of course, your broadband telco very much wants to host your website – with mobile phone profits going down, they are looking for new sources of income and selling data on their own network is very profitable for them. On the other hand, the free domain name registration is worth as little as $12 – $18, and there are hundreds of reputable web hosting service providers in Australia , many of whom offer competitively priced packages and good customer service.

As I see it, the biggest potential problem about hosting with a telco who is also your ISP or email provider is that they may not make it easy for you to move your site to another host server who may offer you lower prices or more features. Furthermore, if you ever do want to move to another hosting service, you may have to unbundle and this could affect your phone costs as well. This is why it may pay you to look around before committing to your telco as your website hosting company.

Do you really need a virtual shopping trolley

How about a way of getting paid? If you are going to have an on line store with a large product catalogue, you will probably need a shopping trolley application with a secure checkout that takes major credit cards (you buy the application when you build your website).Credit cards work instantly, but you do have to pay the bank for the facility .

If you are not running a virtual store, and you offer a limited range of exclusive products or professional services, and you don’t already have a bank credit card facility, it may not be strictly necessary. Customers can pay you electronically by eftpos from their computers or, in the very near future, from their mobile phones. Paypal is another great convenience which is growing in popularity and tends to cost about the same as a credit card facility in fees. Paypal is free to customers and does enable them to pay by credit card if they wish to.

Finally, in terms of delivering the goods, your first choice will obviously be Australia Post who offer special packages to streamline e-commerce sales and deliveries, but the post office is not the only way to deliver and local carriers and couriers will eagerly compete for your business on a regional basis.

It may still be some time before the NBN actually reaches your area, but that could be a good thing I since it will give you time to do you homework and plan your start as an on line business, so why not start thinking about it now.