Partnering with the right suppliers will give you a head start in running an efficient ecommerce business, potentially saving you thousands of dollars each year.
[Editor’s note: This article is the second article in a seven-part series by Chris Dahl of Pin Payments, providing an essential guide to setting up an ecommerce business. Read part one: Ecommerce Success Begins With Laying Solid Foundations]
With the range of business services out there, it can be hard to know which providers are right for you. If you decide solely on price, you may miss out on key features that offer more value than they cost. Yet it’s just as easy to get caught up in the excitement of new features, and end up paying for what you don’t need.
Let’s look at the five fundamental functions in a modern, technology-enhanced business, and how to choose the right providers for your first few years.
Your business email
Your email address lets people know you mean business. It helps prove you are who you say you are, and that you represent the company you work for.
When setting up your business email, avoid free domains like hotmail.com, outlook.com, yahoo.com or gmail.com. Invest a little extra in using your company domain name instead. It’ll make you look professional and credible to your customers and partners.
If you’ve not registered your domain name yet, look for registrants that also offer email accounts, giving you the ease of dealing with just one provider. Alternatively, you could use business apps to get powerful search, collaboration, spam protection and calendar services under your business domain.
Your accounting platform
Simple spreadsheets are a popular choice for businesses just starting out, but even with clever formulae and macros, they lack the smarts for complex integrations and automation. A proper accounting platform, on the other hand, could save you hundreds of man-hours on bookkeeping, budgeting and administration.
While there are several well-established accounting platforms on the market, there are a number of lesser-known platforms worth considering if you’re after a simpler service. Before you buy, check out Business Victoria’s guide on choosing the most appropriate accounting software for your business.
Your online presence
A solid online presence begins with a solid website. Specialist web designers and agencies can deliver not just a top notch look and feel, but audience-aware digital strategy too. When shopping around, look for outcome-focused professionals with a proven track record in design, development and e-commerce strategy.
That said, not every business needs a website of that scale. For smaller offline businesses like beauty salons and fitness schools, a simple but elegant website will often do the trick. These days, you can select from an enormous range of beautiful website templates complete with DIY features to create your own basic web presence. At a pinch, at least set up a Facebook Page to let your target audiences know you exist.
Your invoicing platform
The most suitable invoicing platform will depend on the nature and size of your business. Freelancers and solopreneurs, for example, may only need the cheapest option with a bare minimum of features – something like a Microsoft Word template.
However, businesses with a steadier clientele might want a solution that does more of the work, requiring less manual intervention. In this case, there are invoicing platforms that could streamline the entire invoicing process, integrating with bank transactions as well as third-party time tracking systems. A provider at this level could have a significant influence on your cashflow and time management.
Your payment processing
These days, you’re not limited to the payment processing options offered by the big banks. There are many options that are affordable and simple to use for face-to-face payments, making them perfect for retail boutiques, cafés, small bars, salons and market stalls.
An e-commerce business, on the other hand, will need a smart online payment processor that adheres to security and best practice standards. Ensure it’s well-integrated into the key online commerce platforms you use, and has a powerful developer API for when you might require something custom built for your business.
Research your needs and options thoroughly to ensure you pick a platform that you can stick with as your company matures and grows.
About the author
By Chris Dahl, Director, Sales & Growth at Pin Payments, an all-in-one payment provider, enabling businesses to accept payments around the world without a traditional gateway or merchant account.