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Chapter 4 of 5

Selling online

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Retail guides > Starting a retail business > Selling online

Selling online

Selling while you sleep is the dream, and that’s just what ecommerce promises to do for you. But does it work? Is it worth trying? And how exactly do you go about setting up an online shop?

What’s the opportunity size?

Retail NZ says almost 1 in every 10 retail dollars is spent online – it’s roughly the same in Australia and the US – and they expect that rate to jump by about half through 2030. In other words, there’s a lot of cash washing around out there on the internet.

There are added benefits to selling online. It doesn’t cost you much to be there, customers can order from anywhere, and much of the transaction takes place automatically.

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How to set up your own online shop

Half of Kiwi retailers have their own website, so how do they sell through it? eCommerce has changed a lot and it can be hard to keep up, so we asked the experts at Shopify to talk us through it.



You will need to get a domain name (web address) and someone to host your site. You can often get both from the same provider. Ensure your host offers enough security to support ecommerce.



Your goods need to be displayed for shoppers. Invest in great photos because they do a lot of the selling, and add a written blurb. Include a big ‘Add to cart’ button and make it easy for people to keep shopping.



This is where the magic happens. The shopping cart allows customers to build orders and pay for them (then it will email them a receipt). It should allow you to apply extra charges for GST and shipping.



You'll need a control panel to manage your products, change prices, and view customer and sales traffic.

Options for creating an online shop

  • Custom build your own
    You can get a shop built from scratch and enjoy total control over almost every aspect of how it looks, feels, and works – at a price. 

  • Use an off-the-shelf template
    You’ll face some restrictions but you’ll get most modern ecommerce features for a modest monthly charge.

  • Get something kind-of customised
    You can buy an affordable template and hire a developer to make a few changes to create a one-of-a-kind look.

Shopify, BigCommerce, and Rocketspark can provide out-of-the-box online shops for your site.

Fees for selling online

It costs money to accept online payments. The companies that handle the transactions charge somewhere between 1% and 4% of the purchase price. 

Don’t forget to enter these charges into your business accounts as a cost. Preferably assign each charge to a specific transaction, so you can calculate the true profit on those sales. Online accounting software can do this for you.

Selling in online marketplaces

You can also sell through marketplaces like TradeMe, Facebook, Amazon or Etsy. These providers allow you to display products, charge customers, and process payments using their website. Of course they take a cut of each sale, but it’s generally fairly small.

Marketplace sites don’t always pay you as soon as a sale is made. They may only square up once a month. Plan for delays between inventory going out and money coming in. 

Selling through multiple online shops

If you’re selling online, you might as well be in more than one place. You could have a shop on your website, plus one on TradeMe, Facebook, and/or Amazon. There are thousands of people shopping on those websites, so it doesn’t hurt to be there too.

This is sometimes called multi-channel marketing and it’s a good way to maximise the effort you put into getting good product shots, writing descriptions, and organising shipping. You can use a lot of the same things over and over again on multiple channels.

Managing your online empire

While it’s true that more online shops means more admin, there are tools to help keep your workload down:

  • A multi-channel dashboard from someone like Shopify allows you to run your online shop, Amazon shop, and Facebook shop all from one place. 

  • An app like A2X can help keep track of payments, fees, and GST from multiple shops at once.


Chapter 5: What you need to do before launch

Before you go live, your website, storefront and other processes need to be checked and tested carefully. There’s no point launching if you can’t do any business. Or can’t do it well.

Read chapter 5


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