Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on January 26, 2012. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Small businesses can profit from online sales
Shopping online can be extremely useful for busy consumers, but it often leaves small businesses out in the cold.
There are numerous options for the small business owner or entrepreneur when it comes to selling online, but determining the right fit for your growing business can be a challenge. Most tech-savvy folks say there is no perfect online payment system. Rather, it’s a choice between what software helps net the most sales minus the software that gives you the least amount of headache.
So why bother with an online payment software system? First, it helps protect the small business owner by taking payment in advance of the item being shipped or picked up. By using online payment system, you can make sure the “check clears the bank” so you are not left with a loss. Second, it removes the burden of dealing with the customer’s credit or debit card information. Third, buttons can be added to your company’s website or Facebook page so customers’ can purchase items directly from the site.
However, it should be noted that social media sites like Facebook and Twitter are far better at updating and engaging clientele than making a hard sell. The strength of these social media tools lies in introducing the customer to the business, staff and merchandise, which is the starting point for the eventual sale. The best approach to using social media is to offer online coupons and discounts that can be redeemed online or in the store.
Perhaps the most well-known online payment service is PayPal. It is often used in conjunction with eBay but can be used as a standalone software package. Other online payment systems include Google Checkout, Yahoo Small Business and Amazon, to name but a few.
When trying to decide on an online payment solution, be sure to ask the following questions: Is there a monthly fee to maintain the account? How much does the company charge to process payments? When is the money deposited into your account? (Most companies do not deposit money automatically into your account; instead it is held for several days) How do they handle refunds? And lastly, what kind of technical support can you expect if you encounter difficulties?
Internet and e-mail scams are additional factors to consider. The last thing the small business owner needs is a part-time employee surfing the web or checking e-mail and responding to fraudulent e-mails. Computers that handle online payments or any type of financial records should be used only for that purpose to avoid being compromised.