1.       Definition

Electronic commerce (ecommerce) is the sale of goods and services over the Internet. An ecommerce website combines many technologies that allow businesses to market, sell and distribute their products and services all around the globe.

2.       History of Ecommerce

In 1990, English engineer and computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee created the first prototype for the World Wide Web.

In 1993, founders of Netscape developed the first graphical Internet browser for Windows and Mac operating systems. Then in 1994, Netscape developed Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption technology, enabling the secure processing of online payments.

By 1995, businesses could register their own domain names and the first ecommerce websites were created.

One of the pioneering ecommerce websites was Amazon, created by American Jeff Bezos in 1995. Amazon, formally known as Cadabra, went on to become the largest online retailer in the world.

Another ecommerce giant created by Pierre Omidyar in 1995 was eBay. The online auction site that is now the world’s largest online marketplace.

In 1998, Elon Musk developed PayPal, which allowed anyone to transfer money securely, without the expense of a merchant bank account.

In 1999, Chinese businessman Jack Ma developed Alibaba, which became the leading platform for global trade.

In 2000, the first open-source ecommerce platform was developed called Oscommerce. The Oscommerce software was distributed free of charge and allowed anyone to install the software on their own web hosting account and run their own ecommerce store.

In 2003, a fork of Oscommerce called Zen Cart was created. Later on, other ecommerce systems evolved such as Prestashop (2007), Magento (2008) and Woocommerce (2011).

In 2004, Canadian Tobias Lütke‎ created Shopify, the first software-as-a-service (SAAS) ecommerce platform. Later in 2009, Bigcommerce was founded by Australians Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper.

In 2010, Stripe was founded by Irish entrepreneurs John and Patrick Collison. Stripe is a platform that allows businesses to easily accept credit card payments and ApplePay directly on their website without any need to store the credit card details.

In 2014, Apple Pay was launched, a mobile app that mimics a credit or debit card. In 2015, Google launched Android Pay, a mobile app similar to Apple pay.

Ecommerce is fast becoming mobile with more and more shoppers using their mobile phones to buy online and share their experiences. In 2017, global retail ecommerce sales topped over $3.1 Trillion Australian dollars.

3.       Ecommerce platforms

When you create an ecommerce website, you can either buy commercial ecommerce software, use Open Source ecommerce software or buy a software-as-a-service ecommerce platform where the software is setup for you.

Open Source ecommerce software is released under a public license and allows software developers to view, change and distribute the source code for any purpose. The advantage of open source ecommerce software is that the store owner has full access to the website files and backups. Any web developer can work on the website and have full access to the code. This makes the website more versatile. Examples of open source ecommerce platforms include Zen Cart, Prestashop, Magento, Woocommerce and Opencart.

Another alternative for building an ecommerce website is to use Software-as-a-Service (SASS). SAAS providers create a pre-built website that does not require any coding knowledge, or the use of a web developer. The software can be accessed by paying a monthly or yearly fee.

Avant Marketing combines the benefits and versatility of Open Source Ecommerce Software with the ease-of-use of a SASS application.

A comparison of ecommerce website platforms can be found below:

Ecommerce Platforms:






Yearly price






Number of products






Domain name included






Secure SSL Included






Transaction fees






Aus Payment Systems






AusPost Shipping












Product Compare






Customised design






Email Hosting






Web Hosting Cpanel






Expert support






4.       Responsive Web Design

Over 90% of Australians own a smart phone and people are viewing websites on a variety of different devices including mobiles, tablets, laptops, desktops and big screen TVs. It’s crucial that an ecommerce website can be viewed on any type of device.

Responsive web design responds to the different screen sizes by displaying an optimised version of the website for each specific screen size.

The release of the Bootstrap4 codebase has allowed web developers to easily create mobile friendly responsive websites. Ecommerce websites built using Bootstrap are guaranteed to look good on any type of device.

5.       Coding

An ecommerce website is built using various types of code to perform many functions within the website.

The types of code commonly used to build an ecommerce website include HTML, CSS, JavaScript, PHP, SQL, AJAX and JQuery.

Most ecommerce platforms don't require you to know any code, however HTML is easy to learn and can be useful when adding product descriptions and blog posts to a website.

6.       Web hosting

Web hosting is a service that provides file storage and Internet access to a website’s files. An ecommerce website needs many files to run, including the code, images and database files. These files are stored on powerful computer systems called servers. The servers are connected to a high-speed internet connection that allows people to access the website 24/7. A web hosting server includes all the software that is needed to process the various scripting languages. It can also be used to create email accounts and store the emails. A web hosting account can be managed using the Cpanel interface. Cpanel can be used to edit files, create databases, create email accounts, track website traffic, install SSL certificates and many other functions.

7.       SSL certificates

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) is a method of encrypting website data so that credit cards details and other information cannot be intercepted while being sent across the Internet. SSL certificates now use a technology called Transport Layer Security (TLS). TLS uses 2048-bit encryption and is the industry standard for protecting sensitive information. Data encryption is vital for an ecommerce website to protect valuable customer information and provide trust.

8.       PCI DSS compliance

Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of industry standards developed to help online businesses accept, store, process and transmit credit card data securely, to prevent fraud and data security breaches. The PCI Security Standards Council was setup by the five largest credit card companies and it is increasingly becoming crucial for all businesses to comply with PCI DSS standards. These standards include the use of the latest SSL/TLS 1.2 certificates, secure code, strong passwords and several other factors that need to be implemented into an ecommerce website to make it compliant.

9.       Payment solutions

A reliable and secure payment system is essential to every ecommerce website. Popular payment solutions available for Australian businesses are:

PayPal – accepts all major credit cards and instant bank transfer.

Stripe – accepts all major credit cards plus Apple Pay with enhanced fraud protection.

ZipPay – lets your customers buy now and pay later, while you get paid straight away.

Eway – accepts credit cards by linking to a merchant bank account.

ANZ Egate – accept credit cards through ANZ bank

Commonwealth Bank (Commbank) – accept credit cards through Commonwealth Bank

NAB Payway – accept credit cards though NAB Bank

Direct Deposit – accept payments directly into your bank account

10.   Postage solutions

Postage solutions available to Australian businesses are:

Australia Post – real-time postage quotes from Australia Post
Free postage options – free postage for orders over a certain amount.
Flat rate – a single postage quote for any amount ordered
Table rates – custom postage rates based on price, weight and location.
Free postage – free postage for all orders

11.   Taxes and currencies

It is important for an ecommerce website to meet regulatory requirements such as the ability to accept GST and keep sales records. Before purchasing an ecommerce, check that it can perform these functions.

When selling internationally, it helps if a customer can choose the currency in which they're from. An ecommerce website can allow you to set a default currency and automatically update other currencies in real time.

12.   Writing copy

One of the most important factors in the success of an ecommerce website is writing effective sales copy and detailed product descriptions.

When a customer visits your site, they will only buy from you if they feel like they trust you and are getting a good deal. The main way to convey trust and entice people to buy is though the written word.

Your product descriptions should be as detailed as possible highlighting all the benefits that your customer will get from buying your product.

Your product descriptions should be written like a sales letter, empathising with the customer about the problems they're facing and how your product will solve those problems.

A call to action should always be added at the end of the sales copy directing your customer to buy now. You can give incentives to buy now such as a limited time discount or bonus when they order.

There’s tonnes of good information on the Internet about writing effective sales copy. The principles used today are the same as those used before the Internet existed. It’s all about creating an emotional response that builds a desire to buy a product, then delivering on your promise.

13.   Managing images

Apart from the written word, customers need to see good quality, detailed images of a product before they buy. Unlike offline sales, a customer can’t feel and touch the product, so images are all they have to gage what the product looks like and get an idea of the quality. Product images should be sized consistently throughout the site and optimised so that they load fast on any sized screen.

14.   Pricing structures

Pricing your products is an important skill that any business owner should be aware of. There are several pricing strategies that a business can utilise such as:

Premium pricing –if your products are unique and of a much higher quality than your competitor you charge a premium price.

Pricing for market penetration – You may want to set your prices low to build your customer base and brand. Once there is sufficient market penetration, prices can be increased.

Economy pricing – in this strategy businesses limit the amount of paid marketing and other costs in order to keep prices at a minimum.

Price skimming – this involves setting your prices high in the early stages of a business when competition is low. As more competitors enter the market place, you can drop your prices to remain competitive and attract more budget conscious customers.

Psychological pricing – setting a price at $9.95 instead of $10.00 creates an illusion for the customer that they’re getting a better deal and is proven to attract more buyers.

Bundle pricing – selling multiple products in a bundle allows a business to offer their products at a lower price, creating a win/win situation for both the business and the customer.

15.   Customer management

Keeping your existing customers happy is one of the most important parts of any business. Happy customers will buy from you again and tell their friends about you, resulting in free advertising and a lot more sales. A business should follow up with their customers after a purchase to ask if they are satisfied and if there is anything you can do to provide a better experience. Small things like a thank you note or a bonus with their order helps the customer feel valued and creates a stronger relationship. The use of email and social media allows businesses to stay in touch with their customers, resulting in more repeat sales and a stronger brand.

16.   Google analytics

It is important for a business to be able to track their advertising efforts and know where their visitors are coming from. Google has created a free Analytics service that can be used by anyone from small businesses to large enterprises. It is simple to integrate Google analytics into an ecommerce website. Once its setup, all you have to do is login to your google account and you can view a tonne of data about your website visitors.

17.   Email management

Communicating with customers through email is an essential process for any ecommerce business. Automatic emails are sent when an order is placed letting the shop owner know about new orders and confirming the order with the customer. Autoresponders can be setup to send regular email newsletters, providing your customers with useful information and helping you to engage and get more repeat sales.

18.   Marketing

Without marketing, no-one will ever know that your ecommerce website exists. One of the most common mistakes when creating an ecommerce website is to build a fancy looking website, full of useful content, and expect customers to find it without doing any form of marketing.

Marketing a website can include offline strategies such flyers, business cards, radio ads etc., or online methods such as search engine optimisation, social media advertising and email marketing.

19.   Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) includes onsite and offsite SEO practices. Onsite SEO involves creating lots of relevant content and adding keywords that your customers are searching for. Using keywords in your product titles and descriptions, as well as on the homepage, lets the search engines know what your website is about and how it compares to other similar websites. Offsite SEO is just as important as onsite SEO. Google ranks a site based on how good your content is, as well as how many people are sharing your content on the Internet. If Google finds a link to your site on another relevant site, it will rank your site higher. Offsite SEO includes, creating social media pages and getting likes for those pages; creating articles relevant to your industry that contain a link to your website; publishing those articles in blogs and social media; creating video content on YouTube; and submitting your web address to local online directories.

20.   Google AdWords

While SEO can take several months to build momentum, Google allows you get listed instantly by buying clicks to your site. You simply pick a bunch of keywords that your customers are searching for, create a title and description for your ad, then choose how much you want to pay when people click on your ad. Google AdWords is very competitive for most industries but can be a good way to kickstart your brand and attract some initial customers.

21.   Facebook

Facebook ads allow you to target specific groups of people and provide them with ads that are highly relevant. There is a huge number of people using Facebook and it has become one of the most successful ways for a business to market their products online.

The real power of Facebook is the ability for customers to talk about and share a business with their friends. If you’re offering a valuable service, your customers won’t hesitate to share and like your products, resulting in free organic advertising and increased sales.

Another powerful feature of Facebook Ads is the ability to create look-a-like audiences. Facebook uses Artificial Intelligence to compare your current customers with a similar group of people on Facebook. Then it allows you to create highly targeted ads for those people, resulting in higher sales conversion rates.

Facebook also allows you to re-target customers who already visited your website but didn’t buy. Sometimes people are interested in your products but close your website, for whatever reason, before having a chance to complete a purchase. Re-targeting allows you to advertise specifically to those people who have already showed an interest in your business.

22.   Instagram

Instagram is all about people sharing moments captured with their smart phones. People love browsing through images on Instagram looking for inspiration. Unlike Facebook, where most people are looking to engage with their friends, Instagram followers are often in a browsing frame of mind and are more willing to impulse buy.

23.   Twitter

Twitter is a good way to engage with your customers, create relationships, build trust and keep customers up to date on your latest offers. It helps a business to establish a brand which results in loyal customers and word-of-mouth advertising for your business.

24.   YouTube

Video is the most engaging type of media currently available. Creating a video on YouTube can not only bring more traffic to your site, it allows you to connect more personally with your customers and create trust in a way that other forms of advertising do not allow. Video content is fast becoming an essential component for marketing an ecommerce website. With high quality cameras on many smart phone devices, there’s no excuse for not creating your own YouTube channel.

25.   LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media platform for professionals, business owners and companies who want to network with each other. People use LinkedIn to connect with other colleagues, create a resume, apply for jobs, participate in relevant groups and share information though blog posts. If your business offers business-to-business products and services, LinkedIn can be a valuable way to advertise to your target audience.

26.   Mailchimp

Mailchimp offers a free email newsletter system to collect potential customer's email addresses and send them an automated newsletter. It has been found that a customer is more likely to purchase from a business if they have been shown an offer multiple times. An email newsletter allows you to create a relationship with your customer and build trust. By providing content that is useful to your customer, they will look forward to reading your emails and if you build sufficient trust, they will buy the products that you recommend. Mailchimp can easily be integrated into an ecommerce website to capture your potential customer’s email address and keep them engaged with your business.

27.   Blogging

A blog is a collection of articles that provide content that your customers are interested in. A blog can help show your customers that you are an expert in your field, which is another way to build trust and relationships. As well as providing relevant content and keeping you in touch with your customers, a blog is a great way to increase your search engine rankings. Google loves relevant content that is updated frequently. A blog allows you to create a tonne of content for your website and social media sites, resulting in more visits from google and a higher ranking for your keywords.

28.   Podcasts

With the fast-paced lifestyle of many people these days, podcasts are becoming more popular than ever. A podcast allows people to listen to interesting material while they perform other tasks, saving them time when compared to watching a video. Creating a podcast that is relevant to your business is a great way to engage with your customers, resulting in a stronger brand and more sales.

29.   Artificial Intelligence

AI may seem like science fiction and bring thoughts of the Terminator and the Matrix, but the fact is that Artificial Intelligence is being used everywhere from ads shown by Facebook, Google search results, medical research, facial recognition and driverless cars. The Internet contains huge amounts of data that can be difficult to analyse for any practical purpose. Artificial intelligence can learn to find patterns in that data that may be useful for a business to know. Almost every large corporation is investing large amounts of money in artificial intelligence to try and stay ahead of the game. While it’s currently unfeasible for a small business to create their own AI technologies, they can still utilise AI technologies in their ecommerce website through Facebook Ads and payment processors, such as Stripe, who use machine learning to detect fraud. Artificial intelligence is still in its early stages but is growing exponentially and will become more and more important for ecommerce in the future.

30.   Mixed Reality

We currently engage with the digital world by looking at a computer screen that is made up of millions of pixels. The future of digital technology is to integrate the digital world into the real world. An amazing new technology developed by a company called Magic Leap is allowing this to happen in the very near future. One day we will be able to put on a pair of reading glasses and have the whole digital world available to us within the real world. Imagine watching a movie where the characters are interacting around you in the real world. Imagine being able to try on new clothes without visiting a physical shop and imagine being able to watch a big screen TV at home with your friends located anywhere in the world without any atoms involved. This technology is very real and will be gamechanger for ecommerce and how our children interact with each other in general. The ecommerce giant Alibaba as well as Google have invested over half a billion dollars each in Magic Leap. Other companies including Warner bros., Lucas Arts and JP Morgan have invested a combined total of over $2 billion. With the release of Magic Leap One earlier this year, the stage is set for this technology to become mainstream, replacing phones, laptops and TVs altogether. There are already opportunities for ecommerce companies to build software for Magic Leap that will revolutionise how we shop, interact and view media online. Stay tuned for more exciting news about Magic Leap and what it means for the future of ecommerce.


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