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How Australian Online Stores Compete with Overseas Vendors

Australians like to buy from overseas vendors, in fact, 74% of us buy overseas vs. supporting our local Australian online stores, cited a November survey of 1,000 shoppers conducted by Cashrewards. The study revealed that Australians are buying overseas due to the lower prices and a wider range of products.

Competing with the lower prices and selection provided by larger global vendors can be a challenge; that has left Australian online stores wondering if we can compete with the online presence of our overseas rivals. Is price and selection the only thing holding us back, or do our sites lack the global presence of the UK and US eCommerce giants?

As a Windows Web Hosting company serving the Gold Coast, we live and breathe Australian eCommerce, and in our opinion, the latter isn’t true. The Australian eCommerce market is strong; in fact, Australia is ranked number 10 for the best eCommerce market in the world.

The 2015 Global Retail eCommerce Index

The 2015 Global Retail eCommerce Index. Source: A.T. Kearney

The Australian eCommerce market grew 22% last year, and it is estimated that online shopping will do $10 billion in sales this year. That being said, the three most successful eCommerce websites in Australia are: eBay, Gumtree, Amazon – followed by two Australian sites – Oz Bargain and JB Hi-Fi.

5 Customer Targeting Tips for Australian Online Stores

So as an Australian online store, how do we compete with the larger overseas vendors for market share? There are five tips that we as Australian online stores can start doing today, to help target customers at home. The first two tips are no-brainers that all eCommerce websites should be doing – regardless of who they are targeting – and the last three are tips to specifically reach your local demographic.

1. Improve Website Speed

If you have an eCommerce site, you are probably well aware of the importance of website speed and the impact it can have on your business:

Not only can the performance of your site keep people on your site, but it will also help increase your chances of converting a visitor to a customer. Let’s face it, no one likes a slow site, and chances are you’ll lose a potential customer to another site if your site is too slow. To find out how long it takes your website to load, check out some of the following sites to find out and analyze your website speed:

  • Webpagetest – Tests your website speed on different browsers
  • Pingdom – Tests page load time and identifies bottlenecks
  • Google PageSpeed Insights – Analyzes web page content and makes suggestions for improvement
  • Yahoo! YSlow – Tests web speeds and suggests tools to help performance

If you have a decent amount of traffic and you are targeting a global audience, you may want to consider a content delivery network (CDN). A content delivery network (CDN) is a collection of web servers distributed across multiple locations to deliver content more efficiently to users. The server selected for delivering content to a specific user is typically based on a measure of network proximity.

With the Australian mobile eCommerce market on the rise, it is vital for Australian online stores to provide a great mobile experience.

2. Provide a Great Mobile Experience

The Australian mobile eCommerce market is on the rise, so if you don’t have a mobile responsive site, now is the time to invest in one. Currently, 79% of Australians own a smartphone, 65% of us browse online stores on our smartphones, and 42% of us have purchased via mobile – a little lower than the 49% global average. There is a huge opportunity with the 25-34 demographic, where 64% of this market has made a purchase online. This is a growing market and a huge opportunity for Australian online stores; by 2017, the mobile eCommerce market in Australia will be worth $721 million.

Make sure that your site is mobile responsive not only on all current smartphone browsers, but tablets and devices as well. Test your site to ensure that it loads properly on all devices and browsers. What’s more, ensure that a customer can make a seamless transaction via a mobile phone. If you don’t have a mobile responsive site, and your customers can’t make purchases on your site using their mobile devices, make this a priority. If budget permits, consider a mobile app; Australian mobile consumers spend about 80% of their time using smartphones apps.

3. Target Your Local Audience

If your site is up to par in terms of performance and mobile accessibility, now is the time to consider ways to engage with local consumers to keep Australian eCommerce business here, in Australia. To regain your share of the Australian eCommerce market, look for ways to connect with your local customers and leverage your locality using social media.

Twitter

Tweet locally to specifically target your local customers and engage in local conversation. Search for the hashtags of people talking about your product, industry, or even the competition and join in on the conversation, engage with potential customers, and direct customers to your website.

SEO

Optimize your website with words related to your location so that your website will show up when someone does a search for related products and/or services in your area.

Facebook

Depending on your advertising budget, you can invest in Facebook ads that specially target your local audience. You can also use Facebook to post about local community events that your business may participate in, local events that your company sponsors, as well as include information about what is going on at your store and/or office. These are all good ways for you to show your followers how you are engaged at a local level.

Blog

Provide your audience with content that they will find valuable. Separate your customer list based on location and send your local list a link to a blog with tailored information to their needs and locale.

Your eCommerce business must develop a plan to connect with your local customers and leverage your locality using social media.

4. Provide an Optimal Experience for Australians

Do you make your local customers feel special? If you want to take market share from the larger overseas vendors, make the experience for local customers optimal and special – this is something that the larger companies can’t always do well. Provide customers with free gift wrapping over the holidays or free shipping anytime of the year. Think of ways to provide customers with something that the other overseas vendors outside of your time zone can’t provide – for example, local, customized service. You can use Geo-tracking or GPS to locate the IP address of your visitors and provide a specific webpage targeted to your Australian visitors. You can even provide discounts and promotions for customers to “buy Australian.”

5. Location-Based Marketing

Location-based marketing uses a mobile device’s location to alert the device user of an offering from a local business. The customer will receive a message via SMS in regards to information about a promotion or incentive to buy, with a link to your website. If you have a brick and mortar location, you can push coupons to customers when they get close to your store, and in some cases, thanks to beacon technology, when they approach a product. This is a great way to target local customers with incentives and you can even use this as an opportunity to thank local customers for their loyalty to your brand. Location-based marketing can also be used to push invites out for your events. This obviously is budget dependent; however, a great way to engage with the local folk.

So there you have it, some simple steps that you can start utilizing today to compete with the larger overseas vendors and drive more local traffic to your eCommerce site. You have the opportunity to reach your customers with an optimal website and shopping experience, regardless of what device they access your eCommerce site from, and offer a customized experience that is tailored to their needs.  If you can offer your customers what they need, when they need it, from a company that is in their own backyard, then why would they need to shop from an overseas vendor?

Since 2002, StudioCoast has been helping customers find the best Australian eCommerce hosting and offering affordable web hosting packages to suit every need. If you would like more information on how StudioCoast can help your eCommerce business, and drive more traffic to your online Australian store, contact us today.

Cloud Migration Services in 7 Steps

Are you procrastinating about migrating your IT systems to the Cloud because you don’t really know what to expect? If this sounds familiar, rest assured, you’re not alone. What may seem like an arduous task for some, is actually, in fact, relatively simple if you have the right Cloud migration service provider.

More Australian companies are migrating to the Cloud; in fact, the Telsyte Australian Infrastructure & Cloud Computing Market Study 2015 forecasts that the total market value for public Cloud infrastructure services will reach $775 million by 2019, up from $366 million in 2015. In addition, more than half of all organisations greater than 20 employees are now using public Cloud IaaS for at least some part of their IT infrastructure, according to the study.

What is driving this growth? The study suggests that the adoption of Cloud computing services is being driven by both traditional IT pressures, such as cost reduction, time-to-market, and scalability, as well as emerging technologies like big data analytics, Internet of Things and personal apps in the workplace.

If your company, like many other Australian businesses, is contemplating a move to the Cloud, knowing what to expect can help mitigate any hesitations you may have about making the move. Here are seven simple steps to a Cloud migration.

1. Consider Cloud Criteria

Before committing to the Cloud, make sure that you have considered your options. It’s important to think about what can occur during the transition and what sort of impact it can have on your business. Things to consider are:

  • Costs: Will there be a cost savings by moving to the Cloud?
  • Interoperability: Will your current legacy systems, CRMs and other systems integrate with the Cloud?
  • Security: How sensitive is your data and is the Cloud secure enough?
  • Compatibility: How will your apps perform in the Cloud?
  • Business Agility: What can your organisation achieve that you are not able to achieve?

2. Determine Your ROI

Take into consideration your current costs and if there would be a cost savings by moving to the Cloud. Determine what you are currently paying for the following items and the cost savings associated with outsourcing them to a Cloud service provider:

  • Licenses
  • Service fees
  • Server, network and infrastructure costs
  • Software fees
  • Internal resources
  • Ongoing maintenance

If you have legacy systems, remember to determine the cost of moving it to the Cloud – legacy systems are sometimes more expensive to migrate. Mobile applications, on the other hand, will benefit monetarily from a Cloud scenario.

Businesses should work closely with their Cloud provider to assess applications and determine the best cloud fit.

3. Assess Your Applications and Determine the Best Cloud Fit

At this point, you should have started working with a Cloud provider. If you haven’t, and need more information on selecting a vendor, read our blog, Important Considerations for Small Business Web Hosting, for tips on selecting a Cloud provider. You should work with your provider to carefully assess your current applications and workloads to determine what apps and data can and can’t be moved to the Cloud, and by what models – public, private or hybrid. Take the following into consideration when assessing your applications, and the impact on your business:

  • Is the organisation ready for Cloud computing? Is there buy-in at all levels? How resistant is your business to change?
  • Does it make sense to move your current applications to the Cloud or would it make sense to redesign them?
  • Do you have applications that require confidentiality, privacy or compliance requirements?
  • What dependencies do the applications being migrated have with other existing systems?
  • How critical is each application to business operations?

By determining this information, it will allow you to figure out the best Cloud solution for your business.

4. Determine the Service Level Agreement with Your Vendor

Now that you have an idea of the type of Cloud solution that is best for your business, it’s time to work out the Service Level Agreement (SLA) with your vendor, to determine the responsibility of each party. You will want to be crystal clear of each party’s role in this relationship. Some important things to clarify in your SLA include:

  • How much control do you have over your data and what interface will you use to access your data?
  • How scalable is your provider and what is the upgrade process for both hardware and software upgrades?
  • What is the process and cost associated with exceeding your allocated resources?
  • What is the back-up process and what is the protocol after a service disruption/security breach, and how long will it take to restore services?
  • What is the provider’s guaranteed uptime?
  • What steps, as a Cloud migration services provider, will they take to ensure that the migration goes smoothly?
  • How will their services be integrated with any legacy or custom applications?
  • What level of customer service will they provide you with – 24x7x365? Who will you contact in the off hours if your site goes down?
  • Who is responsible for software licensing services?
  • Who is responsible for monitoring the site and who is responsible for resolving any issues?

Bottom line, make sure that you get a thorough indication of the client responsibility and provider responsibility for all of the above items.

5. Map out Your Strategy

Now that you have identified each party’s role in the company/provider relationship, you should sit down with your provider and map out your strategy – this is the most important part of any Cloud migration. A strategy will help ensure that you are prepared for anything that happens during the migration, as well as mitigate any risks and uncertainties associated with the move. The strategy should indicate what services and applications will be migrated, when they will be migrated and by whom. Most migrations start with the easy to migrate items first – the apps with the minimal sensitive data that have the least impact on customers – and follow with the more complex items after. Your strategy should also plan for the unknown, including:

  • Expenses: Known costs of migration as well as any potential additional costs that can be incurred
  • Impact on organisation: Impact of migration on internal employees, as well as customers
  • Regulatory and compliance issues: Any industry regulations that you must comply with
  • Security concerns: Any potential security concerns that may arise with the migration, who will have access to your data, as well as the security in place to mitigate any risks

The most important part of any cloud migration is to map out a strategy.

6. Migrating to the Cloud

Once you’ve considered your migration criteria, conducted an ROI, assessed your applications, determined the best Cloud fit and SLA with your vendor, and created a strategy, it’s time for the migration. For simplicity’s sake, we will provide just an overview of the six steps usually taken in a migration:

  • Step 1: Deploy the Cloud environment. Install and test the necessary storage, compute, network and security resources that constitute the Cloud environment
  • Step 2: Install and configure the applications on the Cloud servers, test any integrations
  • Step 3: Install any additional components for business continuity (DR and backup) and security
  • Step 4: Test the migration and uncover any issues, scale up or down to remedy them
  • Step 5: Monitor the performance. Once you have completed a successful test migration, and all issues are resolved, establish a launch schedule
  • Step 6: Migrate to the Cloud in steps; start with the easy to migrate items first and more complex ones after

7. Post-Migration Maintenance

Now that the seamless migration of your IT services to the Cloud is complete, you will want to monitor the performance of your apps, servers, storage and network to ensure optimal performance. This will allow you scale up or down to accommodate required resources, track and monitor billing and ensure that your bandwidth is suitable for your needs. It will need to be determined in your SLA whether it will be the responsibility of the Cloud migration services provider or your company.

Finding a Cloud Migration Services Specialist

Migrating to the Cloud can be a seamless and painless experience with the right Cloud provider. When deciding on the provider for your migration, you want to find a company that has extensive experience with Cloud migration services. StudioCoast has been helping Australians with their affordable web hosting for small business since 2002. If you would like more information on how StudioCoast can help your business with our Cloud migration services, contact us today.

Australian Government Web Hosting Service Requirements

Australian government agencies have several things to consider when searching for a web hosting service. Not only do they have to ensure that the needs of the organization are met by the provider, but they will also need to make certain that they comply with the standards set out by the government.

A common misconception of Australian government agencies is that cloud computing isn’t a safe and viable option; however, this isn’t the case. According to the Australian Government Information Management Office, “Cloud computing can be used to enhance privacy safeguards used to protect personal information held by Government agencies.” In fact, the Government has developed a guide to help assist agencies with how to comply with privacy laws and regulations when choosing cloud based services. As mentioned in the guide, this does not prohibit the use of cloud computing, as long as the agency has done due diligence in the following respects:

  • Be aware of their privacy and security obligations
  • Conduct a risk-based analysis of their information
  • Conduct a Privacy Impact Assessment, to determine the most appropriate ICT environment to deploy to support the classification of their information and business requirements
  • Ensure that the contractual arrangements they enter into with ICT providers adequately address their privacy obligations.

As an Australian government agency, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you are informed on the privacy issues, so that when you select a cloud service provider the Service Level Agreement (SLA) adequately addresses the applicable privacy obligations. We have compiled the six key requirements outlined in this government document and how a Windows VPS Managed Solution is a viable alternative for those searching for an Australian government web hosting service.

6 Key Requirements for an Australian Government Web Hosting Service

1. Disclosure of Personal Information

As an Australian government agency, you are responsible for the conditions in which you disclose personal information. If you are working with a cloud provider, and if personal information will be shared with the provider, it’s mandatory that the agency continues to have a degree of control over the personal information. The agency must have the right to access, change or retrieve the personal information when necessary, as well, there should be a non-disclosure agreement with the cloud provider.

Windows Managed VPS for Disclosure of Personal Information

In a Windows Managed VPS environment, the agency will have complete control over the server and personal information of its clients. The non-disclosure agreement should be outlined in the Service Level Agreement (SLA). In addition, it’s also important to talk to the provider about who will have access to your information on their side. Only those who absolutely need access to your information, should have access.

There are 6 key requirements to consider when selecting an Australian government web hosting service.

2. Storage and Security of Personal Information

When searching for a cloud provider, it’s important that the agency ensures that the web hosting service provider complies with IPP 4 – Storage and security of personal information. This requires an agency to protect the personal information it holds and safeguard it from loss, misuse and unauthorized use. It’s up to the agency to understand if the cloud service provider’s environment will be in compliance with these requirements and ensure that the cloud service provider agrees with the applicable IPP’s in the Service Level Agreement.

Windows Managed VPS for Storage and Security of Personal Information

Windows Managed VPS is an extremely secure solution for government agencies, because it is similar to having your own dedicated server, so there isn’t the worry of the security breaches of a shared environment. A Windows VPS will provide government agencies with all of the security and control of running a dedicated server because the systems are controlled and isolated, so the site won’t be impacted by the security of other sites. In addition, a VPS provides agencies with the flexibility to adjust resources as needs grow. Disaster recovery is key in a Windows VPS as the software will automatically failover if there is a disaster, keeping important and confidential information safe.

3. Data Segregation

A government agency must ensure that when information of multiple agencies is being hosted in a single cloud, there should be adequate separation and segregation between the various datasets to prevent any accidental disclosure. This is also applicable when the government department has multiple business units that may require data segregation. It’s up to the government agency to obtain all relevant technical information from the service provider to ensure the proposed solution provides the required level of data segregation.

Windows Managed VPS for Data Segregation

A government agency will benefit from knowing that in a Windows VPS, all personal information is kept behind a secure partition, accessible by the agency only. It’s up to the agency to ensure that the provider performs routine security practices so the site is protected and secure at all times. Data segregation and security must be agreed upon between the government agency and the service provider. In some cases, a hybrid cloud can be used to store some information on the cloud, and highly sensitive information on a dedicated server.

4. Data Destruction

Government agencies are required to destroy or permanently de-identify personal information that is no longer required.

Windows Managed VPS for Data Destruction

When entering into a contract with a service provider, government agencies should ensure that all information in the cloud can be permanently deleted when it is no longer required, or at the end of the contract. Again, this can be achieved by having the cloud service provider agree in the SLA that it will comply.

It is important for government agenices to talk to their service provider about who will have access to their information.

5. Transborder Data Flows

Government agencies should know the location of the cloud provider’s data centre and be aware that when contracting off-shore cloud computing services, information may be processed or stored in jurisdictions with privacy and information protection laws significantly different from those in Australia. This can make enforcement of contractual obligations, like data breaches, challenging.

StudioCoast Windows Managed VPS for Transborder Data Flows

To mitigate this risk, agencies looking for an Australian government web hosting service are advised to find a cloud service provider with a data centre in Australia or have the cloud service provider acknowledge in the contract that it will comply with the Act. It’s important to review your SLA with your provider to make sure that you know where all copies of your data are stored, including back-up and disaster recovery environments.

At StudioCoast, all web hosting servers are situated in the Sanity Technology Data Centre in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, and the redundant DNS is located in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

6. Contract Management

Government agencies may also wish to consider including other important requirements in the SLA that will enhance control over personal information. When deciding on an Australian government web hosting service, remember the following:

  • Find out where the information will be physically located
  • Identify what type of security measures will be used for storage, and what (if any) encryption is used during transmission
  • Find out who will have access to the information
  • Ensure how backup copies of the information are protected
  • Determine whether or not information no longer needed can be permanently deleted at the end of the contract
  • Establish who has control of the information at the end of the contract

How Can StudioCoast Help?

When determining the best Australian government web hosting service for your government agency, you want a provider who you can trust, and who has had experience working with privacy laws. Remember to carefully review the Service Level Agreement with the provider not only at the start of the relationship, but also over the life of the contract, especially if there are any changes in privacy laws, to ensure that information security measures are kept current.

StudioCoast has been helping Australian government agencies meet their privacy protocols since 2002. If you would like more information on how Studio Coast can set up your Australian government web hosting service, contact us today.

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