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Archive for March, 2008

Setting Up Your Online Store

Monday, March 17th, 2008

One of the most important factors when planning your e-business strategy is the company or product you choose to help you.. No matter what you sell, however, an e-commerce site must provide the same basic services your customers would expect.

Once you’ve decided what kind of online business you want to start, it’s time to register your domain name, and design a website that will firstly attract customers and also encourage a trustworthy relationship.. If you’re a programmer or website designer you could build the site yourself. Alternatively, you could use a HTML editing program to help you build it. There are many designs to choose from out there, and templates can easily be edited in Dreamweaver or Frontpage.

Every online store should be set up for many payment providers, including Paypal. If you decide to buy a shopping cart program, it is worth comparing prices, features, and customer service. If you have friends who engage in ecommerce, you might also get some advice from them.. Some pieces of shopping cart software might seem affordable at first, but you need to be aware that many companies charge extra if you want certain customisations or plug-ins. Here are some tips on how to make your online store attractive to potential customers.

Organize your store properly. You should make it easy for customers to find what they need.

Would you feel satisfied shopping at a store where the products were arranged at random, with no guide as to how you can find the product/ service you are looking for? Of course not, you would leave the store at once without buying a thing.. Yet it is surprising to see a great number of online stores that are not well-structured; that make it nearly impossible for customers to find what they need.
When you decide to set up your store you must have a clear idea about how to arrange your products so as to provide the most seamless shopping experience. Offer customers more than one way to find what they’re looking for, provide intuitive links to different product categories and a search function where customers can enter a product name. “Breadcrumb trails” that allow customers to retrace their steps on your website are also effective in helping users to identify where they are located on a website.

Don’t frustrate customers with long waiting.

After a customer has selected their product and hit the Buy button , they do not expect to wait for a response — or even worse, get an error message. Order confirmation should be instant. If it is not, your customer will be left feeling frustrated and anxious about the status of their order. Repeat custom is doubtful. The solution to this problem is simple; make sure your software and servers are capable of handling whatever your customers throw at them. If you’re using a third-party service, you need to be sure they are using first-rate technology. If you’re building your own site from scratch, it means investing in the best possible software and hardware.

Ensure your store has an easy payment system.

Online stores can accept different types of payment: credit cards, electronic cash, purchase orders, or cash and cheques sent via mail. Keep in mind that different types of businesses will need to accept different payment types. The paying system you choose must be easy for every customer, so ensure your e-commerce provider can handle the ones your customers are likely to use.

One more question that still worries customers is security. Even if customers realise that sending a credit card number over the Internet is extremely safe, they can still worry. Online payment systems send sensitive information like credit card numbers via encrypted connections. If your system does this, assure customers that their information is absolutely secure.

Building an online store is an intricate process and every stage, from your choice of ecommerce provider to the initial design process, is of the utmost importance.

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Choosing the Appropriate E-Commerce System

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

When you decide to open an online store, you have a number of options to choose from. Choosing the appropriate e-commerce system is possibly the first, most important task, and even if you’re not going to do it yourself, you’ll still need enough information to make the right decision. To help you choose we have outlined the many options available, along with their advantages and drawbacks.

When creating your own online store it is possible to customize every feature of the site so as to optimize its performance and combine it with its existing inventory, accounting and other systems. You can customize your store until it’s exactly how you want it to be, and you can quickly extend it to take advantage of new opportunities.

Several sellers offer tools that help you create a custom online store. Companies such as Microsoft and Macromedia offer e-commerce toolkits providing the technology and the development tools for constructing an e-commerce site. These toolkits include the basic software that runs an online store, software “hooks” that can link to databases or other back-end systems, and even their own programming languages.

If you are going to build an online store from the ground up, you have to be prepared to provide some very basic development, using your own source code to connect together the various database, shipping, tax, fulfillment and page-serving modules that will constitute the finished site. These are time-consuming tasks, and your store will take longer to build than some ready-to-use system. To create even a basic on-line store, expect to spend $10,000 at the minimum, and a great deal of stores cost hundreds of thousands to create and keep running. So unless there are some very special reasons for devising and implementing your own system, we’d recommend using an existing e-commerce tool.

Buying an existing e-commerce system

Many sellers produce e-commerce software packages suitable for a wide range of business needs. By matching and mixing features provided by these packages, you can create an advanced e-commerce site in rather a short order.

Basic e-commerce systems commonly offer ready-to-use store templates or “wizards” that guide you through the setup process and help you get your store up and running. They also come with ready-to-use shopping cart soft that keeps customers’ purchases as they select them, calculates prices, collects the information about customers and then submits credit card information to your bank. More sophisticated systems of electronic commerce let you import and publish existing catalogs on the Web and link your online store to a database or other systems.

Of course, if you agree to use an off-the-shelf system, you lose a great deal of flexibility, both now and in the future. Many of these tools strictly limit the way you can customize your shopping cart, catalog and even the way your online shop looks. Even with such limitations, most businesses find e-commerce software that meets their requirements, and the fact that sellers allow for service and support is a great advantage.

Becoming partners with an e-commerce provider

The most rapid and perhaps the easiest way is to sign up with a service that constructs and maintains your storefront for you. You won’t require your own software, hardware or technical expertise, the only thing you’ll need to provide is the name of your company and a list of goods and/or services that you provide. Some storefront providers have a strict per-month fee depending on the quantity of items in your online catalog, while others charge a percentage of the sales. These providers offer e-commerce leases, and they handle all of the transaction processing, web serving, backups, etc. Some providers of e-commerce services can even set up an account for you if there hasn’t already been one.

E-commerce providers are the most inexpensive way to create an online shop, but you’ll have to sacrifice the flexibility. Most of these services provide a very narrow set of options to customize your shop, and it may be that all of the stores on a provider’s site basically have the same design and look very alike.

Finally, although the majority of e-commerce providers are reputable businesses, some can have hidden charges. A small minority can also be insecure, which is why you should always check a provider, and the most valuable thing to do is not make your choice in haste.

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