Thinking about getting into Internet commerce? How do you tap into this growing marketplace?
Consider that of the e-commerce sites that succeed, there are two types:
1. The marketing site, an offshoot of a “real-life” company’s marketing program. This type provides added product or company information. It usually pushes visitors to contact the company, either by phone or by signing up for an e-mail list.
2. The selling site, an online store. Selling sites need:
• A catalog with product details (images, benefits, specifications, prices).
• A secure shopping cart system to accept payments and track orders. It should allow customers to view their carts, continue shopping or check out. We provide the Cart32 online shopping cart because of its customization, flexibilty and numerous features.
• A credit card processing service or a system to take phone orders.
• Company and product details to instill customer confidence.
Most online merchants use a credit card processing service such as Authorize.net that charges a monthly fee. If your business isn’t large enough to warrant such an expense, you may accept checks or money orders, or use an online service like PayPal. For a small fee per transaction, PayPal collects check or credit card payments and then transfers the funds to your bank account.
For a selling site to succeed, you must promote it both on and off the Web. Optimizing your pages and registering with the few major search engines is the cheapest way to go. But may get better results with:
• Traditional marketing and PR.
• Direct marketing by mail or by e-mail.
• Trading links with other Web sites.
• Pay-per-click advertising on search engines.
I have used the Google AdWords pay-per-click program. So far, the clicks have resulted in enough client inquiries to make the expense worthwhile.
Because my field is highly competitive, I thought a print advertising campaign might be more effective for my company. So I added a toll-free phone line with a listing in the Yellow Pages. I still receive enough inquiries to justify the cost although these days, most people search online rather than in the phone book.
Like me, most e-commerce enterprises experiment to find out which marketing efforts work best.
Once you get visitors to your site, make sure you provide an environment that’s easy for them to navigate — and eventually buy. Customers should be able to find the products they want in just a few clicks. If they have to go through many levels or menus, they may just click right off your site.
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