Ecommerce overview

In the competitive world of the Web, growing your business and increasing your profits online requires careful planning and important steps. For every successful e-commerce businesses, there are dozens that fail because they don’t address basic risks and pitfalls along the way. So to take full advantage of the e-commerce opportunity, make sure you base your Web business on a solid foundation that covers every element of e-commerce:

  1. Establish your identity. The right domain name, or URL, can make the difference between a memorable e-commerce identity and getting lost in the online crowd.
  2. Find the right online home. For brick-and-mortar stores, location is everything. Your Web business needs the right home, too. Find a home for your site with a reputable Web host.
  3. Build an attractive storefront. With the right tools, creating a Web site is easier than ever-but following some basic guidelines will help make your site easy and acccessible for customers to navigate.
  4. Let customers know they can trust you. In the anonymous world of the Internet, customers will provide you with private information, like credit card or phone numbers, only if they’re sure your site is legitimate and the information they send you is protected. Make sure your site is secure-and that your customers know it through the purchase of an SSL certificate.
  5. Make it easy for customers to pay you. You can set up your site so customers can pay by keying in a credit card number. But how will you process that transaction? Make sure you not only offer customers a variety of convenient payment methods, but that you can process them all reliably.
  6. Let the world know about your site. A memorable domain name, a great looking design, and top-notch products and services can make your site successful only if customers know about it. Promote your site to drive traffic to it.

Clearly, building the elements of e-commerce into your business is a big job, but it is too important to ignore if you want your business to grow and thrive.

Building a User-Friendly Store front

With a domain name in place, you’re ready to start building your e-commerce storefront. But before you begin, take some time to plan.

Plan Your Site Carefully
First, identify clear marketing goals for your site, such as generating leads, building a database of potential customers’ names and e-mail addresses, or putting a product catalog online to save the time and expense of printing and mailing. Quantify your objectives- such as increasing sales by 15 percent-so you know whether or not your site is successful.

Quantify your goals for sales, clicks, or inquiries so you can objectively measure the success of your e-commerce Web site.

Then, figure out what your potential customers need to know before buying your products and services. This might include:

  1. An overview of your company, its products and services, and their applications
  2. Complete product or service descriptions, including features, key benefits, pricing, product specifications, and other information, for each product or service
  3. Testimonials, or success stories so customers can see how similar individuals or organizations have worked with you
  4. An FAQ section that anticipates and answers customers’ common issues

Plan the structure of your site, focusing on making it easy for customers to learn what they need to know, make a purchase decision, and then buy quickly. Create a site map that outlines every page on your site starting with the home page and mapping how customers get from one page to the next. Use tools that quantitatively measure site activity-where customers are clicking, how often, and whether they end up purchasing-then compare the results with your goals.

Research shopping cart software-

These days is it alot more cost effective to purchase or use free prebuilt shopping cart software rather than have one custom written for you.

More than likely you will still have to pay to have it setup and congfigure but the overall cost will still be less than if a web developer had written it fromn scratch specifically for you.

Although there are sitiuation when an existing shopping cart package will not furfil your specific requirements and you will need to have a custom solution written for you.

Some tips on shopping carts here

E-Commerce Site Design Tips
Following these basic guidelines will help make your site not only attractive, but also easy for customers to use-and that means easy to buy from you.

1. Carefully research your own favorite e-commerce sites. Creatively adapt the most compelling marketing and design techniques to enhance your site’s effectiveness.

2. Your home page is your site’s-and your business’s-online front door. It’s essential that it make a good first impression on visitors. Make sure it clearly presents the following basic elements that customers are always likely to look for:

  1. Your company name, logo, and tagline prominently displayed. Take full advantage of the opportunity to showcase your brand identity.
  2. Contact information. Don’t make it difficult for visitors to find your phone number, e-mail address, mailing address, and fax number.
  3. A link to an “About the Company” page for customers to quickly learn who you are and what your business offers.
  4. A site menu listing the basic subsections of your site. Keep this menu in the same place on every page throughout your site to make it easy to navigate.
  5. A “What’s New” section for news, announcements, and product promotions. Frequently updating this area will encourage customers to return often.
  6. Your privacy statement, clearly describing your business’s policy for protecting customer’s personal information.

3. Make it easy for customers to navigate your site. As you build your site, try to minimize the number of clicks it takes the customer to go from your home page to actually being able to complete a purchase. Four to six clicks is a useful rule of thumb. Make sure links make sense, so customers know what to click to find what they’re looking for. Don’t make your navigation buttons or links too dominant an element in your site design: instead, focus on product information.

4. Keep things simple. Don’t fill up your site with graphics, animations, and other visual bells and whistles. Stick to the same basic color palette and fonts your company uses in other communications, like your logo, brochures, and signage. Ensure that images and graphics serve to enhance, not distract from, your marketing goals. Make sure the text is easy to read-black letters on a white ground may not be terribly original, but they are easier on the eyes than orange type on a purple background.

5. Keep download times short. Test pages to make sure they’re not too heavy with graphics that will slow load times-and minimize the size of your images when possible. Zona Research estimates that most Web pages take anywhere from three to eleven seconds to load, depending on the user’s modem and Internet connection (remember: many e-commerce customers shop from home using slower connections). Most users click away to another site or log off if a page takes more than eight seconds to load, costing e-commerce businesses billions in lost potential revenue.