The Art of e Commerce
So you've got your website, and people can email you about
your products and services. The next step, if your home
business is suitable, is to start selling them directly
E-commerce can be a massive business booster. If you sell
reasonably small, easy-to-ship products (or services that
don't need shipping), it can expand your market from your
local neighbourhood to the whole world! You will also find
that you get more repeat business, since people can easily
re-order from you without having to call you again, and you
might find that you can afford to sell lower-value things in
your web store than you could in real life, thanks to the
Setting Up E-Commerce.
If you've already got a website, setting up e-commerce can
be surprisingly easy. The only real requirements are that
you get some e-commerce software (it's not that expensive,
and some like OScommerce are even FRE'E), and that your web
hosting will support whatever programming language the
software is written in.
If you think that sounds a bit too technical, just take a
look through the help section of your hosting company's
website -- you should find something there that explains
your specific situation. You never know: some hosts already
have everything set up for you, and all you have to do is
press a button!
It is important for the e-commerce section of your site to
appear to be integrated into the rest of it. You should
have clear links to your store on each page of your
website, and the design of the store itself should be
consistent with what has gone before. If your store looks
out of place, it shouldn't be too expensive to get whoever
designed your website to quickly adapt that design as an
A Matter of Inventory.
Once you've got your 'shop' up and running, the next
step is to configure it. This mostly involves telling it
what you plan to sell, i.e. entering descriptions and
prices for the items, as well as uploading pictures. Take
some time with the pictures, and make them large and easy
to see on the screen. The descriptions should list every
feature and benefit each product has, and you might wish to
set the prices 10% or so below your normal levels, as an
It is important, though, that once you put your items on
your e-commerce website you do not allow them to go out of
stock. There are few things more frustrating for a customer
than seeing something they want to bu'y and not being allowed
to bu'y it -- or, worse, paying for something only to be told
that it'll take weeks to arrive. Think like a customer,
don't forget about your website, and keep things running
Depending on what you sell, your delivery methods can vary.
We could be talking about a package in the mail, or perhaps
just a follow-up email. Whatever you're doing, though,
make sure you do it quickly. Customers will get very
nervous waiting, and won't appreciate it. Keep your
customers updated at all times on how things are going --
never leave them hanging.
Inputs and Outputs.
Once you get these things down, though, e-commerce is
simple enough that it can mostly be left to run itself.
It's like a system of inputs and outputs that multiplies
everything put in: you spend an hour or two telling it what
you've got, and out of the other end come orders and money.
You'll find that almost all e-commerce stores easily pay
for any time you put into them as soon as you make one or
Don't Forget to Advertise It.
You won't usually need any separate campaign for your
e-commerce operation, but it's well worth mentioning its
existence on your marketing materials. A few simple words
before your web address on anything you hand out can work
wonders: 'visit www.yourwebsite.com' becomes 'learn more
and order online at www.yourwebsite.com'. You'll find that
many customers will be more eager to check out what you're
selling when they can do it as easily as typing in a web
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