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Developing a Successful E-Commerce Website

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THE E-COMMERCE EXPLOSION OF 1993
1993 was the year that Netscape developed the first commercial graphical Internet browser. This signaled the creation of the Internet, as we know it today. Within a few years of the release of Mosaic, people began to rush into the Internet space, many of them looking for their instant Internet wealth.

During the late 1990′s, Initial Public Offerings were made by hundreds of Internet companies, making some Dot Com owners and employees overnight millionaires. By March of 2000, the red ink was on the wall, and the Dot Com’s began to implode. Hundreds of millions in venture dollars were lost. Just like in California in 1848, not everyone made his or her fortunes.

Most people who participated in the California gold rush worked long hard days with very little to show for their time and effort. The same fate met many on the road to Internet wealth.

LEAP FROG TO 2003
Over the last ten years, millions of people have poured into the web community, many with e-commerce dreams. Most of those e-commerce dreams have been shattered — in some cases, so much so that the individuals have left the web community forever.

THE BASIC LESSONS OF THE NEW ECONOMY
In the early days of the Internet, self-proclaimed guru’s promised that this medium was the “New Economy” which operated by a different set of rules than regular offline businesses. The early e-commerce guru’s are now frowned upon as clowns who sold out investors. Let us get one thing straight right now. Your online business must be operated in the same fashion as an offline business. The same rules DO apply.

There are really only two facets of online business that are different from real world business. One, your overhead may not be as high since you do not usually have a brick-and-mortar storefront to maintain. Secondly, you may promote exclusively in the online environment.

To succeed in e-commerce, the following eleven steps are those that every business owner should tackle when developing their new online business:

THE BASIC ONLINE BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT CHECKLIST

1. Determine your products or services – Know what products and services you will be offering and define the common thread that will tie all of your products and services together.

2. Research your products and services marketplace – Find out who your competitors are and the differences in the product offerings they deliver to their customers. Find out your competitors price points and value offerings. Find out who your customers are. Find out how many customers exist in your market and how you can reach them.

3. Establish your site goals – Determine how you are going to use your website in the quest to develop your customer base. Are you going to use it as a billboard on the Internet Super Highway? Or, are you going to use your site to develop long-term relationships with your customers? Or, do you intend that your site should provide everything necessary for an immediate, one-time transaction?

4. Plan your site layout – Understand how you are going to utilize your site to the fullest of its potential. Make a pre-determination as to the different sections of your site, which will be vital to meeting your goals.

5. Plan for growth of your site – Understand that your site will grow and change to meet with the challenges of the future. Anything that you can do now to simplify the transition into future design changes will increase your overall productivity in the maintenance of your online storefront.

6. Take a quick lesson in HTML – http://hotwired.lycos.com/webmonkey/teachingtool/HTML design software can help you build your website fast. Learning the basics of HTML firsthand can improve your effectiveness in modifying your website. If you ever need to make minor changes or troubleshoot display or formatting problems in a web page, you will have the basic understanding of the technology to work through those problems without outside assistance.

7. Build basic HTML template – Your HTML template should be thought of as your custom letterhead. Each page on your website will be demonstrated with a basic visual format to secure the cohesion of your website. It is this basic visual design or letterhead that you want your HTML template to represent.

8. Build e-commerce section – The payment area of your website is the most important element of your entire design. Without an effective payment processing system, your customers will not be able to pay you for your products or services. StormPay is a third-party payment processor that enables small businesses to provide secure payment options to their customers. Learn for yourself the advantages of using the StormPay program on your website: https://www.stormpay.com/?46474&ecommerce_1

9. Build customer support section – While a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page can be a very useful tool in keeping support requests to a minimum, it cannot stand alone as your customer support system. Some people need one-on-one human contact to answer their sales and support questions. As a matter of trust, some folks simply will not do business with a company that does not offer some type of human contact point — either by email or by telephone.

10. Build site content – Once you have developed the bulk of your site structure, the time will come to tackle building your content pages, which will include your sales pages. As you conclude building your page content, it may also be helpful to undertake an understanding of the use of Meta tags with your web pages. For a quick tutorial on the subject, visit: http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/meta.html

11. Begin Promoting – There are simply dozens of ways in which you can promote your website — both online and offline. We simply do not have enough space here to go into all of the methods available to a website owner for the purpose of promoting their website. Our primary goal is always to sell products or services through our business. Online or offline, it is important to remember that sales cannot happen where there is no traffic. To draw traffic to our business, we must promote our business.

My hope for you is simple. I hope that you will be able to develop your own online business and you will be profitable in doing so. It is my hope that this checklist will serve to help you reach that end.

Bill Platt owns http://thePhantomWriters.com . Do you need
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Developing a Successful E-Commerce Website
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