Ten Tips for a Successful e-Commerce Website
You have a website in place, and now you are ready to effectively market and sell your products on-line. How do you start? Here are our top ten steps for successful ecommerce websites:
- Do not use PayPal. PayPal has an inherent lack of professionalism stopping some buyers from purchasing your products. In addition, concerns about becoming a victim of phishing attacks--widely associated with PayPal--can scare of buyers away from your site.
- Use a standard merchant account. A merchant account accepts and processes credit cards on behalf of your business and cost $35 per month through Thunder Data. This small investment states that a bank has reviewed your credit history and found you a good candidate for above board transactions giving your buyer confidence to complete the purchase.
- Make sure your purchases are funneled through a secure payment gateway. A secure gateway collects credit card data safely and prevents thieves from intercepting the information over the Internet. A secure connection is confirmed by the presence of a lock icon on the lower right corner (or next to the address bar in Internet Explorer Version 7) of the browser and by the https:// designation in the address bar.
- Provide good photographs and enlargements. In the absence of touching the product, buyers want to see excellent representations of what they are buying. This is particularly true for items such as jewelry which deserve sharp close-ups to show detail.
- Invest in the aesthetics of the website. Beautiful websites with great products will sell more than unattractive sites with the same products. First impressions are the most lasting, and on the web it is extremely important to impress visitors instantly to hold their attention.
- Avoid a database to display products. Dynamically generated pages --those created from a database--simply don't have the permanence that static or infrequently changing pages do. Therefore, they generally perform worse on search engines. How do you tell if a database is used? Dynamic pages normally show the domain name, with an appended string that uses a question mark and categories paired with product names or ID values using an equal sign. Some pages may take the following format:
- Use static pages to display products for increased search engine performance. Software such as ThunderCart, a plugin for our editable websites, allows for very easy administration for the non tech savvy sellers. The intuitive interface allows you to easily upload products, descriptions, and pricing. We created the plugin to improve search performance for online catalogs.
- Invest in search engine optimization or SEO. SEO concentrates on reaching the top pages of search listings for buyers looking for your products. It is not enough to be found by your business' name; some buyers will have no idea you exist. You need to be found for those who are interested in your products or services.
- Provide an online form to allow your customers to provide you with information you need in order to help them. The more information you collect on an individual, the better prepared you will be when you respond. In addition, contact forms allow potential customers to request additional information at any hour of the day. One note: do try to make forms comprehensive but not cumbersome.
- If you receive a contact form, follow up! This simple instruction is extremely important and one that many website owners tend to neglect. The faster your response time, the greater the chance you will have to make the sale. We ''strongly recommend that no more than 12 hours elapse before you respond back to your contact!
For a higher level of web site effectiveness, companies can opt for online sales -- more commonly known as E-Commerce. Companies interested in generating more than simple contacts from the web should consider E-Commerce. E-Commerce is the process of selling products online through a web site with full credit card processing. Some sort of online shopping cart will be needed as a software that "stores product information" and ties it to the credit card processor and gateway. Online shopping carts can be integrated into the website keeping the same basic design and appearance as the rest of the site. Ecommerce can also be combined with static or dynamic databases that contain product pictures, descriptions, price information, and inventory.