Let me tell you a little story: One pay day, after I finished paying off a few bills, I decided I would reward myself for good behavior by doing a little online shopping. I had heard of a product from a friend and decided to visit the site. It was perhaps one of the most lackluster, badly made websites I have ever personally searched for. It must have been constructed by a sixth grader, perhaps hosted by geocities, or made in North Korea. As I looked at the site, it crossed my mind that I would never send my money to these people. Paypal or not, it may as well have been a front for some overseas account scam. If I ordered from them, would I even get what I bought, or would it be mysteriously “lost” in transit. Nor did it seem my identity would be safe, so I just moved onto a site that was nicer, user-friendly and professional, and the former company lost my business.
You may be the most licensed, most professional company in the world with the best customer service, but if your site looks like it was constructed in Microsoft Paint and Excel, you can kiss your consumers goodbye. No matter how legitimate you may be, you are driving away more customers than you are bringing in. About 15 years ago (the comparable Sumerian Era in internet years), the site would have been just fine. Today, most sites have at very least some dynamic aspects like a flash animation or professional-grade photography. They are clean, and in simplest terms “pretty”. If your site is flat, pixilated, sparse and cheap, you aren’t getting all you can from online commerce. All the SEO in the world will not save your business from a bad sit. Take the following steps to actually make money.
Hire A Professional
A professional is not your second-cousin’s teenage nephew who says he speaks something called “Leet” and makes cat-themed gifs. Unless he has an associates in digital media or comparable experience, he is not by any stretch of the word a professional. If you are serious about creating a commerce site, be ready to spend a little on a quality designer and even a graphic artist at minimum. Logos, product images, photos, graphs, graphics, everything needs to be high-resolution and well edited. You need an interesting but comprehensible layout to each page and links that work. This is a venture truly worth your time and money. If you aren’t tech-savvy, (and you aren’t if your site looks like the aforementioned) you need to invest in people who are. Not your second-cousin’s nephew.
Not Every Name Smells as Sweet
A domain name can be overlooked, but when you are buying it, make sure you have thought it out. It should have something related to what you are selling, perhaps product name. It needs to be catchy, memorable and interesting. There are millions of domains registered already, so you also need to be flexible. Anything simple is already taken, like “chairs.com” “shoes.com” “hats.com”, so if you sell lamps, don’t go for “lamps.com”. Make it interesting, but product related, selling lamps should be something like “lightyourway.com”. Like when you are making a company name, make it memorable and brandable.
If you are so inclined to do this on your own, you need to take the honest time and explore various webhosting and formatting sites. Here at SoVi we use word press, but that may not be good for the beginner. Again, if you aren’t that tech-savvy (I empathize), really consider a professional to work with the formatting client. If you are still determined, it comes down to my favorite mantra “Do Your Research”. If you are foregoing help, make sure the webhost you find has excellent customer service. Few things are worse than the inability to access orders and you have to wait for several days for someone to answer your e-mail…eventually. Line up your costs ahead of time. Certain webhosts will charge extra for things like added security, having flash animation or videos on a website, and yes, even e-commerce. What you may initially pay may be very different in comparison to what you will have to pay in the end.
Be Simply The Best
After you have traveled whatever rode you traveled to get your website up, you can finally start selling your product. That comes with another can of worms (the viral kind): Security and Customer Service. However you plan on accepting payment you need to make sure it is secure. Identity theft is becoming a growing issue, and if you hire the wrong person to access that data, or your files and server were not secure, you will be endangering your business and clients. Take precautions, use pay pal, pay for additional security measures, but make it so you won’t have to send out an e-mail letting your consumers know that their information was hacked.
This second hand, like building better business and trust is very much paramount to successful internet entrepreneurship. One of the ways an online business can keep returning traffic is to have easily-accessible customer service. Emails should be quickly returned and responded yo. You should have a clear return/exchange policy available. Complaints should be answered to and resolved. This last one is obvious but ALWAYS ENSURE A PRODUCT IS DELIVERED. Over the past few years, the accessibility to take legal action against businesses that steal from consumers has grown. It can be a laborious process going through the better business bureau, but never underestimate the determination of an angry consumer. Treat them right and your business will grow, well and organically.
Say Hello to SEO
By largest percentage, the best way to gain new consumers is through Search Engine Optimization. Being a person who works in SEO, I can tell you it is time-consuming and does take a lot of research to keep adapting to the changing system, especially with the way google is constantly changing its algorithm and soon moving to an entirely new system. There is an element of creativity and the ability to communicate effectively. This is were I strongly recommend hiring a professional (now for a shameless plug) like us here at SoVi Digital, where you can have wonderful writers and creators like me helping to enforce your online presence. The face of marketing is changing, make sure you keep up with and ahead of the times.
Do or Do Not, There is No Try
It may seem like a large arduous task, but creating an online business can have enormous rewards and open up doors that many tradition businesses may not have. Ecommerce can allow you to push your product to audiences that wouldn’t normally have access to it. From personal experience, I have been lucky enough to see small businesses that wouldn’t be effective in a localized setting grow, including many artists and craftspeople. Let the internet help you follow your dreams, you have a fighting chance now thanks to the power of an online presence.
“My last website which I thought was optimized and doing its job only netted me a half dozen online inquiries in all of 2010. In the first six month going live with BGW we have received 80 new inquiries resulting in numerous new joins totaling annualized revenue of $14,000 and counting. I like the fact that I can track my website leads. Our site looks better, is easier to navigate, and—best of all—my staff or I can make changes ourselves, and if we can’t figure it out the BGW Team is there to help. For once I can say my advertising money is being spent in a productive way. I am a satisfied and happy BGW client!”
—Rick Opton, Owner of Loggerhead Fitness Center