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ECommerce Training, Sales Training, Merchant Training Articles

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ECommerce 101 - Tips for these new to Ecommerce
by Bob Bryant - Merchant Mentor and ECommerce Developer

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Ok - So you want to sell online... Maybe a good choice, maybe not.

It all depends on Hosting, Product, Planning, Promotion, Proactivity and Patience!

Where your ecommerce is hosted is high on the scale of "may/may not succeed" because a poor ecommerce host will result in slow load times for your pages, erratic check out, and potential problems with the Site Security Certificate.

All these contribute to diminishing customer confidence.

I'm writing a companion article to this one with my experience with ecommerce hosting providers and it will provide you with some solid choices for for your hosting. Reliable ECommerce hosting (the shopping cart) does not have to cost a fortune and quality solutions are available for less than $75 month, and some less than $40.

The choice hinges on how many products you will have, you expected number of customers/visitors daily, the flexibility you want for your page design, and payment integration.

Some new to ECommerce think that they can simply put a secure site license on a server they rent, download a PHP Open Source Shopping Cart, and start selling.

While you CAN do that, you will be spending more development time to make it all integrate and in the end it may NOT be a site that a customer is comfortable to buy from.

Cheesy carts are the kiss of death for sales as most customers fear loss of their credit card information.

You REALLY need to consider the mainstream providers for your first venture. (Next article will detail them).

Who will design your ECommerce site? What you can do that looks cool to you may not be cool to your customers. Consider a professional to do your site if you are not one.

You can get competent ECommerce sites turn key for as little as $500 including the design work. I don't know of too many "normal" businesses that got started for less than that and succeeded.

Your site's appearance is one of the main keys to conversion and sales.

Actually, choosing the product or service you will promote in hopes of conversion to dollars is not as important as how and where you promote that product or service.

People - STAY AWAY from the "Instant ECommerce" businesses that offer a drop shipper catalog and tell you how successful you are going to be. It's just not true.

If I see another site selling cheap Angel Figurines and the like (ala Big Lots) I think I'm going to scream! That stuff is EVERYWHERE, it is OVERPRICED, and the ONLY thing you will gain is the "loss" of whatever you paid for it.

Drop shippers are OK, but you need them to be reliable and offer frequent inventory updates. Selling products that are not available on your site are a sure way to make for very unhappy customers.

Take a little time to choose what you will sell. Think of the items you like and look for them online.

Remember - Google is your friend! If you search and find hundreds or thousands of results for the items you think will free you from your day job, think again!

You want a product or service that is not available everywhere.

One rule of thumb I use in product selection is to determine where I can buy that product locally. If small towns don't have it, but major cities do, then you may have something as you can capture the non-metro market.

Do your homework. You can even message me to ask. I'll certainly give you my honest opinion, yet warn you in advance that I am direct and to the point if you are considering an oversold commodity.

Now that you have found your product, how do you plan to promote it?

Who buys it?

Why should they buy it from you?

Where can they get it locally?

Are you able to price it competitively?

Can you make at least a 18% profit?

Are you going to spend so much time at the profit percentage that you actually lose money?

Will you stock it or have a drop shipper?

All this is part of the normal planning process and you can't skip a single step.

Ok .. you got the Plan, now consider how you will promote your site.

You are not going to show up immediately in the search engines, and perhaps will never if your site is not designed properly. I've actually had a recent site get Number 1 spots in Google within 45 days, however it was a VERY niche product.

Normally expect to be unlisted for up to 120 days.

Affiliate programs and Pay Per Click Advertising are the key to a fast ramp up for an ECommerce business, and you don't have to spend a lot to get results.

On the Pay Per Click side of the world, I only recommend the three major players. I'll detail these in the next article covering ECommerce hosts.

We'll talk more about Affiliate programs in another blog entry.

Forums are a good place to find potential customers, but you can never be in their face about your site. In fact, soliciting in forums will likely get you kicked out and banned.

Using a signature at the bottom of your message with a non-spammy message works well, and if you become active at forums where people use your product or service, some will read your signature and find their way to your site.

Example .. Good signature...

John Harris
Product Place, Inc.
Save 10% - Coupon Code A160

Keep it simple. Some forums may not allow this type of signature, so you may have to be content with your company and URL. I can tell you that's better than not having one at all and it will get you visitors.

Tell EVERYONE (only ONE TIME at forums in your intro) what you do and ask them to visit. Give them a benefit or reason to consider you.

Being PROACTIVE from the day your site is launched makes the difference between success and failure for most.

Make a press release to announce your new site. Fax it to every newspaper you can find and every radio station that does PSA spots.

Tell your friends, neighbors, and co workers. As them to send their contacts and email and ask the recipients to pass it on. Don't SPAM! do it legitimately and potential customers will respect you more.

When you think you have told enough, tell some more!

Patience is another virtue as it's rare for a site to boom overnight at the small scale end of the ECommerce spectrum. It takes time.

Expect NOTHING for a month and monitor your statistics well. Where are the visitors coming from, what items are they looking at the most, how many pages do they view before they exit?

You will want to change how your products appear on the site to keep it fresh. Car dealers move the same cars around on their lots a couple of times a week to keep their inventory looking fresh and different and your site is no different.

If you are noticing that a lot of people are adding items to the cart, but not completing the check out, your cart may have a problem or not create a feeling of security to your visitor.

Have people you respect go to your site and browse, add items to the cart and tell you if they feel comfortable to buy, and LISTEN to what they tell you.

The more information you provide your visitor to describe your products and their benefits will result in higher conversions, as well as the appearance of the photos of the products.

Bad product photos are a killer. Take the time to get professional shots of your items if you don't have them already.

I'm going to shut up now and get some work done. If you liked this entry, FORWARD my page to someone you know that could use the information.

I'll continue in the next entry with a discussion of shopping carts and ecommerce services that are reliable.

To your success!


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