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E-Commerce Essentials

10 things you really should know about E-Commerce

“Set up your own Web store in minutes”, “Get rich while you sleep”,“Turn your computer into a $100,000 dollar business”. You probably get emails like these every day and, like me, you probably delete them immediately. However, once you look beyond the spam emails, it’s still possible to conclude that you can make money on the Net. Some people do, of course, but it’s also possible to lose a lot of money if you're not careful. Here’s a list of 10 things to think about that may save you from some of the more common mistakes.

1. If it was that easy, we’d all be doing it

Making money on the Web isn’t easy, or more accurately making significant amounts of money isn’t easy. You can earn a few dollars without much difficulty, through affiliate programs for example, but that’s about it. You can forget the ideas about thousands of dollars rolling in, while you’re sleeping or sunning yourself on the beach. Making money on the Web requires planning, determination and a lot of hard work. If you don’t realise this, you won’t succeed.

2. Marketing is King

You can have a superb product and the best Web site on the Internet, but if you can’t get customers to visit your site you won’t make money. Once you’ve set up your business you’ll need to spend the majority of your time promoting your business and trying to attract customers. It won’t happen by itself, and submitting your site to the search engines or buying a few banner ads simply isn’t enough.

3. You can't sell what they don’t want

Fairly obvious you might think, but this is one of the most common mistakes that small businesses make. It may seem like a great idea to sell hand-made candles or herbal soaps from your Web site, and you may be able to find suppliers with great products, but are you sure that there are people out there who will buy these products over the Net? (If there are, you can bet that you will have lots of competitors who will have already spotted the gap in the market.) Before you start any business, you need to be sure of two things; that there's a market for your products or services, and that you have some way of differentiating your business from the inevitable competition.

4. If they can’t find it they won't buy it

Customers searching for products to buy typically work their way through a list of possible Web sites, especially if they are using a search engine. They may spend only a few seconds on your site before moving on to the next one, unless you can hold their interest. This means you need to make it immediately clear what your business offers and give the user a quick and intuitive way to locate products on your site. If they have to drill down through endless departments and categories, or if your search function simply returns an unhelpful “product not found” message, your potential customers will get bored and go away.

5. Slow Site = Slow Business

One of the great advantages of selling on the Net is immediacy. A customer can find a product and buy it with a few mouse clicks and key strokes. Lots of Web sales are impulsive, “let’s go for it”, decisions. It follows that you want to make the time between deciding to buy and completing the sale as short as possible, to minimize the chance of the customer recconsidering.  As many as 40% of shopping carts are abandoned before the checkout process is complete and one of the main reasons for this is the length of time the checkout process takes. If the process is unnecessarily complex, or takes ages between pages, then it is highly likely that the customer will chicken out. (Of course, if your site is very slow your customer may have given up long before the checkout stage.)

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