Thursday, January 30, 2014

Five Steps to Building an E-Commerce Site for Your Small Business

Expanding your business into the world of e-commerce is a huge step. It can be expensive, time consuming, frustrating and at the same time, the most rewarding adventure you’ll ever take!  If done properly, a world of customers await your product or service. On the other hand, if done in haste, it can have negative financial consequences.

Here are five steps to help build an e-commerce site:

1. Start with a plan:  Have a 3-year business plan before you get started, and update the plan as your business changes and grows. Local organizations and online webinars are available to assist small business owners with the development of a business plan.

2. Name your site:  Creating a website is a primary goal for any e-commerce business. However, before you get that far, you need to name and register your website. Choosing a name can be hard; it has to be unique, reflective of who you are and what you are offering, while being catchy and memorable.

3. Assemble your pages:  You’ll need pictures and descriptions of your products and services to display on your site. There are copyright laws for pictures and content on the Internet, so be very careful when using anything without permission; fines can be very costly.

4. Setup Payment Processing:  Once your web site is active, you need to be able to accept payments for your products or services. Choosing a credit card processing company and possibly opening a PayPal account are good options for processing payments. Before you start taking credit card payments, you need to make sure you are Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliant. This means you are able to protect your customers’ credit card information. Online merchants are prime targets for data thieves. If data is stolen and it is your fault, you can incur fines or penalties and may even lose your right to accept credit card payments. Most processing companies take care of this for you, but research ahead of time to avoid issues.

5. Start marketing:  The most important part of the e-commerce puzzle is being found. There are many ways to help customers find your site, but most of them involve paying for advertising. Over time, your site will show up naturally in search engines, but the top positions can be purchased (known as pay-per-click). Writing articles and blogs with links to your products is also a free way to increase your relevance online. Lack of a good marketing strategy is the biggest pitfall to an e-commerce site. Spending money that doesn’t turn into sales can sink a business. Constant testing of ads and writing information that readers are interested in will continue to build strong foundations for a successful e-commerce sites.

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