Setting Up A Net Shop

It may be premature to talk of
Online Stores and what to avoid when setting up Online Stores. But, it’s a matter of time
before it happens in India as well. Since luck favors the prepared mind, here’s ammunition
to prepare yourself for the online world-it just might prove to be not just useful but
timely as well.

The don’ts
OVER-ENGINEERING: Do not attempt at developing a site that is too complex. It will
turn out to be an implementation nightmare. Often unrealistic and convoluted plans lead to
projects getting grounded forever. More importantly, challenges posed by new and
unfamiliar technology might prove costly, to the extent of having to abandon the attempt
at setting up an online store altogether as technical costs mount. Therefore, first
identify the most basic goals of your online store and implement those. When the basic
system is in place, you can always add on all the bells and whistles.

TAKING ON MORE THAN YOU CAN: Be smart and choose hosting services that provide
turnkey solutions instead of doing it all by yourself when setting up a shop. Why?
Because, ecommerce can involve a highly complex combination of equipment choices, website
building and hosting issues, as well as security and billing technologies…and the list
goes on. So, let any high-quality store hosting service or web hosting service worry about
fending off internet hackers, as well as hardware and software issues that only the top
computer networking gurus can handle. In this way, you can concentrate on selling your
product while delegating much of the technical chores to others.

FORCING A SQUARE PEG INTO A ROUND HOLE: Remember, products that sell well in retail
stores need not sell well online. In fact, facts prove otherwise, thanks to factors like
high shipping costs, need for personal salesmanship etc. So, evaluate the product’s
suitability for online sales. Start with asking questions such as:

* Are the prices attractive to entice shoppers to buy online than from a retail store?

* What will be the cost of shipping and handling?

* Will the consumer trust your online service guarantees?

A simple exercise such as this will save you much time and expense in the long run.

IGNORING SECURITY ISSUES: Ensure network security before your ecommerce site goes
live, else it could prove disastros. There are two options here. You can retain the
services of network security consultants besides installing specialized security software
or let a hosting service take care of security service.

‘GOING IT’ ALONE: Considering the vast complexity of ecommerce issues, it would be
a mistake not to outsource some of the ecommerce setup tasks, as needed. In fact, despite
using turnkey hosting service many ecommerce stores in the US have been known to fail due
to a lack of professional design and marketing know-how. So, instead of undertaking a long
and difficult process of planning, only to stumble on the final design and presentation of
the store, retain an ecommerce-oriented web development agency.

COMPLEX WEB PAGE DESIGN: Remember, it doesn’t matter what sophisticated
technologies are installed on the host web server, for the prospective shopper, what
matters is what is displayed in the shopper’s web browser, that is the ‘front end.’ So
make sure you have a well-designed interface, which is easy to download and navigate.
Without a professional, marketing-oriented and easy-to-use page layout, even the most
sophisticated back-end technologies will be of no use in driving sales.

Likewise, cluttered web pages that make it difficult to navigate your site, or make it
difficult for the shopper to know how to place an order, can cause an online store to
fail. If you are serious about building a successful ecommerce site, make sure that your
site works to your advantage, rather than a cause of lost sales opportunities.

NEGLECTING THE TELEPHONE NUMBER: Now, for the winner. In most online stores, the
point-of-sale is not online! What usually happens is that a shopper browses through a
site, compares values with other sites and then places an order over the phone. Despite
this customer behavior, many sites fail to make a phone number available for ordering. In
order to make it easy for the shopper, ideally phone numbers should be listed prominently
on every page of the site.

Some must haves
Having mentioned the don’ts, now here’s what constitutes a ‘perfect’ online store. On the
WWW, glitzy graphics do not necessarily guarantee sales. On the other hand, a
well-designed site, both in terms of content as well as presentation, can give your online
store the edge you need to succeed.

CLARITY AND EASE OF NAVIGATION: Mega-selling web sites such as those of Amazon.com,
Dell Computers and Cisco make clear to the shopper which categories of products are
available, and provide easy site-navigation links. From anywhere in these sites, the
shopper can easily proceed to browse more products without having to waste time searching.
It would seem fairly obvious that a good navigation system is required for a successful
ecommerce site, but, ironically, many sites on the internet are sorely lacking in this
regard.

SHOPPER PRIVACY: When purchasing online, shoppers are often required to provide an
entire host of personal information, including mailing address, phone number, email ID and
billing information. In general, requiring these disclosures can discourage shoppers from
purchasing directly online. To alleviate shoppers’ privacy concerns, the better-designed
sites provide guarantees that shoppers’ personal information will not be sold to other
companies for mailing lists and other solicitation purposes. Boosting consumer confidence
is essential for the perfect online store.

FAST LOADING PAGES: The vast majority of consumers connect to the internet from
their homes with relatively slow modems. For this reason, the perfect online store would
be fast loading-not bogged down by overly long content or graphics. One strategy which has
become more commonplace, is to show small product ‘thumbnails’ with an initial product
description, and then giving the shopper the option of clicking on the thumbnail for a
larger graphic.

TECHNICAL SUPPORT: Often, online shoppers are wary of poor customer support,
wondering if the merchant will respond to issues that may arise after the purchase has
been made. The concern is whether the online merchant has the expertise or personnel
required to resolve technical issues relating to the setup or use of the product. The
perfect store would post its technical support policies clearly to address shoppers’
potential concerns.

RETURN AND EXCHANGE POLICIES: Another factor affecting consumer confidence is a
concern that they will be dissatisfied with the product purchased without the benefit of
examining the product physically before purchase. Remrember that colors displayed on a
computer monitor are sure to vary from their actual color. For example, the elegant royal
blue shirt you just purchased online might turn out to be more purplish when it is
delivered. Or, that big gold chain might turn out to be lighter in weight, or smaller than
anticipated. The perfect online store would post an unconditional exchange or refund
policy to boost consumer confidence.

THE RIGHT LOOK AND FEEL: Marketing is a crucial part of a sales process.
Ultimately, the online store must entice potential shoppers to make a purchase. To a great
extent, sites accomplish this with well-planned graphic design. A perfect site would
feature a pleasant color scheme and tasteful design elements, which serve to highlight the
products being offered without overshadowing or conflicting with them. Remember, graphics
do not have to be overly large in file size or be flashy, to be effective. As we mentioned
previously, a quick loading site is a must.

Courtesy: Ecommerce Times

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