Dec 17, 2008

Introduction and Five Essential Elements - Setting Up Your Own E-Commerce Website Part 1 of 6

welcome to the first part of this 6-part e-course on building your own e-commerce website. Establishing a solid e-commerce website can grow your business or be a great way to create a new retail establishment. In this six-part e-course, we will take you through the steps of creating a virtual storefront.

Below is the schedule for this e-course:

  • Part One: A look at the five elements that go into a successful site - navigation, displays, readability, informative copy and ease in purchasing.

  • Part Two: How to decide upon a domain name and register it.

  • Part Three: What to look for in a hosting company, which will serve as your web host.

  • Part Four: Should you construct your own site or hire a company specialising in web design? We examine how to create your retail site.

  • Part Five: The three major components that generate quick sales and return customers - product database and availability, payment options and shopping carts.

  • Part Six: A consideration of the continuing development of your site, including promotion, maintenance and improvements.


The Essential Elements

There are five key aspects that you must pay close attention to when constructing your site. In order to give your business optimum sales potential be sure to carefully consider and plan the following elements.

Navigation

You want your potential customers to be able to easily get around your site and find what they want. Your online store needs to show numerous items at once, while giving visitors the option to simply "click" and get more in-depth information on a product in which they are interested. Allow your customers the chance to browse and enjoy your products.

You should visit as many different sites as possible, including those run by your competitors. Analyse what makes each site attractive, and what aspects can be improved. Plan your site accordingly by designing mockups in MS Paint, Photoshop or on paper.


Displays

People want to see what they are buying. Depending upon what you are selling, offering various viewing angles of a product can be enticing. Items such as jewelry, furniture and antiques are much more appealing when seen from various angles.

Set up your displays so that related products are included. If you're selling candles, include appropriate holders. Winter coats might include coordinated gloves and scarves. Layout is important.


Readability

Like display, this is also a function of design. With readability, you're considering how easy it is to actually see your descriptions and instructions and how crisp and clear your images are. If a visitor can't read about your product because the typeface or photos are too small or faint, they will get frustrated and leave without purchasing anything.


Written Information

Product descriptions should be well written and interesting. Along with providing basic information about your products (the features), it's effective to let the visitor know what an item will do for them (the benefits). Use words to connect your products with your customers.

Directions on ordering merchandise, return and exchange policies and customer service should be easy to read and understand. A telephone number for customer service can help create confidence in your site and generate more sales.


Ease in Purchasing

Make the process of buying something as easy as possible. One of the major selling points for any Internet business is the fact that shopping online makes life simpler. If a customer has to go through five or six web pages before a sale is complete, they may just give up. It should take no more than three clicks from one page to another to make a purchase. The software you choose for the purchasing process will determine how long it takes to buy something. Carefully research your options, making sure that you choose software that's simple to use but that still has sound security features (more on checkout options in part 5).



Paying attention to these five elements will aid in the success of your online store. Take time to research sites that are consumer friendly and then weigh your choices. Making your virtual storefront fun and easy to use is a great way to begin your planning and will be handsomly repaid by higher sales once your site is live.

In Part Two of this e-course, we will consider how to choose your domain name and the process of registering it.

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