So you’ve decided to launch an Internet based business. Congratulations! You’ve taken your first step towards establishing yourself in global markets and taking your success into your own hands. Now what do you do? For starters, you need a domain name, a web page, and a way to take your orders. It can be quite a daunting experience to take these first steps into eCommerce. Here are some tips to help you get started on your way.
Your domain name will identify your particular business on the internet. When registering and deciding on a domain name for your business there are a number of things you need to consider.
ourproductsarethebestontheweb.com – Avoid using excessively long and tedious domain names. Choose something simple and easy to remember. Also try to use popular keywords that people would use to search for products or services such as yours. This can help you get ranked higher in search engines as well as help consumers remember your site.
.com vs .biz – Always use .com instead of .biz or .info. Your company will be taken more seriously. If necessary you can use .net, but more people are familiar with .com and will remember it more easily.
Shop Around – There are a number of sites that offer domain registration. Prices vary, but expect to pay a yearly registration fee. Some popular domain registration web sites include GoDaddy.com, Web.com, and Register.com. Many domain registrars also offer web design, web hosting and email.
A web site is like having a store front in every corner of the world. What do you want people to see when they look in your window? Consumers today are more intelligent and wary than when the web was in its infancy. You need your web page to project a professional image, draw your customers in, and keep them interested long enough to see the value of doing business with you instead of your competitors. Easier said than done right? Successful web design is crucial to converting your web visitors into web sales. Here are a few avenues you can take to achieve a successful web site.
Hire Someone Who Knows – There are countless companies out there that you can pay to develop a professional web site for your business. Ask around. With so many to choose from, referrals are usually the best way to find a reliable and affordable company, or even person, with the expertise to create a professional web site for your needs.
The Fruits of Other’s Labors – Web page templates are a less expensive alternative to having a site custom made. On average templates range in price from $ 13 to $ 300 dollars depending on how original you want your site to be as well as how large. Some come with only an index, or front page, while still others include the index as well as supporting content pages. Some templates will require you to have some basic knowledge of html editing and working with a graphics program such as Adobe Photoshop to tweak the site to fit your business. Other templates allow you to simply enter in your text in the pre-designated boxes and you’re ready to go. A good place to start looking is TemplateMonster.com.
Head Long and Feet First – For the ambitious or those on an extremely tight budget, there is a third solution. Do it yourself. There are many web page editing programs available and you may even have one on your computer already and don’t even know it. A few of the most popular are Macromedia Dreamweaver, Microsoft Frontpage, and Adobe GoLive. All come with tutorials and if the help you need is not found there, it is not far away. Type your question into your favorite search engine and you’re sure to find the information you need. Surf the web and look at other web pages. See what you like about them and what you don’t. Does it look professional? Why? Does it inspire confidence and reliability? How? Most importantly, be patient with yourself. This is a big project you are undertaking and a lot of the learning will happen by trial and error.
No store, online or offline, can be successful without a way to make sales and take orders. With an online store you have a couple of options. Some businesses will want to encourage their customers to place their orders online, others will want them to call to place their orders, and some will want to offer both options.
Virtual Shopping Carts – If you are selling a number of different products online, a shopping cart will be necessary. This will allow your customers to add things to their cart as they shop your online store. Unless you are a programmer or having your site professional designed, you will need to find a shopping cart that you can add onto your site. You can choose to buy your software or take advantage of a free one such as that found at osCommerce.com. There are advantages to both paid software and free. Your exact needs will determine the best course for you.
Phone Orders – Because of the high rate of fraud on the Internet, many consumers feel more comfortable placing their orders over the phone with a live person. They like knowing there is a person behind the page. You will want a professional sounding phone system. Something more than your cell phone with voicemail. One of the best solutions for web based businesses is a virtual phone system, or virtual PBX. They allow you to forward your calls to any location – home phone, cell phone, VOIP phone – give you a professional sounding main greeting, multiple extensions and voicemail. Many will also allow you to have automated order taking over the phone, send and receive faxes, and receive messages to your email. You want to make sure that the professional business image you are presenting with your web page is continued when your customers calls you. Freedom800.com is a good place to start looking at what virtual PBX systems have to offer.
Starting an online business is an exciting time. It can also be a confusing time if you are unfamiliar with what it takes to establish yourself on the web. Getting your domain name, a professional website and setting up an order taking process are some of the first things that you will need to do to get started. The best of luck to you in your new business.