Welcome to Taming the Beast.net and the world of online business!
This 2 part series assumes you have a basic web presence and briefly outlines preparing your web site for online sales and credit card transactions. The articles linked to will then assist you in making a more educated decision before implementing ecommerce software and marketing tools.
Online sales processing using credit card based transactions may not be quite as straightforward as you may think. Many web site owners new to ecommerce are under the impression that they just plug a shopping cart into their site; but a cart is only a part of the whole ecommerce process.
"I don't want to support online payments"
In case you were thinking about avoiding online credit card transactions to sell your product, think again. The days of 'send me a check or money order' are long gone. In the vast majority of cases, customers will want your product, and want it now.
Even if the product or service you are offering is totally unique, you will miss many sales if you don't implement some form of online credit card processing. But implementing a processing service doesn't necessarily mean shelling out big dollars up front.
The web site
OK, I'm sure you know this one! The web site acts as the store front for the products and services you wish to sell online. Your site visitors are, for the most part, window shoppers and browsers. A commercial web site's aim is to convert these browsers into buyers.
What search terms are commonly used?
A useful tool in understanding how people are searching is freely available
from Google. With Google Insights for Search, you can compare search volume patterns across specific regions, categories, and time frames
on particular keywords, finding the most popular terms for a given topic or
Cross Browser Compatibility
Internet Explorer isn't the only browser on the market. There are currently over 100 different brands of Internet browser currently available. IE's major competitor is Firefox and what looks good in Internet Explorer may look terrible or even crash other browsers! Make sure that you design your site to be viewable in at least:
Internet Explorer 5.0+
Between these two browsers, you'll have well over 90% of market covered. By paying attention to even simple things like browser compatibility issues, you will increase your sales.
The use of images
All images used should clearly depict the product/service and where possible, don't use stock images that come with products such as Photoshop. Seasoned Internet surfers will
recognize these as they appear on thousands of sites around the world. Use original photography or scanned images wherever you
can, or make use of the many stock
photo archives where you can purchase high quality images for as little
as a couple of dollars each.
Site navigation should be simple and all the questions a consumer may ask should be answered along the way. Where possible, adhere to the "three click rule" - that is, a visitor should be able to access any information regarding your product or service within 3 clicks of any other area of your web site. Pay close attention to cross-browser compatibility issues as many complex menu systems play havoc with browsers.
Along with the home page, your sales pages and the shopping cart, I recommend implementing the following web pages as part of your ecommerce site:
About Us Page.
The "About Us" page is crucial to boosting consumer confidence. It provides a summary of the business, your commitments and direction.
While we are all protective of our privacy, online business is no different to traditional business in that we all like to 'put a face to the name' - we need to reassure our site visitors. When purchasing goods online, I always go to the 'About Us' or company profile pages before parting with my money (especially after one bad experience - another story for another time). The page should also provide other contact details for your business and your various registrations, associations and affiliations. View further information relating to "about us" or company profile pages.
FAQ's (Frequently asked questions)
No doubt you'll be asked many questions about your product. Many of these questions will be repetitive. It's these questions and answers that you'll want to add to your FAQ page. This promotes customer confidence and saves your valuable time. A prospective client may be somewhat hesitant in asking questions and this hesitancy may translate into a lost sale. A well constructed FAQ will help coax these online customers into purchasing.
You can link to the FAQ not only through the main menu system, but after every "buy me" type statement. The FAQ should be accessible within one click of any other area of your web site that is dedicated to selling the product or service.
A dollar value can not be placed upon positive client testimonials; this is some of the best promotional copy around. Elicit feedback from your current customers and ask their permission to publish their comments on your site.
Testimonials can be implemented on a page of their own, or interspersed between your own statements regarding the product. If you do implement a Testimonials page, ensure that it can be accessed with one click from any other page on the site.
Ideally the link or button should be placed on your web site navigational menu, preferable at the top.
Related learning resources:Payment Gateways, Internet Merchant Accounts and third party credit card processors
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