A Web of Support
Retailers who think they dont have enough time or money to set up a Web site now have help
The Web page is a fast-growing sales tool, but only about 2% of all small businesses (under 100 employees) use one. According to Interland Inc., a Web hosting service for small companies, the main reasons are cost and lack of time to set up a Web site. But these dont have to be obstacles for retailers who want to promote and/or sell products on-line.
The cost of building and operating a Web site has fallen dramatically, and anyone can set up a site in just a few hours by following simple instructions. In addition, Hewlett-Packard, Interland and Breakthrough Software Co. have teamed up to offer iXpresscommerce.com, a program designed to help small businesses get started on the Web.
Interland, which specializes in jewelry industry Web sites, offers four packages to jewelers. The basic plan costs $100 in one-time set-up fees, $39.95 per month in base fees and $49.95 per month for a shopping cart function that shoppers use to designate what they want to buy. If you want to accept credit cards on your site, Card Service International will process transactions for a one-time fee of $250 (for this price, you can display 49 SKUs).
At the other end of the spectrum is a plan offering unlimited SKUs. It costs $250 in one-time set-up fees, $149.95 per month in base fees and $599 per month for a shopping cart. Two other plans offer costs and benefits in between.
Easy to Use
It all starts with a simply phone call, says Sara Stutzenstein, public relations manager for Interland. You pick your plan, and well register your domain name, she says. Within 24 hours, youll get an e-mail with a link to Card Service International to set up your account. Then youll get a link to Interlands Web Site Creation Wizard.
The wizard takes you through each step of creating a Web site. You pick from templates that have colors, borders and other design features, including buttons that coordinate with whatever background you select. The wizard shows you how to create categories (such as rings, bracelets and necklaces) and how to add photographs and descriptions of each product in those categories.
You can edit the site any time with your password, she says. If someone logs onto your site while youre editing, a message appears indicating the site is being updated and will be back online momentarily. That way no one will think the site is down, she says.
The program also allows you to track visitors to the site. You can use a button to ask Are you a new customer or Are you an existing customer? she says. For new customers, you can send them an e-mail to follow up.
Interland guarantees 24-hour service seven days a week. In addition, a technical support team from Hewlett Packard is available 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. EST Monday through Friday.
by Jack Heeger