To make the most of your online presence, take a look at the five main pieces of your site
Many jewelers struggle to determine how the Internet will fit into their businesses, and David Jenkins of Interland, Atlanta, GA, provided advice and insight to a group of retailers at his seminar Help with E-Commerce at The Professional Jeweler Show & Conference in Las Vegas. The seminar was coordinated by Charlotte Preston Catalysts, White Bear Lake, MN. Jenkins explains the pieces that make up a Web site, some basic rules for conducting e-business and how to market the final e-commerce site.
Web Site Pieces
Every e-store has five main pieces: Web site design, Web hosting, shopping cart, security and payment processing, he says. The Web site design determines the look and feel of your site. Before designing an e-store, Jenkins suggests retailers surf the Web to see what kind of site they like.
Web-site hosting is important because an e-commerce site must run fast and be accessible for customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A reliable Web-site host is essential for an effective Web presence. In addition, if your Web server is slow and doesnt load the site in eight seconds or less, customers wont wait.
The shopping cart application is the backbone of any e-commerce site. It stores product pictures, prices and descriptions; tracks inventory; and completes the transaction.
In addition, security is necessary for all e-stores. With poor security or no security, customers wont shop at that Web store. However, software is available to encrypt information from the customers browser to the Web site.
Payment processing consists of a gateway and merchant account. Normally this is a separate service from whats used in the store.
To be successful at e-business, you need to think of some business issues in different ways. Jenkins says retailers should remember these 10 e-commerce rules:
- Relationships The most important e-business solution helps improve relationships with customers and employees.
- Size Big companies are winners on the Web, but small niche ones can be too. Differentiate your products to succeed. Customers need something to entice them to shop at your e-store instead of another one.
- Velocity A quick solution is more important than the perfect solution. It should work today and can be changed later.
- Integration The ideal e-business solution works for your whole business, not just one department. You should offer all products and services on the Web, including repairs.
Partners You want partners who will be around to help you in the long run. For example, use a Web designer you can stay in contact with its tough to update your site if your designer disappears.
- Up-time No one cares how good your e-store is if the server is down. Use a reliable Web-site host.
- Security Make sure private information is kept private. Few things can destroy your business like a hacker posting your customers credit card numbers online.
- Flexibility Listen carefully to customers and suppliers so youre prepared for coming changes.
- Bottom line An established e-commerce site costs a fraction of the expenses of a retail store.
Up and Running
Web site marketing and promotion is critical to the success of any e-business. Register with the major search engines every month, send monthly e-mail newsletters to customers, start promotional list servers and use direct mail, TV and radio ads, Jenkins says. Also, people will more likely buy from your online store than an Internet-only site if you have a bricks-and-mortar store near them. Its simpler for customers to return and exchange merchandise.
by Julia M. Duncan