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Want an E-Commerce site? With entry costs / barriers falling all the time more and more SME’s want to enter the market.

Be careful, there are hundreds of people who will take your money in return for an all singing all dancing site, myself included :-) but, without careful planning it will be nothing but a white elephant.

To sell online you need to compete in one of two areas

  1. Price, you need to be significantly cheaper than the high street (and competitive with other online retailers)
  2. Niche, you need to offer products not easily available on the high street, i.e. become a specialist

If you cannot compete strongly in one of these areas, forget it.

Then you need a marketing strategy, do not underestimate the cost and difficulty of this exercise. You will need both an online and offline marketing strategy, both of which can be expensive.

Both on and offline you will need to consider advertising costs in magazines, on websites or using technologies such as Adwords.

An online store is not like a physical shop, there is no ‘passing trade’, it is an extremely competitive industry and good search engine rankings are difficult to achieve, and take time to establish.

You need to consider payment gateways, on this note never store customers credit card details on your site (which a lot of open source applications have the facility to do). To store credit card details you really need to employ a security specialist, and if your reading this, the chances are you cannot afford one.

A famous example of what happens when you store credit card details on a site is a story of Playboy dot Com, whose customers received an E-Mail, containing their personal details and credit card number, informing them that the aforementioned credit card details were circulating the criminal underworld, and making some useful suggestions on how Playboy dot Com could improve their security :-) .

A stunt like that would put most companies out of business.

In a nutshell, if you store credit card numbers on your site you will become a target for hackers, and they are good, way ahead of most of the people deploying E-Commerce sites, so leave that side of things to the professionals running payment gateways (Protx is a good one in the UK).

Then you need to consider shipping costs and packaging, what shipping options you will make available to customers. Most couriers factor weight and size into their shipping costs. This means knowing what your products and packaging weigh, and in some cases the volume too.

You need professional images of all your products, not a good photographer, find out how much that will cost too. There is little point in putting up a nice site if the images are poor.

Consider the time it will take to load (with the weight and shipping options), describe and price your products. It is not sufficient to give a brief description.

  1. You need to explain products properly to customers
  2. Google will not rank your site well if it has poor product descriptions

If you have an existing retail business, you need to reconcile your on and offline sales / stock. Integrating offline systems with your online store can be difficult, and consequently expensive. The alternative is to manually reconcile the systems, i.e. run two stock figures and keep jumping between them to keep them the same. Your online customer will not be happy if you have to mail them to say ‘I just sold my last one in the shop today’.

I think that’s enough for the time being, there is a lot more which I will post shortly…

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    Comment by satya

    This is a nice article about Marketings Stuff.First we need a marketing strategy, do not underestimate the cost and difficulty of the exercise.Both on and offline we will need to consider advertising costs in magazines, on websites or using technologies such as Adwords.we need professional images of all our products, not a good photographer, find out how much that will cost too.If we have an existing retail business,we need to reconcile our on and offline sales / stock.I read the similar article about offline marketing.

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    Comment by SiteLogic

    Hmm thats poor comment spam, as your site (maybe not yours) has some useful info Ill accept it, but plesae tone it down a bit in future

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    Comment by David Hopkins

    Not sure if my PR monitor is on the blink – but it looks like your PageRank has been axed. Any ideas?

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    Comment by SiteLogic

    Nope, it was ok earlier today… looks like it is 0 across all datacenters… one way or the other Google messed up… i dont sell links / spam etc… I will be pissed off if they kill my PR / traffic for no good reason….

    Comment by David Hopkins

    MY PR-o-metre is showing up N/A across the board. You still have your rankings though. Maybe you have been mistaken for an AdSense splog.

    I still have my PR for SEM Labs. They have booted me off though. Don’t come up on first 100 pages for SEM Labs.

    Comment by SiteLogic

    SERPs are ok and I still hold PR on pages within the site, it is just my root domain that is a problem… maybe it will sort itself out over the next couple of days…

    If Google cannot tell the difference between this site and a splog then they are in deep deep shit!


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