10 Keys To Success: Make Your Online Business Flourish

December 18, 2009 by Forrest Yingling
1.Create a user-friendly site.  Customers should be able to effortlessly find the product or service they are looking for.  You should have a search function on all pages of your store so shoppers can simply search your site to find what they are looking for regardless of the page they are currently on.  There should also be ways to easily browse your inventory by various, organized categories.  Merchants need to ensure that their site is organized and setup in a manner that makes shopping simple.    

2.Provide highly detailed product descriptions.  Since users cannot physically see the items you are selling, you need to provide them with high quality images that allow them to view the product at all angles.  Give your customers the ability to zoom in or rotate images to show items in their entirety.  Furthermore, the use of video is becoming increasingly popular in the e-commerce industry.  Video allows you to use audio to describe your products and/or services so shoppers do not have to spend as much time reading product details. 

3.Make sure your site is secure.  Site security is probably the most important thing on this list.  You need to protect yourself and your shoppers from hackers and thieves.  Identity theft and credit card fraud is big business nowadays.  You need to make your customers feel safe and comfortable with providing you with their credit card and confidential information.  You will need to ensure that you and your web host are compliant with the Payment Card Industry (PCI)  Furthermore, you need to have a shopping cart that is compliant with the PCI`s new PA-DSS and a valid SSL Certificate.  SSL Certificates encrypt credit card and private information and once you have a certificate installed, shoppers will see the closed padlock in the address bar of their browser.  Customers will not trust buying from your site unless they see that padlock because that is how they know that your site is safe and secure.  Keep in mind that not all shopping carts are PCI or PA-DSS compliant.  In fact, many are not.  Miva Merchant 5.5 is a shopping cart program that will be fully PA-DSS compliant by the July 2010 deadline.   

4.Provide user testimonials and reviews of your products and services.  Nothing will make shoppers want to buy from you more than positive reviews and testimonials about your store, products and service.  Having a review system in place makes customers feel like their opinion truly matters.   Shoppers like sites that are interactive and to feel like they are a part of things, especially in today`s web 2.0 landscape.  Potential customers will obviously trust the unbiased viewpoints and opinions of past customers more than what you say about yourself.  Seeing the opinions of your customers can also only help you in your marketing, sales and promotion strategies.

5.You need to have a fast site!  Let`s face it -- people shop online to save time.  Customers do not like slow sites.  You need to make sure that you are using a business web hosting provider that has fast servers and knows what they are doing.  Do not skimp on your web hosting plan by any means.  Ensure that the plan you choose provides adequate bandwidth for the amount of traffic your site receives and that your host can expand your plan as your site grows in popularity. Additionally, Google has announced that they will begin using site speed as a factor in determining page rank on their results pages. 

6.Conduct in-depth market research.  You can initiate marketing and promotions plans by checking out what your competition is up to.  Make sure you are providing your customers with competitive pricing by examining the prices of the same or similar items offered for sale by other retailers.  Research will also help you find your target demographic and figure out what their buying habits are so you can adjust your site accordingly.  Online consumers tend to shop around and buy from the cheapest and most repuatable site.  When shopping on the Internet, customers do not have to walk or drive to other stores – they can simply click their mouse a few times.  Your competition is merely clicks away.

7.Properly promote your products and site.  Make sure you are reaching your target demographic.  Use site statistics tools such as the free Google Analytics to aid in developing the proper marketing plans and to see what is and isn’t working.  You can reach out to shoppers via online coupon sites such as the Google Local Business Center.  Utilize Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategies to get to the top of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) including link building, directory marketing, social networking, article marketing, forum and blog posts and many other techniques.  Ensure that your website properly uses meta descriptions and tags to guarantee the correct indexing and ranking in the search engines.

8.Be upfront about shipping policies.  Hidden fees are frowned upon by shoppers and really turn people off.  When a customer purchases multiple items, you should offer reduced shipping rates.  This will make shoppers feel inclined to buy more and also to return to your store because they feel as though they are getting a bargain.  In addition, offer free shipping for orders over a certain price whenever possible. 

9.Clearly show which payment methods you accept on your home page.  To be truly successful, you need to accept all major credit cards (again, you will have to be PCI Compliant first).  Other popular payment methods include PayPal, Amazon Payments and Google Checkout.  The more options you offer your customers, the better.  Customers like variety.

10.Make a page devoted to discounted goods.  Many customers will be drawn to Clearance and Sale sections of online stores in the same manner that people look for these sections in traditional brick and mortar stores.  Be sure to highlight these sections and items in order to make them stand out.  Shoppers, especially in today’s economy, are searching high and low for any kind of deals they can find.

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