Read Part 1: Ecommerce Made Simple
[tweetmeme]Importing many products into the system
If your online store will have hundreds or thousands of products, using a spreadsheet to create a product file is another way to add product information, pricing, descriptions, SKU numbers and more to initially populate the database.
If your website will offer thousands of products, it may take some time to prepare all the content for importing. One approach is to initially offer a few items in each category then to come back later and add more products after the website has been launched.
If you are using an internal inventory system, it may be possible to export a spreadsheet with most of the information for your products into a spreadsheet. Basic product descriptions may need to be embellished so that your descriptions more user friendly.
Once your spreadsheet has been completed, the product spreadsheet is imported into the ecommerce system. Product images can also be imported as a group with most ecommerce systems.
Configuring your ecommerce system
Ecommerce systems will need a number of configurations in order to know what email addresses to send notifications to, what your sales tax rate is, what shipping options you will offer, and more.
While most ecommerce systems use “generic” notification emails, in some case you may want to modify your email messages from the system with special instructions.
Once all configuration has been completed, your settings should remain in effect for some time.
Testing your eCommerce system
It is always a good idea to make a number of test purchases through the system to get a know exactly what email notifications are sent out to the customer, and to also learn how to process orders and to get familiar with the administration area of your website.
Website testing before “launching” the website with several staff members or friends is also a good idea. Most ecommerce systems will allow you temporarily turn off your payment gateway so the system will accept orders, but not charge any credit card orders.
When you are ready to go live with your website, make at least one or two purchases to confirm that your payment gateway is in fact working as it should.
Keeping customers happy
While your ecommerce website may be new and your website staff may be limited, keep in in mind that many internet users have been buying online for years and that very large ecommerce websites like Amazon.com will set customer expectations.
Most customers will expect the checkout process to be smooth and customers expect to receive notifications about the order processing and shipment in a timely manner, especially if this is their first experience buying from your website.
Working with an ecommerce specialist
While it may be tempting to try and create your ecommerce website yourself, keep in mind that by working with someone who has experience with ecommerce can help get your website up and running quickly, and can help you avoid technical issues which can slow down or derail a do-it-yourself website project.
Be sure to get several proposals for your project and to check out the references of any website company you are considering working with. While reviewing proposals may be time consuming, knowing what each potential ecommerce partner will utilize for the website application, the time line, hosting and other issues before you sign a proposal is time well spent.
Keep in mind that the lowest proposal price may not yield the best website. Be sure to ask questions and make sure you look at some example ecommerce websites before you commit to a website project with a vendor.
Keep customers coming back
Many websites will sign up customers with an opt-in newsletter or agreement to receive offers and promotions. This is a great feature to use and when combined with discount coupons and other offers, you can offer incentives for your customers to return to your website again and again.
Most internet products fall into two categories: 1) products needed for running a business such as ink jet cartridges, computer-related and office equipment, etc., and 2) gifts, books and personal items that are nice to have, but not seen as necessary.
Often, a customer will be looking for a replacement item or product you offer and will find your website from searching with Google or Yahoo, or perhaps by way of advertising. If you offer a product or service that many other companies offer, your customer may be shopping for the lowest price or may have chosen you from many other vendors randomly.
The challenge is to offer a great value, and to get your new customer return again and again. This can be done by offering coupons, specials or promotions, so that a first-time customer can become a customer for life.
About the Author
Vann Baker, President of Design-First is a website designer who has been creating websites for small businesses since 1995, from small corporate websites to large ecommerce, social network and informational websites using content management systems. For more information on creating a successful commerce website and more, go to Design-First.com/ecommerce