Jan 18, 2012

E-Commerce Is Real Business

If you’re new to the universe of E-commerce, there’s a Big Secret that you need to know. The night before you launch your E-commerce website, a squad of specially trained gremlins will break into your office and steal your Easy Button. It doesn’t matter where you hide it, how much you paid for it or what time you plan to launch the new site. You’ll start looking for the Easy Button that first day, and It. Will. Be. Gone.

Sorry, but it’s true. If your brother-in-law, who owns that custom tire valve stem website, has told you E-commerce is easy, then he’s having some fun at your expense. Maybe, as you suspect, he really doesn’t like you at all. Or perhaps, as you also suspect, he’s not the sharpest tool in the shed and his business is going down the tubes.

There’s no way around it: E-commerce is real business, and succeeding at real business takes hard work. Unlike the owner of a bricks-and-mortar storefront, you may not have to worry about the color of interior paint in the showroom or what the fire inspector might find hidden above your drop ceiling. But your E-commerce website isn’t going to run itself.

Customer service, order handling, inventory management, payment tracking, product delivery and returns: these are all issues E-commerce has in common with storefront retail. In addition, you’ve got to wrestle with the remote nature of your business relationship with your customers. Shipping can be a major headache if you don’t pay attention to it from the very start. Customer service requires more time and concentration because your customers aren’t standing in front of you; in fact, they may be thousands of miles distant. If you choose to use a third-party service for order fulfillment — a drop-shipper or pick-and-pack company — then you have an additional, mission critical relationship to maintain.

But, wait, there’s one more thing.

Long before your E-commerce website launches, you need to start planning (and budgeting) for all of the methods you’ll use to attract customers. Promotions and advertising should be parts of the plan, but the most important item to consider is the site’s search visibility. The SEO process begins the day you start planning the website — and it never ends. In many respects, promoting an E-commerce store takes more work than promoting a “normal” business. Your search engine results aren’t competing just against other local merchants; they’re competing against everybody on the Internet who wants to sell to the same market.

Sounds like a lot of work? Yep. That’s why there’s no Easy Button for E-commerce.

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