For someone with an entrepreneurial spirit, the Internet is a lucrative marketplace. The Internet is opportunity. It’s a digital universe where people from all over the world communicate, learn, share information, create conversation, start movements and buy things. Consumers are online. They’re on their mobile phones, tablets, Facebook and Twitter. If you have something to sell with joint ambition, then why not start an eCommerce site?
Mashable.com reported a Forrester 2012 study found online retail sales in the U.S. projected to “reach $327 billion by 2016.” Judging by the growth in online shopping, 56 percent of the population is estimated to purchase online by 2016. The study also foresees that annual online spending will escalate from $1,207 in 2011 to $1,738, on average, per person. With a prediction this fruitful, the prospect of starting an online business probably makes your heart race.
Expectations for Building Your eCommerce Site
Before you hurriedly buy Web hosting services and add your products to shopping cart software, consider the costs and risks. First, you’ll need the right resources to securely and correctly execute an eCommerce website. Your website will be a time-consuming and financial investment, and you’ll need to purchase the following:
- Domain name
- Hosting services, shopping cart and merchant account
- Website template and design (visually pleasing, easy navigation)
- Security settings (virus protection, customer trust and protection from payment fraud)
- Address verifier software (address validation for customer analysis and marketing solutions)
In addition to purchasing the basic elements that make up the skeleton of your website, you’ll need to invest in marketing strategies. Products must be visible online, which is why search engine optimization is so paramount. Think about goals such as excellent search engine rankings, user experiences, conversion rates and sales leads. In addition to SEO, identify marketing techniques, such as promotional emails, newsletters, social networking, link building campaigns, sweepstakes and good content.
Risk Mitigation for eCommerce Sites
Eliminating potential disasters such as a breach of customer information, hacker threats and cyber attacks protects your business, hardware and software. Reduce the risks of IT failure by developing a solid strategy that includes backup plans and disaster recovery. Ask the Web provider about uptime and operational availability during site issues. Know how to respond to customers if your site goes down indefinitely. You’ll also want to secure the scalability of your site. Ensure that your site has the capabilities to handle sudden spikes in traffic and increased sales. Your site should also have real-time, reliable monitoring to prepare for varying levels of traffic.
TransactionAge.com also offers the following recommendations to avoid eCommerce calamities:
- Provide clear information regarding the policies about privacy, information, shipping, billing and refunds for your customers.
- Comply with the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council standards.
- Install encryption software to protect the shopping card system and sensitive financial data.
- Understand liabilities for compromised card data and fraudulent transactions.
When you’re making an investment that puts your commercial integrity, equipment, time and money on the line, knowledge and preparation is essential. If you’re on the precipice of excitedly joining the online retail market, first exert your ambitious energy into strategic planning and secure solutions to prevent potential problems.
Mark Hooper: Ex-football player Mark is the proud owner of an athletic store that supplies uniforms and equipment for the local schools in his town. He loves to share his tips and ideas for business success with other entrepreneurs and small business owners.