Friday, August 29, 2008

Running an online retail store is harder then it looks

At first when you look at it it seems easy enough. But when you get right down to it there is a lot of work involved. When you get started you have to decide between building a site, renting a site or shopping cart by the month. Both require some time and work to find out what is best for you in the short term and long term. Once you have you decided and things are set up the real work starts.

Unless you have a limited product line there is going to be a lot of work put into getting product into your shopping cart. It is not just a matter of slapping a picture on and the products name and price. No each product is really a mini add and should be treated as such. What information you have in the description and title are what is going to be used by search engines to find your product. Then the description that shows up under your link is what people are going to use to decide to look at your product. The competition starts way before people see your product. You are competing with millions for each view. Please note that was view not buy. Just because you get someone to view your product does not mean they are going to buy from you.

The idea is to market your product online with a description and key words that will attract the people interested in your product. There is no point in using key words or descriptions that will bring lots of people to your site, but only a few of them are people interested in your product. You want to focus on your target market and attract them to your website or online store hoping that once they are there they will buy something. These means you have to think about what you put into the description and title of your products. What key words will your target market be using to find the product? Are they in your description or title? Once it come up in a search will your description stand out from all the others? Will it attract your target market to your site?

So now you put some time into reaching your target market and they click onto your product, what will get them to buy? There are a million and one other web site’s selling the same or similar items, why should they buy from you? What are they going to see first your product or home page? If they are searching for a product your link should open to the product. So how you have your shopping cart set up is going to give people their first impression of your company. How it looks is going to influence people to buy or not buy. Other things that will influence people to buy or not buy are your prices for the product, product image or picture, shipping costs, shipping options, return policies, where you are located, overall appearance of site; feed back from other customers, your home page, about us page and any other information you provide. How much information you provide or don’t provide will help people decide if they want to do business with you and not the other million sites.

At all points of contact with potential customers you need to be marketing your company, store and product. This is from the fist search people use to find you, to how easy it is to use the check out to buy and pay for your product and how the product was shipped. Even how the product was packaged can influence a repeat buy or not. Once you have a customer you need to do everything you can to keep them. Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool out there. Once you have a customer keep them happy and hope they tell everyone about you. But first you have to get that customer, and that is not always easy to do no matter how great your product, prices and company are. It is not just a matter of putting your product out and having it available to buy. You have to put a lot of time and some times money into marketing your product, store and company even after you start making sales. The marketing never ends because there are new online stores showing up and you have to compete with them and any local stores that can and will sell to your customers. In other words the work never ends if you want to keep brining in customers and making sales.

So if you are thinking about opening up an online store because it is easy money, think again. You only get out of it what you put into it. If you plan to put product out and sit back and wait for the sales to come in, save your money and find something else to do. There is no easy money to be found on the Internet anymore, it is a highly competitive market that is becoming more competitive everyday.

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