Taking Your Offline Business Online for the Holidays
by Lena Crossan © 2007, All Rights Reserved
You've read the headlines. You've seen the buzz. In 2004, holiday spending surged higher than anyone expected, reaching a total of $23.6 billion. 2005: U.S. shoppers spent a total of $30 billion online. 2006: One-day online sales records were crushed… twice… to the tune of $667 million. What will 2007 hold? Sources like Goldman Sachs & Co., Nielsen/NetRatings, Harris Interactive Inc., and ComScore aren't speculating just yet. If past years are any indication, however, you'd better have your merchant accounts and shopping carts revved up and ready to go!
Don't Leave Without Me!
For retailers who have been hem hawing about getting into the 'Net game, it's not too late. Like anything else, developing an ecommerce website *can* be a complicated venture, but it doesn't have to be. If you aren't sure you want to jump into the online scene with both feet just yet, test the waters.
It takes very little time to upload product photos and descriptions to a website. Make 2007 an experiment. Take your best-selling items and create an ecommerce site with limited inventory. With very little effort on your part, you can find out firsthand whether developing a full-fledged Internet sales site will be beneficial for your company. Here's what you'll need.
1) A Website - Most companies these days already have a site.
2) Product Photos - These can be obtained using a good digital camera, with the assistance of a professional photographer or oftentimes directly from the manufacturer (if you're a reseller).
3) Product Copy - Descriptions of your products need to be included to help visitors in making their decisions. You can hire a professional copywriter, write the descriptions yourself or ask the manufacturers if they have existing copy you can use.
4) Shopping Carts - Shopping carts are pieces of software that allow visitors to collect items as they shop. You've most likely used these while doing your own shopping online. Anytime you've clicked a button that says, "add to cart" or "add to basket" you've used a shopping cart. Without shopping carts, your customers would have to pay for one product at a time!
5) Merchant Accounts - In order for visitors to pay for their purchases using credit cards, your business must have a merchant account. Chances are you already have one. However, not all merchant accounts are created equal. A few special considerations must be met for offline merchant accounts to function in real time on the Internet, including the need for an Internet gateway.
What's It Going To Cost Me?
You'll find wide variations in pricing for everything mentioned. Web hosting can range from $5 a month to $50 a month for practically the same services. Shopping carts and merchant accounts are the same way. Don't base your decision on price alone. You'll be wise to compare all the aspects of these items. Go beyond functionality, too. Ask about service, reputation and setup assistance before making your decision.
That's pretty much it! With just these five elements in place, you can toss your hat into the Internet shopping ring and see how you do. What does this holiday season hold in store? Right now it's anybody's guess. One thing is certain, however. If you don't play, you can't win!
Lena Crossan is Marketing Manager of GoEmerchant.com that has offered affordable award-winning ecommerce services since 1995.
Discover their proven, innovative online shopping cart and other solutions today at http://www.GoEmerchant.com.