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“Rev Up Your Website Traffic: 10 Strategies you can master today”

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This PDF report is a revised version of Mark Beck's presentation at NJ Entreprenuer's Forum.

E-commerce for Catalog with Shopping Cart Sales

Customers appreciate the convenience of ordering online, and want to feel comfortable using an intuitive layout. Products should be easy to find, and well described. Shipping options and return policies should be easy to find and uncomplicated. On the World Wide Web, your visitors shop 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from across the street, across the country, and across the oceans — when your "brick and mortar" shop is closed and your phone will not get answered. They'll need enough information to complete their purchase without having to wait for someone to get back to them with an answer. On catalog websites, the more information you can provide about your products and services, the better.

Features that Benefit the Customer

Browse an organized catalog
The customer can elect to view items based on categories in the main navigation bar, or they can view items that are special promotions from the home page, or they can search by keywords.
View product descriptions and images
Descriptions and depictions get more detailed as the customer explores a product line, with enlarged and/or multiple views. Product options like colors and sizes can be selected where the selection may or may not alter the price.
Register to maintain a personal shopping cart
By registering with the web site, the customer can add items to a shopping cart for purchase at a later date. The system will remember the items in the cart, so the customer can return to find their shopping cart intact. Anyone who has placed an order in the past is automatically registered.
Send e-mails: tell-a-friend, ask about this product, contact form
Customers can discuss the purchase of an item by easily sending an email to a friend which includes a link back to the page of a product. Tell-a-Friend helps close the sale while promoting your web site. Other features allow the customer to send an email to the merchant with a question about a particular product, or the generic contact form can be used.
Post and read customer comments
Customers can comment on products in the catalog, and read what other customers have to say.
Select from multiple payment methods
Existing and new customers have the ability to purchase products via a web-based catalog and shopping cart and can pay with a major credit card, check or PayPal.
Select from multiple shipping methods and delivery times
The shopper can see actual shipping costs before they complete their purchase, and have the ability to select an option based on their preference for delivery speed vs. lower cost.
Track the progress of an order
Once an order is placed, the customer is notified of the progress of their order via email, and they can review their status directly at the web site by logging in to their account.
Find policy statements easily
The customer will need to be able to find and read your return, shipping, guarantee, and privacy policies prior to placing their order. They'll need detailed information, especially if they're electing to send the product to a different address as a gift.

Features that Benefit the Merchant

Update the catalog in-house
The merchant is provided with the means to add an unlimited quantity of new categories and products to the catalog in-house. The merchant can publish product photos, text descriptions, prices, sizes, colors, and shipping weights directly into the website catalog.
Upload images from vendor-supplied CD-ROMs or other images
Frequently, the merchant can obtain a CD-ROM of product images from the product manufacturer. When a CD-ROM of product photos is not available, photos taken by a professional photographer can be used and optimized for the web.
Promote specials by cross-selling, post a Top 10 product list, and offer coupons
Unique features promote your products. A list of the 10 most popular items can be displayed, or cross-selling features can be added.
Process payments via Internet merchant account or PayPal
In order to accept credit cards, the merchant must have either an Internet merchant account with a bank, or subscribe to a payment gateway service like PayPal. PayPal is an excellent choice for a start-up business since there are no monthly fees and transaction fees are low.
Specify carriers and delivery times
The merchant can specify how shipping will be charged. The software automatically connects to the United States Postal Service (USPS) and the United Parcel Service (UPS) servers via the Internet to determine cost based on weight, distance (comparing zipcodes) and speed of delivery. Alternatively, shipping can be free, a flat fee, or based on the number of items.
Select / limit destinations to US, Canada, or specific countries
The countries that you ship to are the countries that you decide to accept credit card payments from. You'll also want to select countries within the standard limits of the carrier services you elect to support.
Manage inventory
The merchant can enter in-stock quantities, and be notified by email when quantities fall below a certain threshold. On the catalog pages, the customer can see if a product is in-stock or out-of-stock. This feature is often used with discretion. It requires the "brick-and-mortar" shop owner to actively update the website inventory whenever a product is sold off the shelf. Many merchants forego the inventory feature.
Manage administrative records on customers and orders
The merchant can review up-to-the-minute reports on customer purchases, order flow, and edit the information or post comments on problems or special requests, as necessary.
Secure the transactions with an SSL certificate for Secure Socket Layer encryption
E-commerce web sites utilize an encryption standard known as the Secure Socket Layer (SSL). When a website visitor views an order form using this technology, the personal and credit card information entered into the form is encrypted before it is sent through the Internet to the web server. This technology protects the visitor's privacy from possible eavesdroppers. Once the data is received by the payment gateway service or the bank's web server, it is encrypted once again for storage by these services for their own safekeeping. Plain text credit card data is not stored on your website, helping protect you from liability.
Post shipping and return policies, guarantees
Carefully thought out policies that are well-worded and easily found by your customers will reduce the number of returned purchases, and reduce the merchant's staff time spent resolving issues, while improving customer satisfaction.