Sunday, January 1, 2012

Considering An E-Commerce Website?

Our company builds websites, blogs and do a lot of social media and other aspects of Internet marketing for a wide variety of clients. Some of our clients are in new businesses and many think they want e-commerce websites with a shopping cart. It is this idea that I want to discuss here.

Many clients have a fantasy that they will get an e-commerce website and people will find them and buy products because they have a website where it is possible to do that. They don't think about the aspect of a teaspoon out of Lake Tahoe, but that is just about what one website is to the traffic on the Internet. Getting found is a challenge even when you pay for the privilege buy advertising or buying keywords and other search engine enhancements.

E-commerce websites are all well and good if you have unique items or a unique way your product is presented, and offer your products at a fair and desirable price, have some kind of following already built up and are willing to spend the money to consistently over a long period of time, to effectively promote the site.

Supply and demand is always relevant in business. When demand is low and supply is high, this is not conducive to sales. This is a buyers market. When demand is high and supply is low, sales are great and the only problem is finding enough to meet the demand. This is a sellers market. There are hundreds of points between these two extremes.

Starting out selling a common product is a challenge because the supply is most likely higher than the demand. The more unique the product, the better the opportunity in the short term.

Let's look at some examples. Maybe you want to sell t-shirts with some kind of artwork and/or sayings, and you have quality materials. T-shirts are extremely popular and have been for decades and most likely that will continue. Because there is a demand, there are thousands and thousands of companies large and small making and selling t-shirts of this kind. Putting up an e-commerce site won't do much in a short period of time to affect the sales of t-shirts. Even if they are unique, the supply is higher than the demand.

This doesn't mean it can't be done, but that it will take some long-term strategies. We must build traffic to the site and also the kind of traffic that wants to buy t-shirts.

Consider the audience you are speaking to via your website. You might only average a few page views a week to begin with and after a year of promoting might only have a small yet growing number. It may take a good deal of time and marketing to get significant traffic to your site.

Maybe you have a consignment shop and you want to sell on your website. You obviously have unique items, but the demand is nowhere near the supply, for there are tens of thousands of these kind of shops selling similar; albeit, also unique products. This again, will require a well thought out strategy for marketing and a long-term commitment to the process of growing it.

There are monthly ongoing expenses having a shopping cart and merchant account, along with marketing expenses and other expenses, so funds can drain down quickly. It will likely be a long time before you can get on the right side in profitability.

Once you publish your website, you are immediately open to the entire world to see your site. But are they looking? New sites take time to get exposed to most of the traffic and building traffic is not something that is short-term.

Ask yourself some questions to plan your strategy: Why would someone want to buy my product? What would they be willing to pay for it? How might they find my product? What is the market like? How many sell similar items and what do they sell them for? What will set your product apart from others? What will set the buying experience apart from others? Do I need to do discount or sale marketing to encourage sales? What do my current customers say about my product? Are they satisfied, enthusiastic, thrilled? How do they feel about my pricing, service, delivery? What margins do I need to make a profit? What volume do I need to make a profit?

For many, what might work better than an e-commerce website is to make use of an online store at a place such as By doing this, you have immediate access to millions of buyers that are on this site looking for something they might want or need. You're not on the Internet sea in a rowboat, but have much larger boat to navigate e-commerce with. In addition, you have built in tools and options to help make it effective and profitable.

I have a lot of experience selling small items ranging from $1 to $1,500 on eBay for a period of many years in a part time venue, and I can speak to the opportunity of this method of doing an e-commerce site. In fact, I think that in the majority of the new business clients, this method would be far more effective in the short and longer term.

Some of the advantages of this method, in my opinion, would be the fact that you are marketing to millions and have an opportunity to share in that traffic and try to appeal to those seeking your products. Though there is competition, and sometimes significant price competition, don't let seemingly low prices shake you because there are some ways around this by how you display and discuss your items.

Other advantages are low cost. This store has a very small overhead. Even if you have a brick and mortar store, and just want to expand your sales via the Internet, this is a wonderful way to do it inexpensively.

You get to take advantage of the marketing that eBay does to drive traffic to its own site. You also get to take advantage of their own long-term commitment in building their business and directing potential buyers to your store. They are also always upgrading and being the best they can be because they are themselves competing in the marketplace for potential buyers of products.

Now, eBay is only one venue. There are many such sites, such as, and many others, but I have loved using eBay and think it is an excellent choice.

By doing this you will learn better how to market your products. There are many different ways to market on eBay, so you will have a lot of flexibility and opportunity to learn quickly. As your success increases, you can then add your own e-commerce site should you still want to do that, but you will have grown greatly in the process.

In many cases, we recommend having a standard website and do e-commerce through other online avenues such as eBay. This is a perfect addition to our very effective Trend Setter Package (

-- Terry Minion

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