By Joanna Fletcher
Although many people have successfully bought and sold items from Web sites such as Amazon or Ebay, there is still a hurdle for small businesspeople to overcome when selling online. Consumers need to trust that their personal information, especially credit card details, are in good hands, before they will even consider buying from someone they have never met.
Your Web site needs to be stable across all platforms, as easy to view on an old PC as the latest Blackberry and reasonably easy on the eye. Keep it simple; the most important thing is that it works, there are no 404 errors (page not found) and no broken links. It is better to leave a page out than to include one that says “under construction.”
Getting your customers to write about their experiences with you and your products can be a chore, but it is the one thing that proves that you do a good job and can be trusted to deliver. Include your best testimonial high on your home page and watch your conversions rise.
There are hundreds of Web sites selling copywriting “secrets” or templates that have “proven” sales results. The style of English used in the sales manuals is instantly recognizable to most people and can lead them to believe that the business is a get-rich-quick scheme. Small businesses are likely to have more success with words and pictures that come from the person behind the product. If English is not your strong point, use an editor or a ghostwriter who can produce good copy that retains the spirit behind your words.
Try to boost your virtual profile so that there are multiple mentions of you in places other than your business Web site. Contribute to online forums, get your Web site listed in paper and Web directories, and generally be active on the Internet above and beyond your commercial site. People who see you are not only interested in money will find it easier to part with their own.
Using one of the well-known Internet brand names such as PayPal will show people that you are simply selling them your product rather than collecting their information for other purposes. Go to Web sites that you are comfortable doing business with and see which companies they trust to handle their ecommerce. This is one area in which it is worth paying a professional rather than attempting to do it yourself.
Online certifications provided by McAfee and other Web security specialists show that you have done your homework and you are concerned about your customers’ comfort and privacy. They make you appear more professional and established. It may take some investment, but it is worth the effort. You may also want to include a link to a privacy statement that spells out your policy on using people’s information.
Joanna Fletcher is a netizen who has lived, worked, and played in virtual space for most of her life. Her entrepreneurial flair is topped only by her tolerance for failure.