Cashing in on the Internet: Part 3 - The e-commerce website

We've all heard the famous movie line "if you build it, they will come." But the same cannot be same about a website. That is why there are businesses that help stores design better websites that are aimed to increase sales.

Studies show that when a visitor hits a website, they decide within eight seconds if they are going to move on or stay and shop. The means the website's design is key!

Every day, a little store in Lakeville sells thousands of orders through a well-known website. The orders are sent out through the distribution center in Buchanan, Michigan. Orders are sent to cities all over the country.

When The Working Person's Store started a store on the web, sales were steady. Consultants at Avid Commerce were hired on in 2004, and since then, sales have gone up by 800 percent.

Stephen Antisdel

"It's amazing when you look at the little store in Lakeville and then realize it's become the industry leader specific to that niche industry," says Avid Commerce Managing Director Stephen Antisdel.

Avid redesigned the website to improve its credibility and usability among visitors.

"It's hard to have someone get to a site and convey all that information. Visually -- first of all -- they're probably not going to read as much as they're just scanning and getting an emotional read," says Antisdel.

Avid also worked to put The Working Person's Store on page one of search engine result listings.

"The main search engines are the way most people are shopping. It's the equivalent of 'location, location, location' if you're in a real retail store," he explains.

Overall, having a business that helps other businesses thrive online can be quite profitable.

Shawna Fennell

Shawna Fennell learned she could make more money helping others make money online. Her husband took over the 12 Yahoo stores she had been running, and she started a Yahoo store design business.

"I'm really enjoying helping other people, and that's how this entire thing got started," says Fennell.

Her business "1 Choice 4 Your Store" aims to help other stores double or triple their sales. She works to train other store owners on how to build better websites.

"The beauty of it is I take somebody who is a stay-at-home mom like myself -- she's got an itty bitty tiny store. The next year she calls me and tells me she has her first employee," boasts Fennell.

But success doesn't come easy.

Both of these business owners will say e-commerce isn't for every business. It takes a lot of work. A business needs to have a product they can market that will stand out in a World Wide Web market.

"To mount a serious e-commerce initiative where you are going to try and serve America or a larger market segment, there has to be some kind of a competitive advantage," says Antisdel.

"What most people don't realize is they think that they are going to open up that store and they're going to get a hundred-thousand dollars a month in sales and they are going to sit back and it's going to be easy… and that's not the case," agrees Fennell.

Some businesses, especially local ones, are best served by just putting store information on the internet, but not selling items.

That way stores can still drive traffic to their retail location but not waste their resources maintaining a website.

Links to websites discussed in this story:

AVID Commerce
The Working Person's Store
1 Choice 4 Your Store

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