Building a Home Based Internet Businesses
ProHealthcareProducts.com E-Commerce Store
How to Build an Internet E-Commerce Business
After nine years of building multiple legitimate internet businesses, I'd like to share with the Hub Pages community some insights about how to do it. This hub page deals mostly with internet businesses in which a physical product is sold, but there are obviously many other possibilities for making a career out of online ventures. Hopefully at least some of this information is useful to you whether you're selling a physical product or not.
Think about an online store as a sales tool to turn over a manufacturer's inventory and make money in the process. You can take out a lot of the risk involved in making and distributing products by selling other people's products that you don't stock. Using this strategy, you're not buying thousands of dollars of inventory in hopes that you can sell it. Instead, you're selling the inventory before you buy it.
Once you've figured out how to get tons of traffic to your site, you may decide to stock products for one reason or another - maybe you want to keep the most popular items available, or you get discounts from suppliers for buying larger quantities. But at the beginning, it is often most practical to set yourself up as essentially an advertiser of products who provides customer support and order fulfillment for your customers. Your business becomes a sales office, per se.
These are the to-do items that you need to think about when building an online e-commerce store. They are not listed in chronological order, necessarily. In fact, you will work on many of them simultaneously, with the perspective that many of the tasks are processes.
1) Find something to sell: Most manufacturers want to turn over their inventory. The value add that you'll provide to them exists in your ability (which you're going to develop) to rank highly in the search engines for keyword terms related to their products, and help them make a profit while you do the same.
2) Set up a web site: If you don't have a technical background, it's not a deal killer. You do need to have an open mind to learning and experimenting, likely even becoming a more technical person than you've been in the past. You can host your site on a web server for as low as $8.00 per month and use a free shopping cart system like Zen Cart, Magento, or OsCommerce. It may be simpler for you to set up your online store using something like Yahoo Stores. Whichever route you choose to go, you need to set up an online store that can accept credit cards and other payment methods. It should look professional, and it should be search engine friendly.
3) Get a merchant account: You'll need to have a way to process credit cards. You can set up a merchant account with PayPal, or you can use one of the hundreds of others out there. Costco has a business partnership with Elavon and gives very good rates on credit card processing. I've heard good things about PayPal's merchant account too. Although their discount rate (the percentage you are charged by them to process credit cards) starts out high, as you do more volume, the fees per transaction decrease significantly.
3) Market your web site: This part of the equation is often the hardest for many people I've worked with. You can advertise your business using Pay-Per-Click programs such as Google's Adwords. I've made my living doing search engine optimization (SEO), which involves getting links to your web site from related web sites using keyword terms that you want to rank highly for. For instance, if you are selling safety harnesses, getting a link from the OSHA web site to yours using the link text "safety harnesses" would go a long way in moving your safety harnesses page up to the top of the search rankings. An important thing to remember is that unless you have unlimited time and/or money, improvements to your web site's position will be incremental. If you follow the steps outlined by many of the online SEO blogs and news groups (I subscribe to Web Pro News and many others), you will see consistent improvement in the amount of traffic that comes to your web site, which leads to increased sales.
Those are the major steps involved in becoming an independent internet business owner. My wife and I were able to build a sporting goods business from scratch and within five years we'd made more than $1 Million when we sold it. I'll admit that it was a lot of hard work, but there's no reason you can't do the same thing if you're willing to learn and put forth the effort.
Zen Cart Store Example: ProHealthcareProducts.com
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