E Commerce advice/help guidance

  geoff47 00:13 12 May 2005

My wife and I have a small shop dealing in Afro Hair and cosmetics,to try and boost our income I have been building a site to both promote the shop and to sell by mailorder the products we stock.
To this end I have contacted our supplier to ask if they could provide graphics for the site in return for exclusively using their products,they have replied in the affirmative,and I am to contact them soonest to proceed.
I am looking for advice from the Professionals in the forum the best way to go.
This a new area for me,I am new to any sort of commerce,let alone E commerce.I have spent the best part of my working life at the workbench,but see this as a challenge,and necessary for the business's survival.
Are there any pitfalls I should avoid? Any things I must do? Any general overall guidance that might help would be most appreciated.
I would also welcome any cautionary advice as to the success such a venture might yield,the relative set up costs to expected income.
In fact any advice and help would be welcome.
I thank you all in advance.
Here is the present site,which would need to be expanded(this is still in its infant stage)
click here
Thanks again for any critical advice and encouragement.

  Forum Editor 00:51 12 May 2005

that we've seen your site before - it's looking good.

There are certainly plenty of pitfalls for the unwary where e-commerce is concerned, but get it right and the rewards can be substantial. This isn't the place for a full discourse on the subject (I could write thousands of words), but here are a few of the more important factors to consider before you start:-

1. Research the competition. There are few businesses which can claim to be unique, and it's well worth taking a look at others who are already doing the same thing. If a search doesn't produce any returns you know that you're likely to do very well, provided you are selling something that people want.

2. Make sure that you are prepared to cope with a large demand if it comes. Many small businesses have been swamped by the volume of orders that can come via a website, and there's nothing that's destined to bring things to a grinding halt more than the inability to keep pace with demand. Think about the logistics of packing and despatching orders to the four corners of the globe, and remember that people tend to see internet shopping as instant shopping - the internet is no place for 28 day delivery delays.

3. Make decisions about the way that you'll handle the money. Everyone expects to pay for internet purchases by credit card, and unless you have an online merchant agreement with the card providers you'll need to think about a third-party card payment processor.
click here for more information about all that.

4. Acquaint yourself with the terms of relevant consumer legislation. Nowadays online shoppers are extremely well-protected by the law, and you need to know about that. You'll have to comply, both in terms of your site's content, and your pre and post-sale services. Don't take shortcuts here - the penalties for non-compliance can be severe.

5. From April this year there have been some changes in the rules applying to online sales. You must provide:-

a)your VAT number (if you have one)

b)details of membership of any professional organisations.

c) an acknowledgement of each order.

d) an opportunity for customers to correct orders before they are completed.

6. If you plan to collect and store customers' personal data (and most online businesses do), you must provide an online privacy statement, setting out your policy with regard to data-protection. If you plan to use the data for any purpose other than plain storage (process it) you must register as a data controller with the UK Information Commissioner.

There are other factors to consider, but those are the main ones. Netobjects Fusion, which you've used to build your site, has e-commerce packages available at relatively low cost, and I suggest that you investigate these first. In NOF version 8 you access these details via the opening page - just log in via your NOF control panel.

  PurplePenny 12:17 12 May 2005

Trading Standards produce a very useful checklist for e-commerce sites. As FE says there are a lot of rules about online selling and this checklist puts them all into a nutshell for you. click here
Good luck with it.

PS What! No purple braids?

  quack 12:48 12 May 2005

Having recently been approached by a small business to set up an e-commerce for them and having already gone the routes suggested by FE and Purple Penny I would say that their advice is very sound and worth following.

  fly2hi 21:25 12 May 2005

Wise words from FE. Be sure you have everything in place and working before launching on-line ordering. Even with 30 years retail behind me, I would still take a long hard look at our systems before going online with them, totally different ball game to ssshop sales.
Justa thought...'about us' you mention 'making a profit'. Joe Bloggs doesn't expect you to make a profit in retail, he assumes you are working for nothing and if he sees any profit element, will always ask for a discount. Better to tell them you have an alternative income stream and this as a non profit labour of love.

  geoff47 00:08 13 May 2005

This site has been invaluable over so many things since I have been visiting it,and this time I will take the advice from people who obviously know the ropes.
I have taken a look at the links and can,as a customer recognise the need for the safety features(Read my experience here....
click here
A lot is common sense and good business practice,assuring the customer that you actually exist in real premises,acknowledge and confirm orders are correct etc.
The personal data and chargeback is a little frightening to the unintitiated,but every shop has awkward customers,so why not E commerce?

I would try to ensure everything was working before launching.That is why I have worked on the present site,where it is,in a quiet back water.

Appreciate the "it's looking good" comment,and the information,most encouraging.Would there be a fear of a deluge of orders? I will keep my fingers crossed for that.

Thanks for the link and the good wishes.I will study and take heed.
I could do you a good deal on pink,yellow,orange,green, blue,and white braids,could get back to you on the purple,or you could always change your monicker.

Thanks so much for the help....watch this space.

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