As I’m struggling with this whole Internet thing, I asked my readers for input on my websites and what I’m doing wrong in regards to them. Well, apparently I’m doing everything wrong! But, I’m bound and determined to get this thing right which is why I asked for input.
I’m adamant that 100% of the websites be built in-house so as to retain control of how long it takes content to be posted on or deleted from my websites. I don’t want to wait 5 days for my computer geek dude to get around to calling me back only to tell me it’s going to be three weeks before he can even think about my problem. I’m a fix-it guy and I want to fix it or update it on MY schedule, not his. So below are excerpts and comments that I received about what I’m doing wrong… and what you’re probably doing wrong as well! Reader feedback and comments are in italics and edited for publishing reasons, but I think you’ll get the point.
So Chuck, why do you even have a website? In other words, what is its purpose?
You have a successful brick and mortar store and need one so you’re not left behind by everyone else (not a very good reason), or I wanted one for when someone “Googles” my store’s name (slightly better reason) or I wanted a website to be an extension of my store’s operation, perhaps to make some sales and enhance my business (much better reason) or I wanted to become a real player in the e-commerce, niche market space where I want to operate (the best reason).
For the record, I need a little bit of all of the above, but it’s the last one that I’m really interested in!
Informational websites abound all over the Internet! We’ve all seen them and been disappointed. We went to a company’s website and found it was nothing of real substance aside from the usual who, what, when, where and why of the company. It had some founding history, mission statement, contact information, Google map directions and store hours. It was flashy, slick and using the latest trends in websites such as rotating images, splash screens, embedded videos and all the bells & whistles you could imagine. Very creative!
Unfortunately we have to contact them during business hours to be able to ask any questions, inquire about products or conduct any business. Oh well, time to move on to a competitor most likely. If an informational website is what you have, that’s pretty much the response you’re likely to get from most customers that come to your website outside of your normal business hours looking for solutions to problems, answers to questions, or products and services to buy.
There are many good, free webhost providers out there. You mentioned Weebly.com as the one you used to develop and host your site. They do seem to have all the necessary components to develop an attractive informational website with a number of professional templates to choose from, with one glaring exception…an e-commerce solution!! Now we’re talking a full shopping cart system and not just some PayPal ‘Buy Now’ buttons.
Oops, this is where I goofed because my entire umbrella of websites are built on the Weebly platform. I really like Weebly, but if it doesn’t do e-commerce, then I’m starting over. I want to do e-commerce and I guess I didn’t really understand the full blown shopping cart system when I started. I hate it when that happens!
E-commerce websites abound all over the Internet, too!! If you’re serious about making money from a website and not just spending money on a website, then an e-commerce solution is what you need.
Unfortunately, not all e-commerce websites are equal. The most successful one’s (Amazon.com, eBay, Overstock.com, etc.) all spend a great deal of time, money and resources to create the near perfect online shopping. Well, you might never get to be another Amazon.com but you are in the same cyberspace as they are, so why not? We can all probably remember when they didn’t even exist! Everyone has to start out from the bottom and work their way up. The two most important virtues in the e-commerce cyberspace universe are patience and perseverance.
Realistically, most e-commerce websites are not successful because of many factors. Most suffer from little or low traffic flow. Generally, this is because of poor organic search engine listing and/or no pay-per-click advertising. It takes a combination of both of these to be successful in cyberspace.
A reader asked me who was bigger, my company or Amazon.com? Of course I said Amazon. Then they pointed out that on a computer screen we’re the exact same size. So I’ve as good a shot at making a sale as they do in cyberspace. And ‘pay-per-click’ came up over and over and over again. I don’t really understand it yet, but give me a month or so and I’m gonna be pay-per-clicking with the best of them.
You don’t have to be Amazon.com to be successful. Success can be measured in many different ways (review your purpose for having a website again), but an e-commerce website is successful when it fulfills the purpose for its existence which generally means it offers customers products and/or services they want or need with a variety of payment and shipping options from which to choose so you can accept sales online and make money. A well designed and effective e-commerce website should function with little customer/company interaction which means you have to anticipate your customers questions and/or concerns and address them with large, clear images, detailed descriptions of products or services and customer service information (such as contact, warranty and return info, etc.).
Remember, an e-commerce website is 24/7. Unlike your brick & mortar store where you can turn out the lights, lock-up and go home at the end of the day, an e-commerce website never closes so it must project whatever image and deliver whatever experience you want customers to have. Since an e-commerce website is always open it better be rock solid and bullet proof!
Well, I’ve come to the conclusion that I need a mixed bag of websites. I’ve got a couple that are nothing more than ‘I’m right here… call me’. But I have two different companies that I set up to be fully online entities. So, I’m not starting completely from scratch, but I am stepping back and punting on two websites and switching to a different hosting platform that’s designed to be a full blown e-commerce site.
I got into this business decades before the Internet was even thought of, and it’s just something that doesn’t come naturally to me. I can use the Internet with the best of them, but running an Internet store is a whole nuther animal. Oh, and have I ever mentioned how much I hate learning new things?
Oh well, wish me luck and I’ll keep you posted as I struggle to get a handle on this thing that didn’t exist when I got into this business, but I’m gonna kick it’s butt before it kicks mine.
Chuck is the owner of Anthony Jewelers in Nashville, TN. Chuck also owns CMK Co., a wholesale trade shop that specializes in custom jewelry and repair services to the jewelry industry nationwide.