January  2005      Vol. 14, No. 1  REAP HOME PAGE  A publication of the Center for Rural Affairs    
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Simple Guides for Transacting Online Sales
Placing your business on the Internet means youíre always open, always available

You donít have to be as big as Barnes & Noble or Best Buy to make sales on the Internet. All you need is an order form page on your site and the ability to accept credit cards.

Obviously, that page should be secure and you should be able to accept four common cards Ė Visa, MasterCard, AMEX, and Discover. Check with your merchant service provider to see if you can link a charge on your website directly to them. Otherwise just do the charge separately offline and send them a receipt. Or, if the customer doesnít want to use a credit card online, let them order, then mail a check.

A simple menu of products is enough for a small business to get started with. Usually your best sellers will get the most attention. Donít offer too many items that can cause confusion and backorders. If they request additional products (have an email link), you can mail your catalog or product literature.

Donít make them search for prices; put them next to the item. And to put your potential customer at ease, state your guarantee early and often. Some people still feel that buying on the net is a risk, and you donít want them worrying about that on your site. Have an easy return and exchange policy and make it easy to find.

Since your customer will be doing some of the work that your customer service person would do on the phone, why not offer a small discount if their order is over $xxx. You can also offer free shipping on larger orders as an extra incentive.

But whether itís free or not, always try to ship their orders as quickly as possible. They will appreciate it and youíll be one step closer to the next order. And itís always good to provide a toll-free number so they can ask questions and check on an order. Email is okay, but some people want to talk to a real person.

By providing quality, security, service, and speedy delivery, you can add some extra sales to your business. Also keep their email address to send occasional special offers. And remember, your online store is open 24/7.

Source: Barry Thomsen, Publisher/Editor, Small Business Marketing Idea-Letter, December 2004
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