E-commerce continues to grow fast despite some very public failures. If you have a merchant account with a credit card company you can build your own e-commerce site. Software programs for doing this are now under $US 100, but they are not complete solutions, giving you only templates to build a site.
I personally highly recommended CCNOW . I have used them for some time now and am very happy with their services. They are excellent for small businesses without merchant accounts.
A very important part of e-commerce is fulfillment, the prompt, friendly, inexpensive shipment of products sold. Privacy and return policies should be posted and the commitments met.
Creating Stores on the Web by Joe Cataudella, Dave Greely & Ben Sawyer
Growing your site
Electronic newsletters, like bEad-Mail are potent tools. With a good (and now free) email program like Eudora you can send out thousands in a few minutes. There are also people who will help you manage a newsletter and mail them.
Newsletters inform your visitors and keep a high profile for your site. Some hints. 1.) Make them informative, carrying news, not just extended advertising. 2.) Don't spam; send them only to people with whom you have a relationship. 3.) Few are good enough to send out daily or even weekly.
Make it clear how to subscribe and unsubscribe and what you will do with the names you collect. When someone wants to cancel, do so and let them know (be aware that unscrupulous types take "cancel" as confirmation of the address and sell the name).
Mark Joyner at Jayde.com offers a free five day marketing course. Another good resource for webmasters is the home site of CIO Magazine. Ted Holmes offers a wealth of information on how to build, maintain and position a web site. Much of it is free and the rest reasonably priced.
There are scams that are pitfalls for webmasters. Check out possible ones at WebScams.
If you have heavy traffic it might pay to sign up for affiliate (also called associate) programs. These pay a commission when someone buys at a site that they have reached through a link on yours. Some will even pay a tiny amount just for having someone visit (a "click-through payment").
Nearly all (or maybe all) of those listed here are for the U.S. I would imagine that such programs will catch on elsewhere. There are literally thousands of these programs.
To get started you might go to Refer-It, which bills itself as the "Supermarket of Affiliate Programs" and has lots of information or Associate Programs, which had over 3000 sites looking for affiliates.
I have learned that it does little good to affiliate with companies that have nothing to do with your core business. Additionally, some merchants pay erratically or are constantly changing their agreements. An organization called Affiliates Union has sprung up to monitor these things. Their discussion board is here.
Making you and your site secure
Security from viruses and hackers is an increasingly worrisome problem. Use an anti-virus program. You can download a free one from the venerable Computer Associates people here. Of course, new viruses (like "ILoveYou") won't be caught right away, but you can at least go to the site and find out what to do.
Your ISP should have a "firewall" to prevent your website from being hacked. However, if you are connected to the Internet all the time it is a good idea to have your own firewall around your computer. Zone Alarm is free and very popular for this application.
I have spent a lot of time, energy and thought to putting up the Small Bead Business Center. If you find it useful and are going to sign up with someone or buy a product, please do it through the links here. I get a small commission from some of them and it does not elevate your cost. That's how you can best thank me. However, I have recommended what I consider to be the best sites, regardless of whether I am an affiliate.
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