Downloaded OsCommerce, Now What?
When you decide to go with osCommerce for your e-commerce site, you can simply take their stock layout and insert your information and voila! you have a completely functional e-commerce site ready for customers and sales.
If you’re like most e-commerce sites, however, you’ll want to go a step further than that and customize your “storefront” to make it better fit your product. If you are savvy in both the technical and marketing fields, this will probably be a no-brainer. If, however, you are an expert in your product, but not necessarily how to sell your product, this article is for you. It’s filled with tips to help you both design your site and well as market your product.
Design Your Site
1. Change your colors. You can go into your stylesheet.css file (in your catalog root folder) and simply change the colors from the stock layout. It’s amazing what a difference something as simple as a custom color layout can do for your website!
2. Choose a template. If you don’t want to start your website design from scratch, you can use a template that has everything you need for your site except the information.
3. Or, go even simpler. If you don’t want to change the complete template you can opt to change just one thing on the site. This could be the background, buttons or logo. Whatever you choose, just do something to make the site your own!
4. Improve your images. Spend some time learning image editing programs so that you can save your pictures in high quality with the smallest file size so that they both look great and load quickly. With the high speed of the Internet, most people don’t have the patience to wait for slow loading pictures and they may leave your site rather than waiting for the image to load completely.
5. Change the page titles. Make sure that you give each page a descriptive title so that when the page appears in the search engines it gives people enough information to get them to want to click on your link.
6. Put your self in your customer’s shoes. Customers do not like long drawn out checkouts. If you can get the information you need in two to three pages (including the confirmation of information page), your site will have an advantage over those sites that draw it out. The osCommerce forum has information on how to do this.
7. Get a design expert who is experienced with osCommerce. By installing STS Template system or some other equivalent, they can customize your shopping cart to anything. This website lists a series of osCommerce website which had gone through a serious make-over.
Market Your Product:
1. Make your site unique. This is a basic marketing technique and is sometimes referred to as creating a Unique Selling Proposition. Basically, this is a simple statement that tells people what makes your site and your business unique from other businesses, especially those in the same niche. Whether you always offer free shipping or guarantee the lowest prices, your unique selling proposition is what sets you apart from the rest.
2. Don’t forget to sell your product! Getting people to your site and getting them to stay on the site are important, but once they are there you need to SELL the product. You won’t be there to tell them about the items and they aren’t in a bricks and mortar store to examine the product themselves, so your descriptions need to do these jobs for you and the customer. Be detailed, be specific and be honest. Include who would likely enjoy the product and why they would need it. Instead of focusing on the details of the product or service, put some emphasis n the benefits.
3. Make your store more than an online entity. Give your customers a way to contact you. This includes a name, address, email and phone number. If they have no way to get into contact with you, your credibility with the customer declines.
4. Offer more than just the product or service. Don’t be afraid to add articles, tips and information related to your product for customers coming to your site. It will increase your credibility as well as give them reasons to return to your site even if they don’t have an immediate need for your product or service. Related to this is sending out a periodic newsletter that gives useful information, announces specials and sales and highlights specific products.
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