Thursday, January 31, 2008

Why Arent People Buying From Your Ecommerce Website?

Your stock is tempting, your prices right - your ecommerce website is good to go, but somehow the customers just aren't buying. So where are you going wrong?

Make sure people can find your ecommerce website.

What are you doing to bring customers to your ecommerce web site? It's not enough to just design a website and then sit back and wait for the money to come rolling in as eager customers flock to your store. In fact, unless you go out of your way to show them, your prospective customers may not even know your business exists at all.

First of all, make sure your ecommerce website is optimised for the web. You should be using good key words throughout the site, and in your meta tags (if you don't know what meta tags are, your designer should!) You should also be building as many links to your ecommerce web site as possible, as the more opportunities people have to click on a link to your site, the greater the likelihood of your website cropping up in the search engines - and attracting visitors.

You should also think about online advertising for your ecommerce website. Pay per click advertising, for example, allows you to set a daily budget and pay for your site to appear in search engine listings. It could be a good idea if you're serious about bringing in visitors.

What if you're getting the visitors to your ecommerce website, but not getting the sales?

If there are plenty of people coming to your ecommerce website, but none of them are buying anything, you know that the problem lies either with the site itself, or with your stock.

First of all, think about your stock. Is it well presented on the site, with clear pictures and good item descriptions? Is it fairly priced? Take a look at some of your main competitor's websites, and see how much they're charging. With so much choice on offer, no one will buy from you if they can get the same thing cheaper elsewhere - and remember that the internet makes it easy to shop around. If your prices are the same, or even lower, than the competition, however, you may have to look elsewhere to find out what the problem could be.

Is your ecommerce website itself putting off buyers?

One of the main reasons people give for not shopping on the internet is fears about security. Your ecommerce web site should have a clearly stated privacy policy, and returns policy. People who are giving you their money before they receive their goods are making a leap of trust; they have to trust you to take only the amount you've said you're going to take from their credit card, and they have to trust you to actually send the goods they're buying from you. Because they can't actually see the goods in the flesh (as it were) before they buy them, they'll also often look for reassurance that if they aren't satisfied, they'll be able to get their money back. You should make sure that they can find reassurance on all of these points just by looking at your ecommerce web site.

Amber McNaught is co-owner of Hot Igloo Productions Ltd, a website design and online marketing firm offering high quality designs at affordable prices. Visit their website at

Select a Niche Market for Ecommerce

Choosing a carefully pinpointed niche market should be one of the first steps that an internet business owner has to take. A very common way of describing a niche market is 'a targeted group of individuals with very specific and similar needs or interests.' These people engage in similar activities and hence they would most probably demand the same goods or services to cater to their needs. Online businesses that drop ship their products to their customers would thrive by focusing on a specifically targeted niche market. In this article, I would focus on the advantages a niche market can bring to an online Drop Ship business. This article also provides you with practical steps for you to select your niche market.

By focusing on a specific niche market, Drop Ship businesses gain an edge because they are like 'monopolies' for that particular niche. The 'monopoly' for that niche would be able to provide a much wider range of products and better services for that market, enabling it to dominate. Because there is a very large number of niche markets on the internet, most Drop Ship businesses are able to survive and thrive online by selecting a niche that no major competitor is targeting, and directing their marketing efforts to their respective niches. With limited resources, a small Drop Ship business just starting out cannot hope to sell 'mainstream' products that are also supplied by huge competitors like Wal-Mart.

It is critical to first establish a market with an unfulfilled need and then develop products or services to meet these needs. Most online ventures fail by first selecting a good product, and then looking for the market for that particular product. They fail when the product's demand is insufficient, or when the product already has a strong competitor supplying to the market.

The internet is not the only medium where niche marketing dominates. In our corporate world, the majority of the successful companies also selects a niche market and develops products or services that cater to their specific niche. Microsoft develops software as operating systems and platforms for computers. Nike offers shoes and footwear targeted at the sporting population. This illustrates the importance of first selecting a niche market for your business to focus on.

There are a few simple stages in the selection of a niche market:

1) Brainstorm for niche markets that are related to your area of interest or expertise. It is simply easier to succeed if you focus on an area that you are passionate about and have the most expertise in. This way, along the learning curve of starting an online business, the frustrations that you face along the way will be reduced because whatever you are doing feels more like fun instead of work.

2) Research the market in detail. This involves producing a detailed profile of your market, including the estimated demand for your products, the products in the niche likely to have the highest demand, and where these prospects normally congregate online.

You can use the free Overture search term suggestion tool to gauge the market size for the products you have in mind. It is available at Simply type in the product keywords and this tool can suggest more specific keywords, and also the number of times this word has been searched over a period of time.

Chat rooms, forums and newsgroups are where your target market normally congregates online. By monitoring these discussion boards, you should be able to determine the evolving needs of your target market, and what new product is likely to be in high demand soon. Forums can also be a good source of ideas for your products. Google Groups is a good place for you to start finding newsgroups or forums for your niche market. It is available at

3) Select a niche market that has a need not currently being adequately met instead of targeting a niche whose need a competitor can fulfill very well. From the newsgroups, discussion boards and forums, you can get valuable information about business opportunities. For example, if consumers voice out their dissatisfaction about any unfulfilled need, you can quickly find and offer any product as a new solution to their problem. This fills a 'gap' in the market and your business is established.

4) For the niche markets that do not have their needs adequately met, conduct research on the major businesses in that field. If there are no major competitors, you can congratulate yourself on finding a suitable niche market for your Drop Ship business. If there are several major market players, you have to either develop a Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to differentiate your products from your competitors, or you can narrow down the definition of your niche market to a more specific level. For example, if your niche market is the group of individuals passionate about oil paintings, you can narrow down your focus to abstract oil paintings by Rembrandt or Renoir.

If you want to be a retailer of Rembrandt oil paintings, for example, note that your competitors are not the websites selling oil paintings from all artists, but the websites that focus only on Rembrandt oil paintings. All things being equal, an online shopper will certainly choose a website focusing only on Rembrandt oil paintings, instead of a website selling paintings from all the famous artists. This is the edge that a niche market can give to a small Drop Ship business.

You can use the free Overture 'View Bids Tool' available at to gauge the competition for your products. Overture is a Pay-Per-Click search engine, which provides search results ranked in order of how much businesses are paying for every click-through to the business websites. This tool lists the amount that each business is paying for every click by visitors. The higher the bid for the keyword, the more popular the keyword, thus the stronger the competition you face for your products.

5) Test your market. Once you have confirmed your niche market, you must test your products for that market. Start off your business by selecting a few of the most popular products and placing them in your catalogue. Next, you announce your products to newsgroups and discussion boards and gauge their response to your products. Observe how well the individuals are reacting to the introduction of your products. If you did your research properly and fulfilled a need well, most probably you would receive a very warm response from forums and newsgroups.

Finally, as the online retailer for your niche market, you should aim to be the best online resource for the market. Articles, strategies and guides should be included on your website to provide your niche market with valuable information. For example, you can write your own guides on how to properly use tools for magician tricks if that is what you are selling. However, it is not advisable to start off by selling an enormous catalogue of products. You should first establish your credibility by supplying your market with useful know-how for the products, and recommending them a few popular products. As your business stabilizes, you can slowly expand your business catalogue to include other products.

Selecting a niche market is one of the most important steps for setting up a Drop Ship business. It lays the foundation for how your business will develop in future. Thus, spend some time carefully deciding on your niche market before taking the plunge into your business.

You are welcome to reprint this article as long as you include the Author's resource box with the article.

About the Author: Ray Yee is the founder and president of Dropshipperscentral, a website which provides a wealth of informative articles, tips and resources on everything you'll ever need to know about setting up a Drop Ship Business and marketing it. Click here for the Wholesale Drop Ship Directory from

Friday, January 18, 2008

Online Credit Card Processing - How to Accept Credit Cards - Ecommerce 101

Back in 1998 (through 2000 or so), I worked for a small company (called PaymentNet / then Signio) that handled online transactions. Verisign later purchased this company, and the product team I led integrated the "client" - the portion that took the credit card information and sent it to our servers for processing. The product name is Payflow Pro - maybe you've heard of it?

I'm going to limit this discussion to Visa / MasterCard credit cards -- Amex and others operate slightly differently.

First, there is the bank that the consumer's credit card is attached to. That bank is called the "acquiring institution" ... it handles the "credit" you have on your credit card.

Then, there is the merchant bank. That's where the business opens up a "merchant account" to be able to accept various forms of credit cards.

The merchant account is connected to another company called a "processor". This "hidden" layer is the company that actually moves the funds from the acquiring institution to the merchant account (that process is called "settlement"). The processor also handles talking to the acquiring institution to make sure that the customer has the funds available (a process known as authorization).

Some well-known credit card processors are First Data Merchant Services (FDMS), Nova and PaymentTech.

Sitting on top of the processor is one of two primary systems either a swipe-card terminal (like those you see in Wal-Mart) or a "gateway" company that does basically the same thing, but over the Internet - that's what Verisign Payment Services and Authorize.Net do.

Note that the waters are even muddier in many cases, for example, Wells Fargo can act as every piece of the puzzle in some circumstances.

So, what actually happens when you purchase something at Wal-Mart using a credit card?

a) You place your items from your "basket" onto the counter and scan them. the checkout system provides a total.

b) You swipe your card through a "terminal", which reads the # off the magnetic stripe.

c) Wal-Mart dials their processor, and asks if you have the funds available on your credit card. The processor talks to your bank (the acquiring institution). If funds are available on the card, they are marked as "held" in your account (an authorization) - if not, the transaction is declined (yuk). Authorizations that are never settled tie up your credit card funds for a period of time, usually 10 days or so.

d) At the end of the day, Wal-Mart marks all the transactions they want to receive funds for, and submits them to their processor in a "batch". The processor then contacts the acquiring institutions and transfers the funds to your merchant bank - which may make the funds available instantly (in a day or two), or may hold them for a while, or may hold the funds in a "rolling reserve" (keeping some funds held back in case a consumer fights the transaction, called a chargeback).

In the online world, replace the cash-register with an online shopping cart, and the electronic credit-card with terminal with called a "gateway" such as Payflow or Authorize.Net. the process is basically the same, with slightly more complexity.

Be careful going "a-la-carte" with ecommerce credit-card services: if the gateway you chose can't talk to the processor your bank uses, or your software can't talk to the gateway, you're hosed. That situation was MUCH more common (things not working together) back in the mid/late 90's than it is today. However, most "brick and mortar" banks (like your local branch) still don't have a clue about online credit-card processing ? if they attempt to sell you a "leased terminal", it's best to run the other way and find a solution from reputable online source.

As an online merchant looking to accept credit cards, all you really need to know is that all services purchased through a single solution will usually work together seemlessly.

Nick Temple is a former engineer for what is now Verisign Payment Services. He can be reached at his website, He is part-owner of the; complete online credit card ecommerce solution.

Using Drop Shipping for E-commerce

Thanks to the ubiquity of the internet, online virtual businesses have become very popular business opportunities. Online retail stores are gradually playing a more important role in our lives than the traditional 'brick-and-mortar' retail shops. Over the last few years, a new concept called 'Drop Shipping' has emerged with the coming of the internet. Drop Shippers are basically wholesalers who are willing to ship their products directly to your customers. This article aims to provide readers with an introduction to the current state of the E-commerce industry, Drop Shipping and its benefits, and the promise it holds for the online retail community.

Online Drop Ship businesses are now very popular home-based business opportunities. According to a Forrester Inc. report, online retail sales will grow at a 25% annual growth rate over the next five years. Online retail sales will reach nearly $230 billion and account for 10% of total US retail sales by 2008. On Ebay, more than 430,000 people are making a full- or part-time living from the auction site. Many of them use Drop Shippers to auction their products. Hence, with such strong statistics, the internet entrepreneur can hope to start a retail business now and still claim a portion of the ever-growing market share.

The Drop Ship model offers many unique advantages over the Wholesale model:

1) You do not have to spend a fortune on the huge inventory of wholesale stocks before you start a retail business. This translates into a very low business startup cost. There is no risk of purchasing large quantities of stock, and finding that you cannot sell off your goods because they have become obsolete among consumers. Therefore, with the variety of products offered by your Drop Shipper, it becomes feasible to test which products have a strong demand over the internet without losing a fortune on each test.

2) Another prime advantage of a Drop Ship business is that there is no need to worry about shipping your products to your customers. You do not have to provide storage space for your goods, nor do you have to incur warehouse costs. Your Drop Shipper will take care of all the logistics and shipping of your Drop Ship business. In fact, most Drop Shippers are willing to label their products with your company name on it, so it will appear as if you are the one who shipped the products to your customers. The shipping cost for each product is also reduced, because your Drop Shipper can ship your products directly to your customers. A higher profit margin is achieved because of the reduction in unnecessary shipping costs.

3) Drop Shipping is also unique in that it allows you to 'sell high, then buy low', instead of 'buy low, then sell high'. Your risk involved in your retail business is dramatically lowered as you get paid up front for your products, making a profit on each sale.

4) There is no minimum quantity restriction on your orders. From your website catalog, you can sell as much of your products as you want, and you can leave the indenting of stocks to your Drop Shipper. The quantity of products which you can sell over your website is only limited to your market demand, and your marketing efforts.

The process of setting up a Drop Ship business can be distilled into a few simple steps. First, you do some research over the internet over the niche market that you would like to target. Once, a strong demand for your products has been established, you contact the Drop Shipper of your choice and set up your business as the retailer of the products you want to sell. Next, you design a website complete with product catalogue and credit-card-accepting functions. The product descriptions and images can be obtained from the Drop Shipper, in most cases. After which, you need to drive large volumes of traffic to your website through internet marketing. Some visitors to your website will be converted to customers if they find your offers attractive enough. They place orders at your website and they pay you the retail prices, up front. You email the orders to your Drop Shipper, who will ship the products to your customers directly. Of course, the retail price will have to be marked up to include shipping costs as well. Since the Drop Shipper charges you the wholesale price for their products, the profit margin you earn is simply the difference between the retail and wholesale price.

Internet businesses, in general, have also many strong advantages over 'brick-and-mortar' businesses. Startup costs are generally very low, and this is well suited for those aspiring entrepreneurs working on a shoestring budget. The costs for conducting a Drop Ship business will be mainly software for setting up and marketing your business. Some examples will include shopping cart software, email marketing software, search engine promotion software, and so on. Other costs would include the web-hosting fee and also the wholesale costs of the products. In most cases, the Drop Shipper will require you to pay them a small deposit to signify your commitment and to prevent fraud.

With the low startup costs for a virtual business, you can keep trying different forms of business or different marketing methods over the internet without losing a fortune on your efforts. You can 'lose little' over many unsuccessful endeavors, but 'win big' on the few business models which you get right.

Perhaps the most attractive aspect of an online business is the ability to automate it and let it generate income on its own. This is largely possible due to software to automate the business process, like shopping cart software and email autoresponder software. Thus, Drop Ship businesses can run 24/7 without you being present physically to run it. Imagine having the freedom to do whatever you want without being an 'employee' for your business! All you need to do is to get the basics of the business up and running, like the website design and product catalog. After which, you consistently market your website over the internet to get a recurring volume of traffic to your website. This will bring you recurring sales and allow you to make a decent living over the internet. You can repeat this process again and again with other markets of your choice. In the long run, this will bring you multiple streams of income. Online Drop Ship businesses are thus strong examples of assets that generate passive income.

In conclusion, the e-commerce industry is still very promising despite the dot-com bust a few years back. With the introduction of Drop Shipping, the hassles of conducting a retail business over the internet have been dramatically reduced. As the industry is still relatively young, entrepreneurs should get in the e-commerce game early to establish themselves as strong market players of the future.

About the Author: Ray Yee is the founder and president of Dropshipperscentral, a website which provides a wealth of informative articles, tips and resources on everything you'll ever need to know about setting up a Drop Ship Business and marketing it. Click here for the Wholesale Drop Ship Directory from

5 Tips for Online Shopping

Shopping online has become more and more popular in America as we are all looking to save a little time and money. E-commerce sales are growing at astronomical numbers ranging from 20-25% per year. And according to Forrester Research, 40% of households are using coupons in their web shopping. The huge increases are obvious: the online savings and discounts are impossible to match by traditional stores constrained by the overhead costs of employees, rent, and insurance. By using some of the tips and tricks mentioned below, you'll be able to take further advantage of a new American pastime: saving with online shopping!

Tip #1: Don't buy Ebay. We all know online auctions seem like such a great deal, and it's easy to get caught up in the emotion of auction. Thing is, auction sites like Ebay and Ubid have become saturated with buyers AND sellers, so virtually any discount found is quickly sought by re-distributors who then add their own markups to your purchase. The online marketplace has enough people out there that you can end up spending hundreds of extra dollars for the same things found in your local mall! Don't let your emotions get involved - these are not the right places for the aware shopper.

Tip #2: Never pay retail. Take this scenario: You find something you want to buy, maybe the latest craze or fad such as the Ipod. Should you really pay the price that Apple is offering? No! You can find many deals and coupons for the same purchase just by typing, for example, "ipod coupons" into Google. Spend a little time searching through the top ten to twenty results, you're sure to find the same product for a significant discount. Sometimes, by filling out a survey or signing up for an email list, you'll get additional savings and many times you can even get your product for free!

Tip #3: Get over your instant gratification desire. Just admit it, buying something always gives you a good feeling and you can't wait to take pleasure in that new purchase. Anything you're buying at the mall for that same good feeling can usually be found for a huge discount online. You just have to be willing to wait for the short 2-5 days that it takes for shipping. It's definitely worth the savings to able to control your emotions and hold off until it arrives via UPS!

Tip #4: Watch out for excessive shipping charges. Many times retailers slash their costs to get the sale but then charge more for shipping. Make sure to check the final cost to ensure you didn't receive any unwarranted charges. You should also find a free shipping deal at any of the online coupon sites. Sometimes the shipping can cost more than your purchase!

Tip #5: Online coupons: Were you aware of online coupon websites that have discount and promotion codes to nearly all internet stores? These types of websites always have up to date discount offers arranged by category or store, so you can always find something on sale. It's not only a way to get a good deal but you can also find some of the free shipping offers listed in tip #4. Just be careful to check for a coupon code before making any internet purchase. It's a simple way to find extra savings.

Melanie Breeze

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Alternative E-Commerce Solutions

Over the past several years, the Internet has emerged as a breakthrough technology that has and will continue to transform the way we live and communicate, and especially the way we do business.

No matter if you are selling a product or a service, the Internet is a means of reaching markets that had otherwise been unreachable in the past. And, it also provides ease of purchasing and selling almost anything online?also known as E-Commerce.

But, for many businesses, especially start up and small to mid size businesses, having a website that includes the usual E-commerce capabilities is just not in their budgets. Setting up merchant accounts and secure servers can get quite costly.

So, if you are really wanting or needing to have e-commerce capabilities on your website to sell your products, but your budget just won't allow it, there are a variety of alternatives to the expensive online route that you can consider.

Your first choice allows you to accept credit card payments but without a secure server. Some financial institutions, which offer credit cards, also offer Traditional Merchant Accounts. This allows you to manually verify credit card information from those that want to purchase from you. But, you should be aware, if you ask for credit card information from your website without the guarantee of a secure server, you may run into hesitation from potential customers.

Another alternative to the expensive merchant account is to accept cheque payments online. For this you will need to acquire software or a program that will allow you to print MicroPrint (the small numbers and characters at the bottom of a cheque? ie. routing #, account #, etc.). There are several cheque writing programs available, including those found at and

The procedures involved to use this payment method are to first set up a form on your website. You then send an invoice to your customer with direction to the cheque-form page, which they must fill out and submit, via your cgi program. You then verify the funds and information and then the software prints the cheque on special cheque paper, which you can purchase at most business supply stores.

You can also have the above type service online, via such sites as

Another alternative, which is rapidly becoming the choice of many online product and service providers, is Online Payment Systems. There are several of these systems available but I have only found one that has features available to Canadians. Called, this service allows you to set up an account with them and they verify the credit information of those buying from you. Now, many features that this system has to offer are still limited for Canadian retailers but you are still able to set up an account, bill your clients, and receive payments into your Canadian bank account or credit card account with only minor service charges being applied.

Taking advantage of the expansive market of the World Wide Web does not mean that you have to go bankrupt. You can still get on the E-Commerce bandwagon and accept payments with the above listed services and other alternative payment systems that may be available. Actually, most of these services are all that the average small business, especially those in the service industry, really need. And they don't cost a fortune.

About The Author

Janice Byer is a certified Master Virtual Assistant and owner of Docu-Type Administrative & Web Design Services ( See this and other articles on her website.

Online Customer Service - The Cornerstone of a Successful Online Business

Online customer service is still one of the most frequently overlooked aspects of running a successful online business. Yet, in the highly competitive world of Internet business, it could be (and should be) the one thing that sets you apart from your competition!

Most Internet businesses that have a drive to succeed focus all of their time and resources on building a great site, and then trying to drive tons of traffic to that site. Honestly, these are two incredibly important factors for success. After all, a site won't be successful without tons of new potential customers hitting it, and you want that site to convey a professional image of your business by its appearance and ease-of-use. However, you must keep in mind that you are operating in a highly-competitive environment. You probably already know that there are tens, if not hundreds, of other businesses that offer the same basic goods and/or services that you do! They are battling you for the same exact keywords, and constantly enhancing their site to make their visitors' experience better than yours.

So, how are you going to differentiate yourself from your competition? What is going to set you apart? What is going to help you get, and keep, more customers? The answer lies in the online customer service that you provide! Before I get into how to provide excellent online customer service, let me explain why providing online customer service is so important.

On the Internet, customer loyalty is incredibly difficult to obtain unless your site is associated with a popular retail store (e.g.,, or has developed a successful reputation and goodwill over a long period of time (e.g. The fact is, Internet customers are much more likely to shop around from site-to-site because it is so EASY. In the brick-and-mortar world, shopping around for an item means getting in the car and driving from store to store, not to mention, parking at each location, and then going in to find the item. That sounds like an entire afternoon project, just to purchase one item! That is why most people don't do that, especially for a low cost item. They develop loyalty to one store for a variety of reasons that matter to them, and they buy the item almost exclusively from that store. Think about your personal life. Don't you usually buy groceries from the same store week after week because it is easier than going somewhere else and having to learn where all your favorite items are located?

The Internet works very different. I can wake up in the morning, and before I finish breakfast I can browse the top ten sites listed on Google for the item I'm looking for. Its so easy to shop around! I don't know anything about any of those sites so how do I decide which to buy from? Sure, I'm looking for the best price, and I also want a site that looks credible so I don't perceive that I may get ripped off. That may narrow my list from ten to five sites. They all offer my item at about the same price, they all have professional looking sites with easy-to-use shopping carts, and I found them all in the top ten search results on Google! By common Internet business logic they're all doing it RIGHT! But, only one will get my business today. And who's to say that even if I have the best experience possible with the one I choose, that I'd ever buy from them again. Remember, it's so easy to shop around, and there are still several other good-looking companies that offer similar items.

The difference is in the customer service. That is the one way that a website can set itself apart in this competitive world. It can take the best website, full of stylish graphics and rich content, and make it more than an image on a computer monitor. It can give it a personal touch. Its that personal touch that will differentiate yourself from your competition. Potential customers will want to buy from you, and customers will want to keep coming back. They know you... and you know them. Your business has become more than just an image on a screen to them.

So, how do you provide great online customer service?

Traditional wisdom says to include your telephone number and email address on your site in highly visible locations. Unfortunately, doing just that doesn't go far enough, and probably will only offer minimal benefits. To call you, a dial-up user may actually have to log off your site just to get in touch with you, and you're trying to keep them on your site! Even with a high-speed connection, a phone call may not be the most convenient thing to do, especially if you don't have a toll-free number. And if you do, phone calls are costing you a lot of money! With email, your customers can contact you, but how long will they have to wait for a response--an hour, several hours, a day, a week? You may have a great policy about quick follow-up, but do your customers know that? They just sent you an email and they don't know when they'll hear back... if ever. Plus, posting your email on your site opens you up to getting tons of spam.

So, what's better than telephone and email? Here are three tools that can increase your sales, build your customer loyalty and retention, and save you money.

1. LIVE CHAT: Putting a live chat system on your website will have incredible benefits. Picture a potential customer browsing your site and having a question about placing an order. Again, we've discussed that phone and email aren't the best solution for this scenario. Now, picture having a large, noticable live chat button right there on your site. The visitor clicks it, enters their name and question, and they are IMMEDIATELY connected to you or one of your employees. Now, you know who they are, and they know who you are--you're beginning to develop that personal relationship we talked about. You can help them with their order, answer any questions they might have, or upsell them to a different product. All this, and they never left your website. Next time they need something, there's a good chance they'll want to come back to your site and talk to you again.

2. KNOWLEDGE DATABASE: A knowledge database is a collection of self-help articles that a customer can search through to find answers to their questions. Let's face it, as easy as you make your website to navigate and use, you'll still have people that have questions, problems, or concerns. With a knowledge database, the customers can quickly and easily browse for answers to their questions, and get help quickly and effectively. Its like FAQs, only turned up a notch.

3. TICKET SYSTEM: Using a ticket system is the best way to support current customers, and to answer questions from potential customers. A customer or potential customer creates a ticket and submits it to your company. Your company receives the ticket and can route it to the appropriate person or department for follow-up. It is quick and easy, and the customer gets an answer from the most qualified source at your company for the problem they had. Tickets also allow you to track your customers to get to know them better, and track your issues to find out what you could be doing better. Tickets are far more organized, secure, and useful than email--both for the company and the customer.

Search engine optimization and site design are important. But you're operating in a highly competitive environment, and you need something more to set your business apart. Something to make your website more than just a simple collection of graphics and content on a screen. You need a personal relationship with people viewing your site. The kind of relationship that will create new sales, and encourage repeat purchases. This can be acheived through effective online customer service.

Source :

How to Boost Conversion Rates, While Lowering Merchant Account Fees!

Using an Address Verification System (AVS) when processing your online credit card transactions can help to reduce the number of fraudulent transactions you receive. However, most online merchants don't know that using AVS can also reduce your number of legitimate orders.

Using AVS can hurt your conversion rates in two main ways.

1. If you set your AVS rules to reject all transactions that do not match both street address and zip code, you may be loosing legitimate sales from customers who do not understand that the billing address needs to match the address that their credit card statement is mailed to.

2. The more troublesome problem with AVS occurs when your customer has recently moved. Even if you update your billing address with your credit card company after you move, it can take up to 6 months or longer for them to update the AVS database with your new information (even though they make sure that the bill arrives at the right address!)

The worst part about this delay is that often customers will blame the merchant if their card gets rejected for this reason. If their credit card bill arrives at the right address, they assume that their credit card company updated their information. When a card that they know should work gets rejected by your website, they often become angry with you, not their card provider!

This happened to me recently. I moved my family into a larger home over eight months ago and the debit card that I use for most of my online purchases still gets rejected unless I use my old billing address, even though the bank statement has come to our new address from day one!

The solution to the first problem is quite easy. Simply make sure that you use a statement near your "Billing Address" fields telling your customers something along the lines of, "To speed processing of your order, please ensure your billing address matches the address on your credit card statement."

Include this type of statement near your "Billing Address" fields and your AVS matches will improve.

In markets with historically low attempted fraud rates, you can also try loosening your AVS rules a bit. Most AVS systems check both the number in the street address and the zip code. By setting your AVS rules to accept transactions that match for only one of the two AVS numbers, but still rejecting transactions that do not match for both, you can improve the number of successful transactions. If you attempted fraud rate is very low you can even try accepting transactions that fail both AVS checks, but flag the transactions for additional follow up before shipping.

Before loosening your AVS rules, you need to understand that most merchant account providers classify transactions that do not match for both street address and zip code as "non-qualified" transactions. These transactions usually get charged a higher discount rate than your normal discount rate. Depending on you merchant account agreement this penalty can add up to an additional 2% above your normal discount rate, so check with your merchant account provider before accepting "no match" transactions.

The solution to the second problem take a little bit more work to implement, however it can significantly reduce the number of AVS mismatches you receive. For this solution you can keep your AVS system set to reject "no match" transactions, however you need to modify your "Card Rejected" error page to include a brief educational statement, such as the one below.

"We're sorry, your credit card has been declined. This can happen for several reasons. Your billing address* should match the address on your credit card statement. Please check your billing address, card number and expiration date and try again.

*NOTE: If you have recently moved, your credit card company may not have updated your billing address in their Address Verification Database. It can take up to 6 months or longer for some credit card companies to update your address, even if they send your bill to your new address. If you have recently moved, try using your previous billing address when you check out."

By making just a few changes in the way you use AVS at your web site and by educating your customers about address verification, you can boost your conversion rates and sales, while lowering your merchant account fees!

Copyright 2004 Eric Graham

About The Author

Eric Graham is the owner and CEO of several successful online and offline businesses. Recognized as one of the top authorities on eCommerce and Internet Marketing, Eric is a sought after speaker and consultant. To boost YOUR conversion rates and gain an unfair advantage over your competition visit

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

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