A discussion at the recent Shop.org conference brought together executives from Facebook, Google, and ShopRunner. The three gave their views on how merchants can keep up with new technological trends, while getting in a few barbs about their recent ups and downs. My ECommerceBytes article is here.

My most recent article on ECommerceBytes focuses on ChannelGrabber, a UK company that helps businesses manage multiple sales channels. One store, site, and venue is not enough. You need to make your sites, social media comments, and storefronts all work together to drive customers to your products and services.

Whatever you do online, you have to do wholeheartedly. Following something you are passionate about and know something about already gives you a good base from which to operate.

In the previous post, the budding entrepreneur, a former physician, wanted to start a website having to do with art. She hoped to learn more about art in the course of working on the site. It’s hard to sell art online. You have to have some kind of background or authority in the field already in order to succeed. How else will you compete with all the other sites selling reproductions or original art out there?

My advice to the writer: consider starting a blog about your experience as a physician. Invite basic questions about health issues from readers. Provide some “inside stories” about what it’s like to be a doctor. Perhaps describe things that need to be improved with the insurance or health care system in the U.S. This kind of blog could be really compelling. The blog could then link to an art site. Having developed a steady stream of visitors to the “Ask the M.D.” blog, the art site would have a chance of generating some traffic rather than starting from zero. One of the basic principles of e-commerce is to sell your knowledge and build on your background. That applies in this case, too.

Starting a Second Career Online

September 4th, 2012

A reader of Starting an Online Business for Dummies wrote me over the weekend. She is a former physician who is now an empty nester. Having just sent two young women to college, this had an impact on me. She is thinking about creating a website. She wrote:

“The more I read [your book], the more work seemed involved in doing an online business right. This is a second career for me and I really don’t want to put so much time into it right now. Can you recommmend a good quality consultant that I could hire to do most of the work to realize my business concept?”

In my book, I do profile a business planner, but he’s not really a consultant. It’s not something you can farm out to someone else. You have to be very involved and committed enough to test and revise your business to improve performance. On the other hand, there are businesses to help you. My response:

“Some of the e-commerce hosting services do provide customers with advice on their business. I’ve written about a number of these in ECommerceBytes (go there and search for my name, ecommercebytes.com). Try 3DCart (www.3dcart.com). Look up that article on ECommerceBytes. They are open to answering all sorts of questions from customers and they have lots of experience with online businesses. I don’t know anyone who will tell you if your idea is “good” or not. I am worried about your comment about not wanting to put time into it. I am not sure I would even get started if you aren’t prepared to put time and effort into it. Online businesses don’t run on their own and you need to keep up with them. Think about it, and then look into 3DCart.”

In other words, find a shopping cart/e-commerce hosting service that will answer questions and give you advice. More tomorrow.