Building Customer Trust with Secure E-Commerce by VIP PowerNet Web HostingWritten by Paras Shah
Whether your e-commerce operation involves selling an entire catalogue of items, a small collection of goods, or even just one product, simple reality is that unless people buy items for sale on your Web site, you won’t make any money. And while last few years have done a lot to make consumers more comfortable with idea of shopping online, a significant effort is still necessary, on your part, to convince a potential consumer that they will be doing business with a secure and trustworthy operation.
And because you’ll have to employ some form of remote payment, you’ll have to do business with some type of transaction processing business. And even more than your customers, your billing solution partners will demand some assurance that your operation is secure before they involve themselves in your transactions.
To put it simply: in e-commerce business, securing trust in your company is essential to your success. Trust is as important to a potential customer’s purchasing decision as products you offer him. And an essential element of building that trust, with both customers and partners, is assurance that your e-commerce operation meets demanding security standards required of organizations handling sensitive financial information.
Setting up a Storefront
A big part of building trust with your customers is your presentation. The very fact that they’re browsing your online store is a good indicator that they’re familiar with possibilities of online shopping, and are prepared to consider buying. What you do to convince them, and effectiveness of your efforts, may be deciding factor in a possible sale.
The shopping interface you introduce to customers is arguably most important piece of your e-commerce site’s presentation. A familiar, easy-to-navigate interface can go a long way toward establishing trust you’re after. Seasoned online shoppers will know what to expect from an e-commerce site, and meeting those expectations is a good way to gain their confidence. And novice surfers will probably be more comfortable if your online store closely resembles major e-commerce interfaces they might have encountered.
Building a storefront compatible with your customers’ expectations is one of more obviously beneficial features of using an e-commerce software product such as those provided by Miva (www.Miva.com), BizCrafter (www.BizCrafterCorp.com) or eCartSoft (www.eCartSoft.com) to build your site. Most of these programs will help you to build a simple, effective and familiar shopping interface that can include pictures, shopping cart functions and a number of useful security features.
In addition to helping you build an attractive online shop, most e-commerce software has features allowing it to help manage your inventory, interact with your payment processing systems, simplify your relationships with suppliers and affiliates and even promote your site.
E-commerce software can usually be purchased online from maker, but is also quite often included as part of a specialized e-commerce package from any of many Web hosts that support such operations.
Finding a Commerce-Friendly Web Host
Assuming that this is one of your first efforts at building an e-commerce Web site, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be outsourcing most, or at least some of site’s technical operations to a Web hosting company. This is by no means a bad thing, and in fact can free up your time and IT resources, allowing you to focus on operations of business itself.
More than simply freeing your time, however, many Web hosting companies have plans tailored specifically to needs of customers developing or operating e-commerce Web sites. A few hosting companies offering enhanced e-commerce features include VIP PowerNet Web Hosting (www.VIPWH.com), ValueWeb (www.ValueWeb.com) and Global Internet Solutions (www.GISol.com). These commerce-friendly hosting plans often include a software license for one of storefront building programs with your monthly fees, as well as a number of other support services, designed to provide you with a secure platform from which to do business.
And while software and services may be convenient, there are other reasons why a host that understands e-commerce is critical to your business. A good e-commerce host will already have means in place to secure your online transactions with protocols such as SSL. It may be able to process transactions for you, or help you set up a merchant account. And most importantly, it will have service level guarantees suitable to high demands of your e-commerce operation.
Of course, in addition to products and services they provide, it’s hard to argue against value of experience. And a Web host well versed in e-commerce should be able to help you by answering whatever questions you may have.
What do customers really want? Written by Alex Lekas
It sounds so easy, yet graveyard of business is littered with tombstones of companies that never found answer. Well, that’s not entirely true; some companies had answer, but couldn’t articulate it in terms of products and services. Other firms had answers, too, but to questions that were not being asked. And, still others tried to re-define question in time of change for Internet services industry.
Determining what customers want sounds like such a cut-and-dried proposition, provided customers themselves know answer, and therein lies rub. Web hosting sounds so generic; anybody can do it and Internet’s short history shows that almost everybody has tried. The industry’s evolution and maturation have yielded dual results: weeding out of weaker companies and emergence of niche providers. Shared or dedicated? Windows or Linux? Fully managed or self-managed? Cookie-cutter solutions or build your own? No wonder customers are confused.
Of course, heart of confusion lies in industry’s relative youth. Features that didn’t even exist a few years ago are now industry standard. As hosting becomes more commoditized, customers have increasing access to basic plans that offer more for less. It's like anything else that evolves from amenity to necessity. Take cell phones, PDA's, even PC’s as just a few examples; prices continue to drop while capabilities increase. At same time, customers understand difference between basic and premium services, and companies who get caught up in price automatically cut into their potential market share.
If price were sole consideration for every buying decision, no one would drive a luxury car, no one would have a plasma screen television, and no one would stay in a four-star hotel. Customers who want cell phone that has games, makes fries, tap dances, and stores music will pay for that capability; customers who want nothing more than a portable phone will pay for that. Same with hosting, which is why many providers cater to specific markets. With that in mind, one answer to title question is that there is no one answer, which is evident by what customers look for in shopping for a provider: •How much can I get for how little? •I want ping, power, and pipe with self-management. •I need a reseller program with profit margins and a provider that understands I’m more than a customer.
In each instance, value is a relative thing, and in each instance, there is an understood give and take between customer and provider: •The low-price leader usually offers a one-size-fits-all plan with limited support; curiously, most price-conscious customer frequently exacts heaviest support burden. •The discount dedicated server offers win-win of cheap bandwidth and cheap hardware. These solutions are usually un-managed, but customer who buys them typically needs little support anyway beyond global issues. •Resellers get industrial infrastructure at a discount rate, provider assumes resellers understand hosting, and both sides understand that problems are shared.
Often, a customer’s wants boil down to a couple of things: getting what is being paid for, and someone to answer phone when it rings. It is easy to get caught up in technology of industry and forget that hosting is a service business. Think of how irritated you get when dealing when navigating myriad options of your phone company’s automated menu. But, what are you going to do about it? Unlike utilities, however, ISP’s have no territorial monopoly meaning customers have options, especially customers who are unsatisfied. Let’s assume for a moment that providers who’ve lasted this long already know this. They pay attention to what customers tell them, they respond to complaints and inquiries, they even incorporate good suggestions. That’s one important step in survival but more than good phone etiquette is required in providing quality service; it’s also about being able to offer customers what they want before they have to ask for it. Of course, before a service provider can know who its target is, it must first be clear about its own identity: should focus on increased automation or on value-added features, and is primary customer enterprise market or SME?