"For consumer products, one of the biggest things companies need to consider and plan out before jumping in is the customer service aspects of e-commerce," says Jeff Friedman, chief operating officer of Cleveland-based Webtego, a Web site development firm. "Selling the products is pretty straightforward, but you need to support that."
This means having a customer friendly return policy and doing everything possible to make it easier to shop online.
"One key thing is to provide the consumer with every piece of information needed to buy," says Friedman. "If you're selling computer desks, each desk they might want should be displayed with all the features, colors, dimensions and finishes. Once the order is placed, they should be able to track their shipping status."
If it's the type of product range that people will order from often, then they should be able to retrieve their order history.
Make it easy for people to contact you and ask questions or resolve issues, either by e-mail or otherwise, but respond promptly.
"It is not acceptable to get back to the Internet consumer three days later," says Friedman. "There needs to be some sort of infrastructure in place to deal with e-mail, even if it's just designating one person who will be responding to all of it."
If you are selling to other businesses, then many of the same issues apply, but are taken further.
"Particularly with manufacturers, they should tie in any log-ins with their enterprise software," says Friedman. "This means one system will have all the information, giving you one source of information for sales, production and accounting. Everyone will be dealing with the same information."
The business-to-business market is mostly driving e-commerce, with customer demand often being the force behind the change.
"The best way to go forward with this if you aren't sure is to do stages of development over time so you're not doing everything at once," says Friedman. "Build a little at a time, and what will happen is you'll get a better idea of which direction you ultimately need to go."