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Making Your E-commerce Site Work

by Steven Strauss

There are many ways to have your website take off and make money. Traditional business mottos tell you to buy low and sell high, or to remember that the customer is always right. But in the brave new e-world, I think that there should be a new business maxim: Imitate Amazon.

If you do what Amazon does, you can’t go wrong. Of all online merchants, Amazon is the site and the business that does it right.

So, today we present the cyber-rules of the Amazon jungle:

  1. Value The Customer Above All ElseAmazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has repeatedly stated that he endeavours to make Amazon the most customer-centric business in the world, and a visit to the site confirms this. Amazon offers great customer service. It knows that responsiveness is the key to making online shoppers feel comfortable.

    It is important to realise that ordering online is different than purchasing something in a store, where you see the actual goods and get to take them with you after your purchase. Online, you can’t touch the actual products and you don’t talk to a real salesperson. You just cough up your credit card number, make your purchase, and send your order off into cyberspace, hoping for the best. For many people, it still seems like a proposition based on faith. So the first secret to getting customers to order from you, as Amazon has proven, is to convince them that you won’t let them down.

    Amazon first does so by immediately sending you an email confirming your order and telling you when they expect to ship it. Then, when your order does ship, they send you another e-mail with your tracking number. You should do the same; it creates confidence in your store. (Some e-commerce software builds this function right into the software, such as Yahoo! Store for example.) Like Amazon too, you should try and ship quickly and offer returns and refunds.

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    If a customer has a problem, Amazon also responds quickly. For example, I ordered a book from Amazon a week ago and it took them a day longer than anticipated to ship my order. It confirmed my belief in the site when they e-mailed me, saying that they upgraded my order to a “priority” mail shipment because of the “delay.” I got the package the next day. Its things like that that builds loyalty.

  2. Make Shopping Easy and PleasantAmazon has a “three-click” policy that dictates that if a customer can’t accomplish what it wants to within three clicks, then the system isn’t working right. Imitate Amazon and make shopping at your store simple too.

    By the same token, Amazon’s pages are clean and professional. Their use of images, for example, is prudent: never too many, nor too big, so the pages don’t take long to load. They know that their job is to give you the chance to find what you want quickly and easily and to be able to purchase it without a hassle.

  3. Offer PlentyWhat is Amazon? Now, besides being “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” it seems to be earth’s biggest store. When you too have a big stock it tells your customers that you are here to stay and that they will be able to find what they want if they go to you first.
  4. Offer Great PricesA big reason that people shop online is because they think they will find prices that can’t be beat. That is certainly true at Amazon, and it should be true for your store as well.

While few of us have the resources to totally imitate Amazon, the spirit of the site is one to emulate. You might not become a billionaire, if you remember to Imitate Amazon, you will at least be on you way.

Today’s Tip: When selecting a bank for your business, remember that all financial institutions are not created equal. Talk to friends, business associates, accountants, and lawyers about their banking recommendations. It’s also smart to try and find a bank that is aggressively seeking new customers (usually not one of the main four high street banks); you may get a special deal or extra value for your business. You should also consider smaller banks with just a few offices such as Allied Irish Banks as they may have more relaxed rules and offer more personalised services. Finally, although price alone probably won’t decide your choice of bank, you should at least compare interest rates on deposit accounts and basic consumer loans.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken Marshall February 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

Great article. I’d like to add a couple of things I have discovered running my own business. Join a good organisation that will help you should you need advice, especially any legal advice. I can recommend the Federation of Small Businesses. I joined a couple of years ago and they offer some great help and information. It costs just £120 for the year but the benefits you get along with the peace of mind is well worth it. I have not commercial interest in the FSB, I am just a satisfied customer. You can find them at

The other point I would like to make is that if you’re looking to run a small business, especially an on-line one, then make sure you get the best web site you can afford – don’t cut corners here. Friends may offer to build you a site, you may even be tempted to do it yourself. Unless you know what your’re doing though it can end in disaster. I have seen too many hideous websites on my google searches to know.



Dee Holder April 14, 2010 at 6:56 pm


Just read through a couple of your articles as I am looking to set up my own on-line shop selling wedding invitations, cards, favour boxes, table plans and covers and much more! I found the advice you gave very useful, so thank you. Any specific advice you can aid me with would be very much appreciated too.


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