Internet business has some advantages over brick-and-mortar business. For one thing, location and storefront appeal are not important. However, attracting visitors to your website can be much more difficult than finding a good location and putting up an attractive sign. Building an e-business requires two main strategies: revenue optimization and online marketing. There are five main revenue sources in e-commerce, and two main ways of driving traffic to your website in order to access those revenue sources.
Sales of products or services is the standard source of revenues across all business types. Advertising revenues come from ads displayed on your website by other businesses. Affiliate programs bring in commission revenues when your site or your marketing activities refer business to other companies. Strategic partnerships combine strengths of two or more companies in order to derive revenues from sales of their packaged products and services. Finally, while privacy concerns have made it very unpopular to collect and sell email addresses, many websites can collect non-personal data that has value to marketing companies.
The first goal of an e-business is to attract large numbers of visitors to the website. The more visitors, the better the advertising revenues and the more likely there will be product, service, affiliate or partnership sales. The primary way of driving visitors to your site is through search engine optimization (SEO), which uses search engine submissions, inbound links, keywords and page descriptions to attract the search engines to display your site in the search results. Another way to drive business to your site is through advertising on other websites.
A new and very powerful way to drive traffic to your website is through marketing on the social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and others. Effective marketing in these venues involves carefully avoiding spamming while still managing to display your talents and link to your site. It is a skill that is best developed slowly and carefully so you don't get banned from the networks for spamming.
Marketing through social networks is similar to guerrilla marketing in the real world. In fact, the best business strategy for e-commerce involves a creative approach, and can include street crews promoting your site, event sponsorships and public service activities.
The most important thing to remember about e-business is that customers expect enlightened commerce in terms of complete information, user reviews, easy and secure transactions, and rapid dependable delivery. The Internet created a new philosophy of commerce which was expressed in the Cluetrain Manifesto, an excellent resource for any entrepreneur planning an e-business.
Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.