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Iím Going To Use OsCommerce Ė Now What?

When you decide to go with osCommerce for your e-commerce site, you can simply take their stock layout and insert your information and voila! you have a completely functional e-commerce site ready for customers and sales.

If youíre like most e-commerce sites, however, youíll want to go a step further than that and customize your ďstorefrontĒ to make it better fit your product. If you are savvy in both the technical and marketing fields, this will probably be a no-brainer. If, however, you are an expert in your product, but not necessarily how to sell your product, this article is for you. Itís filled with tips to help you both design your site and well as market your product.

Design Your Site

1.Change your colors. You can go into your stylesheet.css file (in your catalog root folder) and simply change the colors from the stock layout. Itís amazing what a difference something as simple as a custom color layout can do for your website!
2.Choose a template. If you donít want to start your website design from scratch, you can use a template that has everything you need for your site except the information.
3.Or, go even simpler. If you donít want to change the complete template you can opt to change just one thing on the site. This could be the background, buttons or logo. Whatever you choose, just do something to make the site your own!
4. Improve your images. Spend some time learning image editing programs so that you can save your pictures in high quality with the smallest file size so that they both look great and load quickly. With the high speed of the Internet, most people donít have the patience to wait for slow loading pictures and they may leave your site rather than waiting for the image to load completely.
5.Change the page titles. Make sure that you give each page a descriptive title so that when the page appears in the search engines it gives people enough information to get them to want to click on your link.
6.Put your self in your customerís shoes. Customers do not like long drawn out checkouts. If you can get the information you need in two to three pages (including the confirmation of information page), your site will have an advantage over those sites that draw it out. The osCommerce forum has information on how to do this.

Market Your Product:

1.Make your site unique. This is a basic marketing technique and is sometimes referred to as creating a Unique Selling Proposition. Basically, this is a simple statement that tells people what makes your site and your business unique from other businesses, especially those in the same niche. Whether you always offer free shipping or guarantee the lowest prices, your unique selling proposition is what sets you apart from the rest.
2.Donít forget to sell your product! Getting people to your site and getting them to stay on the site are important, but once they are there you need to SELL the product. You wonít be there to tell them about the items and they arenít in a bricks and mortar store to examine the product themselves, so your descriptions need to do these jobs for you and the customer. Be detailed, be specific and be honest. Include who would likely enjoy the product and why they would need it. Instead of focusing on the details of the product or service, put some emphasis n the benefits.
3.Make your store more than an online entity. Give your customers a way to contact you. This includes a name, address, email and phone number. If they have no way to get into contact with you, your credibility with the customer declines.
4.Offer more than just the product or service. Donít be afraid to add articles, tips and information related to your product for customers coming to your site. It will increase your credibility as well as give them reasons to return to your site even if they donít have an immediate need for your product or service. Related to this is sending out a periodic newsletter that gives useful information, announces specials and sales and highlights specific products.

With just a few customizations your osCommerce store can be a unique site that fits your philosophy, product and needs.

About the Author: Myles O'Reilly is the author of the Programmers' Guide to osCommerce and is owner of The osCommerce Cafe which provides osCommerce templates to hundreds of web designers worldwide.

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