Handshake © by buddawiggi (2003)

The abundant emergence of Internet business is not a coincidence; companies see how lucrative e-commerce can be and are jumping at the opportunity. Corporations are moving their store fronts to desktops and raking in the cash in the process.

Easily navigated websites, organized inventory and the convenience of shopping from the privacy of one’s home has online business catapulting. Without the costs of rent and other overhead expenses, businesses are even able to pass the savings down to their customers; however, none of this is feasible unless you have reliable, efficient and instant customer service.

Traditionally, customers could connect a face to a name. They would enter your store, speak with a salesperson and be able to evaluate your inventory. Removing everything physical and replacing it with digital photographs on a website may make customers uncomfortable. So the first key to running a successful Internet business is to establish trust between your business and your customers.

Use your FAQ to educate your customers

An informed customer is much more likely to proceed to order, so one of your tasks is to educate your consumers. An easy and efficient way to do this is to create a page of frequently asked questions on your site. The FAQ page is an easy way to address common questions and concerns. This is where you educate customers on your procedures for dealing with issues such as returns, cancellations, or damages. Outlining these procedures will go a long way, putting your customer’s mind at ease, and give them the sense of comfort necessary to open their wallets.

Build Credibility With a Virtual Phone System

When consumers are purchasing anything from a T-shirt to kitchen cabinets, they want to ensure their needs will be met. Some customers might be unnerved by the lack of a physical location, and it your job to relieve that stress. An easy way to combat this issue is to make your phone number clearly visible.

Using a service like Grasshopper will provide a professional toll free organized calling system. This service provides prompts that allow customers to speak to different departments; sales, customer service, shipping, etc., and presents the business owner with the ability to direct each department to a different forwarding phone number or location. Even if you are a one man shop, running your business from your cell phone in your mother’s basement, success in business is largely about customer perception. This tool will make them believe you are running a large scale operation.

Engage your users in real time with live chat software

Another essential tool for any emerging e-commerce business is a live chat software. Integrating a live support system into your website allows you the ability to answer customers immediate questions while they are on your site, browsing through your merchandise. A service such as Zopim offers multiple packages to that fit inside almost any budget. These services work like an instant messenger, and are extremely helpful in closing sales instantaneously. There has been many occasions, where we answered a few simple questions, and the customer then proceeded to check-out online and complete their purchase. For my business, this service paid for itself for five-years in just one week of use. The live support service offered by Zopim, features support for multiple operators, scripted shortcuts to commonly asked questions, and the ability to chat with customers via your mobile device.

Wear your badges of honor proudly

The perceived company credibility is essential for customers when deciding to purchase products from a website. Displaying badges and certificates that your company has earned can have a reassuring affect on potential customers. Once you are up and running for a year, it is essential to apply to the Better Business Bureau. This organization is widely trusted by consumers and will demonstrate a commitment to resolve any customer complaints. It is something, that if rated highly, will definitely sway customers in your favor.

Another great national organization to join for e-commerce is the US Chamber of Commerce, the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses. This badge represents that your business stands for free enterprise, which will enhance it’s legitimacy. Join additional local or nationally recognized organizations in your field. For example, my company sells bathroom and kitchen cabinets online, so the National Kitchen and Bath Association was perfect organization fit for us. Seek out and find these organizations in your industry and put the badges on your home page for all your customers to see. Each badge on your website adds to the companies overall professionalism and you will be well on your way to establishing yourself as an expert in your industry.

There are many facets to consider when embarking on the journey that is e-commerce, but they all take the back seat to building a rapport and establishing trust with your customers. A unique website with high quality products and superb credentials will only take you so far; if you want customers to make it from your home page and onto your check-out page, you have to keep them in mind at all times. Making your e-commerce business, not only a virtual store, but a hub to answer questions and provide workable solutions will directly lead to educated consumer sales.

Anthony Saladino is the co-founder and CEO of Kitchen Cabinet Kings, one of the nation’s largest distributors of kitchen and bathroom cabinetry on the Internet. He is the visionary behind the custom online-shopping system, which has revolutionized the industry. He’s a member of The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only nonprofit organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC promotes entrepreneurship as a solution to unemployment and underemployment and provides entrepreneurs with access to tools, mentorship, and resources that support each stage of their business’s development and growth.