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Test, Test, Test...

You may be eager to launch your e-commerce storefront, but take time to review and test your site thoroughly before going live. You will only have one chance to make a first impression on each new visiting customer, and broken links, incorrect phone numbers, and grammatical or spelling errors diminish the professional polish you're striving for.

Walk through the entire ordering process to test its usability. Is it clear exactly what customers need to do to purchase? Try buying a product: is the page on which you supply payment information secure? Is the payment processed correctly through your payment gateway? Make sure you use both Macintosh and PCs for testing, and different browsers and modem speeds. You want to be able to support even low end systems (i.e., slower computers with a 28.8 modem line).

Also, don't forget about customer support: it's the key to creating loyal customers. Are you prepared to confirm that a customer's order has been received? Are you ready to follow up with an e-mail message for good measure? A personalized message from a real customer service representative is best, but sending an automatic reply works as well. Set minimum response times and standards for replying to customer questions and concerns, and ensure that your customer support staff is fully knowledgeable about all your products and services, their features and benefits, pricing, and availability.

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