You may be wondering why I have not kept up with the site of the month posts. Recently, a featured store option has been added on to the live shops directory. Now, instead of sites of the month, I will be proposing featured sites to the rest of the osCommerce team. When I do select a featured site, I will also blog about why I choose that site if it is approved by the rest of the team.

I will be starting a series of blog entries geared towards small business owners looking to bring their business online with osCommerce.

For my first entry I will be discussing the advantages of the internet and how the internet can benefit small business owners.

Before building an online presence a small business owner must understand the benefits and drawbacks of building a website/ online store.

One of the major advantages of having an online store or website is that information is available to customers 24/7. This is an important aspect of the web that is often overlooked. As a customer, if I wanted information about a company that does not have a web site I would have to wait until they opened to call them. Even then, I may have to deal with an annoying animated phone system or answering machine. The internet, combined with e-mail, allows potential clients or customers to learn what they need to know at their convenience.

What are some other major advantages of having a store online? One major advantage is the reduction of marketing costs. Putting marketing information online saves the business owner a lot of money.

In addition to reducing marketing costs, websites also reduce support costs. A business owner can save money by using the Web to provide support when staff is not available. For instance, a business owner can integrate a Frequently Asked Questions module into their store which will assists in answering customer questions.

Websites also give companies a modern image. Having a .com and a company email address gives the impression that your business is current and up to date on technology. However, if you are creating a Web presence solely based on this decision then you must determine if that is enough of a benefit to justify the costs of going online.

Finally, creating an online store and/or website will greatly help with your company image. A professionally designed website can make your company look important and impressive.  For instance, positive product reviews left on your online store can dramatically improve your company image.

My next blog entry will cover the disadvantages of the web. Poorly designed web sites, web sites that are incomplete and web sites that are partially under construction can have a negative effect on company image. Many home-based or low-budget website fit this category. All too often when reviewing Live Shop entries I see stores that fit this category. These sites do more harm to the business then good.

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