Online and E-commerce for Your Small Business

social-media-graphicsThe answer is, “Yes, your small business needs to be online.”

That means having an online presence and considering e-commerce operations. E-commerce typically means selling products online but I tend to think of it as something bigger. There are service companies that allow you to schedule your appointments online. And paying your bill has long been an available online activity.

If you are like many small business owners, you first need to understand your options and then select and put one or more options into action. To help you with this, Extension across the country has developed resources for you. Check with your local Extension office.

You can also check out the powerofbusiness.net website. Information on these topics can be found in several locations including our blog, the archived “live chats,” in the “tips” section, and in past issues of the newsletter.  And don’t forget to check out the three online marketing free workbooks found right on the front page.

Another useful site is the National e-Commerce Extension Initiative. A variety of short information briefs are there to introduce you to various online possibilities.

Examples of the kind of help Extension provides include:

So as we close in on a new year, make this your year for starting and expanding your online presence. 

Cyber Security and Your Small Business – Part 2

Mary Peabody, Univ of Vermont, and Steve Hancock, Cornell, offer more tips on how small businesses can keep their online data secure. 

In this episode, Mary and Steve discuss how to protect your customers. Businesses need to build trust with clients. It is that trust which then allows the client to provide his or her credit card and personal information when you ask.

There are four strategies a small business owner can use to build such trust:

  1. Have and follow a privacy policy
  2. Know the data you are collecting. What is it? How will you use it? How are you storing it? Who has access?
  3. Keep what you need and delete what you don’t.
  4. Protect the information.

It is not uncommon to hear business owners express concern about the perceived cost of keeping data secure. That cost is made up of two things, software and time.

The software can often be obtained for free. Companies are increasingly will to share it as data security is in everyone’s interest.

As Mary identifies, there will be time involved. Yet the time spent upfront will be much less than what would be spent should a data breach occur. And it is not only the issue of fixing the data breach but the time and energy you will spend in re-establishing trust with your clients. Recovery is much more expensive than time up front.

Another thing business owners can do is to help their customers stay safe when online. A tip sheet was provided that business owners might share with their customers as a place to start.

As a business owner, you want your customers to feel comfortable in engaging with you and your website. Take the time and make the effort to ensure your work does not disappear because of an online security lapse.