E-commerce acts as a tool for established business
September 21, 2004
Sunlight spilled into the storefront windows of Alie’s Flowers on East Washington Street. Here customers can browse for their perfect artificial-flower arrangement or basket full of fresh sunflowers.
But some customers are skipping the aesthetics of walking through a flower shop. Many are opting to order their bouquets on the Internet, instead of stopping to smell the roses.
Manager Becky Gossett said the flower shop recently put itself online to attract those customers who want the convenience of Internet shopping. A customer can browse http://www.aliesflowers.com, select an arrangement and place the order.
“Most orders are from businesses that aren’t able to come in and shop,” she said. “And also some handicapped people order online.”
Alie’s Flowers has its site through Teleflora, a service with special features such as monthly e-mails, an event reminder service and an address book.
E-Commerce, the technical term for Internet shopping, is a way for established businesses to reach a broader customer base. Dave Fry, IQ Systems program manager, said retail businesses are putting catalogues online and selling merchandise before the customer gets away from them, or surfs to another site.
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“You can only sell as well as you can market,” Fry said. “Once you get them to come to your site you need a site that is a good representation of your company.”
Fry showed his company’s Web site as an example. On the top of the page is their yellow and gray logo and a simple menu bar. Photographs of Nevada scenery, taken by the company’s president, flash under the menu bar. Visitors are welcomed to the site with rotating pictures of trees turning colors in autumn, sand and scrub brush and the Great Reno Balloon Race.
He said a small-business informational site can cost from $400 to $1,000, depending on content and design. Some business owners just plug their info into a template. Others hire professional site developers and hope to get a return for the investment.
Cindy Pearce sells Internet space on a Web site called 2GOclub. Her clients are restaurants who want to put their menus online, attracting Web-savvy customers who want to order “2 GO.”
She is based in Reno and sells to restaurants in the Reno, Sparks, Carson and Tahoe area. Details such as the restaurant’s hours of operation, special menu selections and food photos are often included on each page. Customers can get specific, such as how they want their hamburger cooked. The order is then faxed to the restaurant.
“We have been very successful,” Pearce said about the 2GOclub franchise. “We’re just hitting the ground nationwide.”
The Internet-based company markets itself as “one-stop shopping” for families on the go or businesses that need to order lunches. Pearce said it costs about $200 for a restaurant to get its menu on the Web site and a monthly fee.
IQ Systems has helped about 100 local businesses put themselves on the Web, Fry said.
Some of his Web site recommendations:
•Advertise your site on a search engine, such as Google.
•Grab attention by showcasing your product to its advantage, using digital photography or the computer program Flash.
•Design your site with information grouped at different depths, not just bunched together, so the customer’s eye is drawn to each piece of text or link.
Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.