LoneEagleLogosmall.jpg (2622 bytes)

Lesson Three -
Ecommerce Cooperatives and Virtual Incubators

Lesson Goals

Alternatives to Creating an Ecommerce Site

If you are a crafter and just wish to sell your crafts, perhaps you don't need your own web site. You might use eBay, or you might just post your crafts on a crafters' cooperative web site along with the crafts of many others to benefit from collaborative marketing. Or, if you do wish to create your own web site, you might use eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, or other e-mall services so your web site is listed along with lots of others in an e-mall where shoppers are already browsing.

Creating a free Ecommerce web site can be fairly easy at any of the sites listed in this lesson. Consider creating one just to see what you can learn from the experience. Note that some free sites offer you shopping cart features for a small fee as an easy way to list multiple products for sale and to receive automated orders online. Some offer merchant accounts that allow you to receive credit card orders via the Internet for a small fee for each transaction. Most such sites include tutorials on the basics for creating and maintaining an Ecommerce site. At some sites such as Yahoo, your site is free only for a limited period.

While it can be easy to create a simple Ecommerce web site, realizing a steady stream of customers will not be as easy. It takes hard work to be successful selling on the Internet whether through eBay or through your own web site. However, you will find many stories where the big problem has been more orders than the entrepreneur can handle! Being ready to meet large orders can become a serious, if happy, problem. For example, if your new quilting web site receives an order for 500 quilts, you'll need to know with whom you can collaborate to meet this order.

As you'll see in the Hands-on Activities for this lesson, some web sites post crafts for crafters who are not yet ready to create and maintain their own web sites. Others post the web sites for many small businesses as a collaborative e-mall. Virtual incubators exist to help businesses get a first web site. E-marketing services are available to help you market your web site.

A web site is not something you just create and wait until the money comes rolling in. A web site is something you will continually be maintaining and developing. You may consider adding interactive collaborative services for your potential customers. As your competition becomes more innovative, you'll borrow these innovations and add them to your web site. Successful web sites are always changing. A successful web site must show signs of life and present a reason to return to the site again and again to see what is new and exciting.

Getting started by using the free services means you don't need web-authoring skills or software and you don't have to know how to upload web pages. If you learn web-authoring skills and how to upload web pages to your own web site through your Internet service provider you're likely to have more flexibility to improve your own site. A strategic first step is to become familiar with what is offered by free Ecommerce site services in order to review the benefits and limitations of these free offerings.

Ten Suggested Components of an Effective Web Site
(Created by Malcolm Dell of http://www.giftmarketing.org/ )

1.      Wide, shallow structure (2 clicks to select, 3 to buy)

2.      Simple, easy to navigate

3.      Graphics limited to need with small file sizes

4.      Lots of product and company information

5.      How to order and a secure ordering assurance page

6.      Easy to find "contact" information

7.      Embraces web technology (uses shopping baskets not "call to order")

8.      Customer newsletter sign-up (and privacy policy)

9.      Includes a links to related resources page

10.  Rich content!

How Will People Find Your Ecommerce Web Site?

When you create your own Ecommerce web page, your first concern will be - how will people find it? You'll find it is inexpensive to register your own web domain: For example, search for http://lone-eagles.com/ at http://choicenames.com/ and then try a name you would like for your web site to see if it is available. Having your own domain name makes you look just that much more professional. Perception is very important in the competitive online marketplace.

By posting your web page on a web mall or online Ecommerce cooperative, you'll benefit from being part of a marketing cooperative. This will solve the marketing problem for you (at least in part). You'll also want to get as many web sites as possible - which sell similar products to yours - to post links to your site in exchange for you including a link to their site on your web page.

In the hands-on activities for this lesson, you'll explore a number of cooperative marketing models.  The more you explore, the more different ideas you'll find regarding the evolving art of cooperative marketing and the ease of creating your first Ecommerce web site using existing services. Note: easy tutorials on every aspect of the process for online marketing and maintaining a successful Ecommerce web site are found at nearly every site offering Ecommerce web page services. Remember that these tutorials exist and make a point of specifically looking for them and other relevant key resources. 

Because most people are new to Ecommerce, simple instructions are essential for site providers to be successful promoting their services to those new to the Internet. For cooperative Ecommerce sites to survive, they should be user-friendly and provide easy step-by-step instructions. As a self-directed learner, your strategy will be to watch for and take advantage of the most user-friendly learning resources and services.

Review Models of Ecommerce Cooperatives

The more Ecommerce cooperatives and virtual incubator sites you visit, the more critical you'll become. At first, everything will look exciting, but with more experience you'll find certain sites leave you feeling something is lacking. Many sites have not changed their design in years, and while they might look pretty on the outside, not much energy has gone into them and very little is happening. The Native American site in the hands-on section of this lesson has high visual interest, and after carefully reviewing this site, you'll note that most other sites look dull by comparison.

Hands-on Activities

1.      Explore the following cooperatives and resources

Take the web tour at http://lone-eagles.com/pcna1.htm to explore successful ecommerce sites and related resources. Use the tutorial at the end of this page to create your own free Ecommerce website at http://tripod.com using their site-builder software.

Free Native American Artist's Web Sites
Check the products of at least two artists.  This web site incubator offers free Ecommerce sites for Native American artists. This is a great example of how some services can enhance getting started in Ecommerce.

2.      Explore the following major e-mall sites and their related features and services such as free Ecommerce web sites for 30 days.

Recognize the advantages of having an Ecommerce site at a location shared with many other Ecommerce sites. Compare the free web site offerings of different sources to understand the similarities and differences between systems.

Amazon.com's Z Shops
Explore to see how others are selling online and see the offers for free trial Ecommerce sites and the Merchant's Resource Center. Find the link to Z shops (select z stores from the left hand menu) and look at the extensive listings of web sites operated by people like you. Amazon is the largest e-mall you can join. Amazon is an example of a huge web mall where your Ecommerce page will be listed with many others and is a great place to see the newest trends in online stores and Ecommerce. Amazon was one of the very first shopping sites on the Internet. Auctions are also available.

Review their resources on Ecommerce. Free Ecommerce sites for two-week trial periods are available at http://store.yahoo.com/. Compare their deal with Amazon. Yahoo is another example of a web mall where your Ecommerce page will be listed with many others. Auctions are available here, too and Yahoo is another great place to see the newest trends in online stores and Ecommerce.

3.      Planning your web site

Access Ecommerce Guide
Read what you'll need to consider before attempting to create your own web site.

To Complete This Lesson

1.      Send an email to your instructor stating what strategies you're planning to adopt.


2.      Send an email to the listserv (send to isu-ecommerce@mm.isu.edu ) with the web address for at least one interesting eBay or Ecommerce success story or resource.

Optional Skill-Builders

Explore more e-malls at http://lone-eagles.com/emalls.htm and conduct the included searching exercise.

Complete the Suggested Hands-on Learning Opportunities at
Level Two - Creating Your Own Web Pages (The Power of Self-Publishing Globally)

Learn the basics of Web Self-Publishing Skills, creating and posting web pages with text, images, and hyperlinks.

Explore the Idaho Virtual Incubator
This site provides a service to help businesses get started with their own web sites. Select the link to businesses and look at the Ecommerce examples. Other Idaho Economic Development resources and more are on their "Additional Resources" listing at http://www.idahovirtualincubator.org/links/.  Follow the links to the Idaho Small Business Development Center and their list of other links.