Choosing a web solution is not just a matter of throwing up a few pages, as cheaply as you can by using friends and tech savvy kids to toss it together. The online market these days is as valuable and important as the physical marketplace you do business in so when it comes to creating a website it’s worth investing the same commitment of time, money and resources that you put into the physical set up of your premises, or selecting essential tools and equipment for the business.

Your web solution will need to be able to grow and develop with your business. If you choose a web solution that isn’t flexible and can’t be upgraded, you may end up having to replace it as your needs change.

Here are some points to consider:

Communicating with customers

When choosing your web solution it’s important to look at the options for communicating with your customers and prospects. Blogs and forums are examples of using technology to make your website more interactive. They are both effective ways to open the lines of communication between you and your market. Even if your business is not ready to start a blog, forum or other interactive tool right now, choose a web solution that is flexible enough to easily add them in future.

Managing your website

Look for a web solution than offers a content management system (CMS). A CMS enables you to make changes to your site without expert help – and hence reduces your costs. You can update text on pages, add pages, and publish articles, blogs and announcements. A CMS allows you to communicate with your customers more quickly as well.

Online selling and database capabilities

If you want to sell your products online, you need e-commerce features that are easy for you to manage and make it simple for people to buy.

Once again, using a content management system will allow you to update products and descriptions on your site. Other common features available are real-time stock management, advanced purchase calculations if you offer bulk, trade and valued customer discounts, and online credit card payment processing. If you sell electronic files, such as MP3s or e-books, you will want an e-commerce solution that enables downloads once the purchase has been made.

Along with e-commerce, a complete web solution includes an integrated customer database. This will enable you to grow your database when prospective customers interact with your site. Details about existing customers, including past enquiries, purchases, downloads, and marketing campaigns received, can be included in the database. The integrated database plays a crucial part in an e-mail marketing strategy. This facility will enable you to manage lists and provide statistics to monitor responses to e-mail marketing campaigns.

Reporting the return on investment

If you can’t measure the effectiveness of your website, you could be wasting time and money. Your website should have reporting capabilities that will tell you how many people are visiting your site, what they are doing when they visit, how they found you, and how many are turning into customers. Measuring, collecting, analysing and reporting data about how people find and use your site is crucial for providing the information that can help you improve it over time.

Statistics such as the average time on site and average page views will tell you how interested visitors are in your site. The bounce rate will tell you the percentage of visitors who only visited one page on your site. If people are leaving your site from certain pages, there might be a problem with content. If you have an e-commerce site and visitors commonly exit at one of the steps, you can take a closer look to determine why this is happening.