Products and Services
Consider this... If you offer a tire store, what will you offer online? Will you sell tires online? Probably not because tires are expensive to ship. This is an example of a business that doesn't translate well to the web. Maybe you own an art store. Can you sell and ship your entire inventory online? Probably — and you can no doubt be very successful doing it. The big question is whether you are going to offer all the framing options, mat colors, double mats, fancy bevel cuts and glass options. This is where site design gets complicated and where most web site owners start to draw lines in the sand where they go no further due to development costs, complexity, the potential for customer confusion, etc. This is the perspective you need to take when planning to take your business online. What level do you dive in at?
On that same note, your web site is able to do things you can't do in a brick and mortar store. Consider what is possible and how you can use the web to further your mission. For example, it is much easier to collect and store information from customers on a web site. Use this to your advantage. Another example is the ability that a maker of accounting software has to offer a downloadable demo of their software. This service is provided to customers immediately and at very low cost to the company providing the software — a service that would not be possible in a retail store. Furniture companies could offer downloadable brochures, swatches, etc. and a wine company might offer an email reminder service to remind past customers to send gifts during the holiday or special occasions!
You get the idea. Talk to you developer and brainstorm with them to leverage the web to it's full potential — and oh, what a potential it has. But at the same time make sure your business will translate to the web. Without proper planning you might discover costly hurdles or even unmanageable problems once you are neck deep. Plan, plan and plan some more.
Use your competition
Lie, cheat, steal and well... ok, maybe not but you can borrow the best ideas from your competition via their web site. The best part is that you don't have to step through their doors, you can spy in total secrecy. You always want to stay on a level playing field with your competitors and hopefully, eventually take your site above and beyond.