Starting an online business or e-commerce site for an existing business can be a smart move especially in the Tucson area, where online business can supplement sales of a storefront during the slow summer months.

Among the pros of an online business are the low cost of entry; it serves as an automated, 24/7 profit center; the overhead is low and the profit potential is large.

On the con side, it takes work to get people to learn of the site; there is no personal contact as with a retail store; creating credibility and attracting customers can be a challenge; it takes time to get things really working; and customers cannot physically see or feel your products.

According to Steve Strauss, a lawyer, author and speaker who specializes in small business and entrepreneurship, here are some things to consider before you make the on-line business move:

  • Create a great site: Look for online hosts that have templates you can customize. People who come to your site will judge it in about three seconds, so better impress them the moment they hit it.
  • Find the right product at the right price and you will make a profit.
  • Search for online for an “e-commerce host” and have an online catalog or store. Your host will offer a store creation tool, with point-and-click ways to add products, pictures, and descriptions.
  • Search for online for “online merchant account services” that offers the ability to process payments online.
  • Market and promote your site so people can find it: Master search-engine optimization (SEO) techniques. Engage in viral marketing. Tweet. Have a Facebook fan page. Try pay-per-click. Advertise.
  • Don’t forget to add the cost of shipping to your prices.
  • After-sales support is the difference between a one-time sale and creating a customer for life. How will you handle returns? What should you upsell?

For more information, go to Strauss’ website, or check out tips from the Small Business Administration at

Diane Diamond is a mentor and vice president of media relations for SCORE Southern Arizona, a nonprofit group that offers free small-business counseling and mentoring by appointment at several locations. For more information, go to, send email to, or call 505-3636.