E-Business Success Just A Click Away

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Computer professional Kelly Kazarian thinks all of Payson's Internet-fearful business owners should sit down, get a firm grip on their arm rests, and absorb the following statistics:


• As we speak, there are about 67 million Internet users in this country alone. Another five million Americans will enter the fray within the next three months. And 65 million more are expected to cruise online within the next three years.


• Fifty-six million of those folks will shop the Web for their next purchase, and 23 million will purchase the object of their desire online.


• E-commerce racked up $35 billion in sales during 1998. Although 1999's tally is still being calculated, it's already known to be a record-obliterator. And by 2003, the end-of-year numbers are expected to reach $170 billion.


Those are American dollars, by the way. Not pesos. Not yen.


"With figures like that," Kazarian said, "if you have a business, you'd be nuts not to put it on the Web."


Kazarian would know. In addition to operating her own online computer super store through the aegis of HandTech.com, she's an independent consultant for that national Webfirm, and runs a home-based computer-training enterprise called Kelly's Komputers -- the portion of her business that keeps her the busiest.


Kazarian's own e-commerce success story may be enough to sway the nervous and the non-believing.


She was a latecomer herself, not delving into Internet sales, service and self-marketing until June of last year. In that time, she said, her business has grown remarkably.


"I started off just selling to friends and family," she said. "That helped get my name around. Fortunately, there's a real hunger in Payson for computer knowledge."


So much hunger, in fact, that Kazarian hasn't had time to market her site nationally.


"If I wasn't focusing so much on training right now, I'd definitely work on increasing my Web presence beyond Payson."


Why?

Silly question, she said.

"Here in Payson you have access to 13,000 people. When you get on the Web, you have access to the whole world -- or at least the whole country, depending on what you're selling or what you're doing. You just open a whole new, incredibly vast market."


Atop Kazarian's list of those who are most insane for not diving head-first into the sales technology of the 21st century are owners of any kind of retail business.


"Anyone who's got a storefront and wants customers to walk in and place an order should be on the Internet," she said, "because now your store's going to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. People can view your products from their home, and you can reach a lot of people you normally wouldn't have access to."


Her list of what wouldn't work well on the Internet is short, indeed, and led by service-type businesses, like beauty salons, where you've got to physically be there to receive the benefit.


"And obviously, something like gasoline stations, too," she said, "because you can't mail gasoline. Outside of those examples, I can't think of any type of business that wouldn't benefit from being on the Internet."


The main reason independent businessfolk are reluctant to test-drive the selling power of the Internet, Kazarian said, is simple fear of computers -- a condition she encounters on a daily basis among her students.


"The best and fastest way to get over that fear is to just turn on a computer and start clicking away," she said. "When I started out on them 10 years ago, I just started clicking everything: 'What happens if I do this? Or this? Or this?'


"Okay, so I crashed my hard-drive one time," she said with a laugh, "but I learned a lot by doing that. It's not difficult. You don't need a college degree to figure out how to do these things."

Common e-fear

One common e-fear shared by business owners and consumers alike, said Kazarian, springs from the misperceived dangers of Internet credit card purchases.


"There have been no verified cases of hackers obtaining personal information through a secure server," she said. "As long as you're on a secure server -- your browser will automatically tell you when you are -- the information is encrypted using what used to be the military standard for encryption. Hacking into it just hasn't been done."


If that doesn't calm your nerves, Kazarian said, there is another high-tech, instant payment option for Internet buyers and sellers: check by fax, where the buyer makes out a check, puts the order number on it, and simply faxes it to the seller, usually via a toll-free number.


"It's the same exact thing as mailing your check," she said, "but you're cutting out all those days of postal-delivery time. And fear of fax machines is practically non-existent."


Despite Kazarian's whole-hearted endorsement of doing business on the Internet, she's quick to add that there are potential potholes -- and businesses of any size can fall into them.


"The biggest mistake people make is not being prepared for the business you've generated," she said. "Fingerhut, a national direct- marketing company, got hit so hard by Internet shoppers over the holidays that their CEOs were down in the warehouse, packing and shipping orders because they were so far behind.


"That makes people mad, and they won't go back to shop there. If you're gonna say, 'I can do this for you,' you'd better be there and be prepared to do it.'


Another common error is to get your Web site up and going, and then figure your job is done, she said.


"Once your site is open for business, you've got to promote it. You can't just set it up and expect people to find it.


"Word of mouth has worked very well for me on the local level. But for national exposure, at the very least, you should register your site with the major search engines, like Yahoo or Alta Vista, so that people will find you even if they've never heard of you.


"That's why business on the Internet is so great," Kazarian said. "When you do it right, which is not difficult to do, it's like having a store in the busiest mall in the world -- and there are 80 million customers right outside your door, ready to wander in."

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