In real life, the World Wide Web can be used for entertainment, information gathering, socializing and more. For small businesses, the Web can be a whole new avenue for sales. Tackling a web site (that merely advertises what a business is all about) is one aspect of using the Web to grow a business. But the most direct means of leveraging the Web to expand is via e-commerce. Of course, roll-your-own solutions abound, if you have a talented IT staff and dedicated highly
available internet connection to wire your servers up to.
At Bluedog we define e-commerce as any online business that runs a website where customers can purchase goods or services directly. In the best case, account management, order processing, and perhaps even warehouse/order fulfillment are in someway integrated.
Or you can take the software-as-a-service approach and use a service such as eDirectHost ecommerce website builder. This approach makes excellent sense for a business new to the web, or one that has limited technical resources to maintain an e-commerce site. Medium size enterprises can take advantage of the service provider's infrastructure, for higher traffic situations.
With a service you should expect a complete web site with reliable up-time, a store management front-end, a product catalog, and of course a shopping trolley. Secure processing of orders and payments protects you and your customer. If you look at how the big boys handle e-commerce, you will quickly recognize that a complete feature set from an e-commerce provider is the standard these days.
I've advised a number of ventures with that old saw, "'It's no use changing for changes sake…" But be aware that if your business is not embracing change, you can bet your competitors are.