Each day, Inc.'s reporters scour the Web for the most important and interesting news to entrepreneurs. Here's what we found today:
Seal the deal with your online shoppers. Nothing is more frustrating to an online retailer than customers who load up their online shopping carts only to abandon them before checkout. Rather than blame the problem on indecisive customers, the American Express OPEN Forum has seven ways businesses can cut down on shopping cart abandonment. According to Forrester Research, the biggest factor scaring customers away is high shipping costs. If you can't afford to offer free or discount shipping, the article recommends making sure "the cost is clearly visible early and often to avoid surprises." Among the other tips the site suggests is to make the path to checkout as uncomplicated as possible and provide alternative payment options, such as PayPal or Google Checkout.
What your website says about you. No one likes Comic Sans. On that much, most web designers can agree. But there's more to creating a website that fits your business than simply avoiding the most obvious font faux pas. Today's Mashable has compiled a list of websites that designers, and customers can love. Some, like Go Realty's site, accentuate the personal side of the real estate industry, featuring black and white photos of Go Realty clients, with personal messages from each of them. Others, like online retailer Hardgraft, take a minimalist approach, featuring a small selection of electronics cases, photographed in brilliant detail. "They're clearly targeting the more fashion-aware web nerds this way,' one developer tells Mashable. Similarly, the luxury bathrobe retailer, Gazel, uses earth tones and sweeping fonts that convey the richness of its merchandise. For more tips, check out our guide to designing the best website for your business.
The stickiness of WikiLeaks. Is WikiLeaks a sustainable business model? Small business advisor Nelson Davis writes on the Huffington Post that it may be the final development in a growing new business category: repackaging information. The Internet, he writes, has for a while monetized information public and private, from the personal lives of celebrities to market reports in corporate America. All WikiLeaks has done is awaken information that was once thought of as private, for a social purpose that people can get behind. Davis says: "The revenue model for Wiki seems to be modest cash contributions from people who believe strongly in what Julian Assange and his associates do. A clear and purpose driven mission is the strongest heartbeat and customer magnet that a business can have." Those customers are even willing to "wage a cyber war in defense of the business," he says. "Corporate marketers would do a lot to develop that level of brand loyalty."
Google plays favorites. The search giant is displaying links to its own services over those of rival websites, according to The Wall Street Journal. The article notes that Yelp, Citysearch and WebMD are all being pushed lower down on the search results page to make way for competing Google content. "Google does seem to be chasing us and I don't like it one bit," says Stephen Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, which reviews hotels and other businesses for travelers. The traffic his site gets from Google has dropped 10 percent since mid-October, he adds. Google's response: Its new way of showing information about small businesses is more useful to Web searchers. "We built Google for users, not websites, and our goal is to give users answers," a spokeswoman said.
Going digital to save an empire. One of the country's oldest and most well-respected institutions is finally turning a profit after a decade in the red. The New York Times reports on the recent financial turnaround of the The Atlantic, a Washington-based monthly magazine. But taking a print-based publication to a profitable online enterprise was no easy feat for the company's management. Justin B. Smith, the president of the Atlantic Media Company, told The Times "In essence, we brainstormed the question, 'What would we do if the goal was to aggressively cannibalize ourselves?'" In five years, the company has doubled its revenue, and expects to post a profit of about nearly $2 million for 2010. Digital advertising for The Atlantic is expected to close out 2010 at $6.1 million, nearly 40 percent of the company's advertising revenue, which is "a rate virtually unheard of" in the magazine business, according to The Times.