Turning to the Phone Company for Ecommerce Solutions

homekey.jpgReaders know we feel strongly that every business should have a website, whether you build it yourself or hire a designer. There are many web hosting companies to choose from with varying levels of features to build and/or enhance your site, such as Network Solutions, Register.com, GoDaddy, and Microsoft Office Live.
AT&T also recently announced new Web hosting services for small and midsize businesses with options for e-commerce features like shopping cart applications, blogging capabilities for customer reviews, and online payment integration with PayPal. We asked Chris Costello, Assistant Vice President, AT&T Hosting and Applications Services, to tell us more.
There are hundreds of web hosting companies around – what makes one different than the other? What makes AT&T’s hosting different?
In times of uncertainty, customers need a name they can trust. They need to know that the company they entrust their web presence to will be around for the long haul. They also need to know that as their business grows, they can expect their provider to be a partner in growth. AT&T is one of the few companies who can offer businesses a full continuum of hosted services and exemplary customer service. For example, AT&T makes it convenient for customers to order bundled services which meet their communications and hosting needs at discounted prices and on one bill. Unfortunately, some smaller providers — and even many large ones – don’t always treat customer service as a priority

GoDaddy spends quite a bit of money advertising and generating buzz – any comments/thoughts?
AT&T products and services are well known in the market. Working directly through our sales channels, we have been able to build trusted relationships with our small business customers. And we maintain an aggressive outreach program to keep them informed of AT&T services tailored to them such as the ability to order our small business hosting services through the www.att.com/webhosting website. This gives us an advantage over smaller companies with lesser known brands that have to spend significant time and money marketing their brand to attract new clients.

Why is it that studies show many smaller businesses still don’t have web sites and those that do, (from our personal observation) are not visually or technical advanced?

Small business owners have to question the return on investment of a web presence — particularly if they are a local business. These businesses, if they have a web presence at all, tend to gravitate to static web sites providing general information about their company such as products/services offered, locations, hours of operation and contact information. Many though, are turning to AT&T web hosting to create more of a global web presence and build e-Commerce features such as a shopping cart application.
What are your thoughts on whether a business owner should build a web site with a professional consultant, web software or use online web site software?
In today’s environment where foot traffic to brick-and-mortar businesses is down, small business owners need to understand the value that a web presence can bring to their business. Having a well-designed web site expands the reach of their business beyond their neighborhood; and services such as ours make it easy for them to not only increase exposure but also to offer their goods and services over the Internet. For those owners willing to invest the time, we provide “Do-It-Yourself” tools that guide users through building and maintaining their first web site. For those who don’t have the time or desire to take this process on themselves, AT&T offers a set of services – ranging from one-time web development to on-going web master support — that meet the varying needs of our customers. If a small business does not have a web presence, chances are its competition does. Using consultants, web software or online web services helps small businesses ensure that they are not disadvantaged in today’s “e-Conomy”.