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Turbo-Charge Your Site

With almost 60 million households in the United States linked to the Net, you'd be stupid not to find ways to grab a piece of the action with a site that really hums.

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While virtually anyone who knows how to work a word processor seems to have a book out on how to design an e-commerce site these days, much less emphasis has been placed on drawing traffic to those sites. Any business with a Web site realizes it's not enough to simply "plant a flag" and hope for the best. It takes real effort to get people to drop what they're doing and take a look at what you have to offer.

According to a recent study from trade organization, business-to-consumer e-commerce reached $33.1 billion in 1999.

Fortunately, given the global market the Web represents, making that effort appears to be well worth the trouble. Consider this: There are now 59.8 million households in the United States with links to the Net, according to a study released by Jupiter Communications . Online advertising in that market reached $3.3 billion in 1999, and is expected to reach $33 billion by 2004, according to Forrester Research .

Moreover, business-to-business e-commerce-currently where the real action is-generated a healthy $43 billion in sales in 1998. And by 2003, those figures are expected to climb to an astonishing $1.3 trillion, according to Forrester Research. But even though attracting even a tiny percentage of those customers and sales may seem daunting, the good news is, there are a number of tried-and-true Web site promotion models you can use today to start stepping up traffic to your site. Hundreds of e-commerce sites, for example, have had great luck building customer bases by finding ways to create an online sense of community. Others, as we've seen, create exclusive members-only tools and domains, creating the impression that they consider their customers "special."

Still other e-businesses have focused their attentions on leveraging Web interactivity for all it's worth and ensuring that the journey through their sites from thought to actual Web purchase is a short and pleasant one for the customer. And companies that have decided to truly reach out to the entire global market are taking great pains to ensure that their e-commerce sites appeal to as many cultures and nations as possible.

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J.W. Dysart , a software analyst and Internet business consultant, has written for more than 40 publications, including The New York Times.