One hundred eighty-two million American consumers, and as many as 580 million world-wide, actively use the Internet to get information, make purchase decisions, and buy products and services. Online shopping accounted for nearly 2% of all U.S. retail sales in Q4 2003 (U.S. Department of Commerce). The Internet marketplace will only expand in coming years, and thanks to the comparably low cost of launching a Web business, it may represent the most effective--and inexpensive--way for entrepreneurs and small businesses to acquire new customers.
While launching a Web business can help you sell products and services around the clock and around the world, its greatest impact may be felt closer to home as more and more customers use the Internet to find businesses in their neighborhoods. Whether you're building global brand awareness and credibility, or helping local customers find you, your Web site has become a necessary tool to help keep pace with your competition, near and far.