With around £80-billion having been spent online in the run-up to Christmas this year (according to the Centre for Retail Research) the idea of going into business as an online retailer is very attractive!
All you have to do is get hold of some merchandise, put up a website advertising your products with an appreciable mark-up, then sit back and wait for the orders – and profits – to roll in, right?
Well, that may be an over-simplification, but it is true there are amazing opportunities in the realms of ecommerce if you do your homework, follow the letter of the law, and utilise all the tricks of the digital marketing trade. We can’t promise you’ll end up an overnight millionaire thanks to your online shop, but who knows, if you do it right you could build a business empire from your spare bedroom.
There are many things to consider and decide on when you sit down to plan your ecommerce business:
- What you are going to sell, and where you are going to source it from. Likewise, how are you going to manage logistics like storage, order picking and delivery. If you’re going to employ staff remember you’ll need to factor in wages and employers’ liability insurance, and register as an employer with HMRC.
- What is your competition online? (Don’t be put off by competition – research it, embrace it and learn from it. You can make your offering better than anyone else’s.)
- Decide on a name, which will, in effect, be the domain name for your website. This is all-important as it will be your brand and business identity.
- Choose a host for your website, and don’t skimp on price for the sake of a cheap package. Take into account response times, back-up, support and security. Ask around for recommendations, and when you settle on a host company check them out thoroughly before committing.
- Find out about the different available platforms for building an ecommerce website, and decide which one would suit you best. Before you approach a web designer/developer, make sure you have a rough idea of the look and feel you want for your website, and what sort of functionality you need at the back end.
- In order to receive payment from customers online via credit or debit card you will need to have a merchant account, for which you pay fees. There are dozens of merchant account providers in the UK. Click here to learn all about merchant accounts and how to choose one.
- If you intend to take card payments directly from customers via your website, you will need an SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate on your site, to secure the data sent between the shopper’s browser and your server. Choose an SSL provider that is reputable and trusted as your Certificate Authority. Your customers won’t trust you if you don’t have that padlock icon and green https:// in the address bar. You can find out more about SSL Certificates here.
- Learn about SEO (search engine optimisation). An ecommerce website won’t get off the ground unless it gets to the top slots in the search engine rankings, and there are various ways to make this happen.
- Educate yourself on the rules and regulations pertaining to online trading. There are a number of laws specific to ecommerce, designed to protect consumers. Make sure you familiarise yourself with the four most important laws: The Electronic Commerce (EC) Directive Regulations 2002; The Data Protection Act 1998 (soon to be replaced with the GDPR); The Distance Selling Act 2000; and the ICO Cookie Law. Click here for Shopify’s Ecommerce legal guide.
- If you’re a complete novice, investigate online marketing – you’re going to need to market your socks off! You’ll need to use Pay Per Click advertising, social media posts, Google AdWords, email marketing and blogging to get your message out there and reel the customers in.
Depending on the capital you have available to start up your online shop, you can make it very easy on yourself by signing up with a digital marketing agency like Dentons Digital. You just have to bring us your creative ideas and we do the hard graft. We offer all the services you need to start selling successfully online. It’s a worthwhile investment in the long term, so why not contact us for a chat (our advice is free!).