How to start an ecommerce business uk
How to start an eCommerce business uk
An eCommerce business is a type of business where there are no physical products in the store. Instead, they use an online platform to display and sell their product range. The most famous example is Amazon, which has grown from an eCommerce business UK bookstore to one of the biggest retailers in the world! There are many advantages that come with this type of business model – you don’t need expensive shop space or retail staff. But how do you get started?
Whether you’re a seasoned brick-and-mortar company wanting to go online or a novice entrepreneur searching for information about how to establish an eCommerce store, we’ll provide you with all of the tools and information you’ll need to get started. This article will explain how to start your own eCommerce business in the uk today!
How much is the eCommerce industry worth (UK)?
The eCommerce industry is worth 693 billion pounds according to the most recent statistics from the Office of National Statistics (UK) and sales are projected to grow at a rate of 14% each year. Succesful sectors within eCommerce businesses are clothing, accessories and beauty items – with a total of 38% of all sales being made in this industry! Toys & apparel account for 26%, while food & drink comes third at 15%.
Determine what to sell online.
A crucial element to starting an online store is choosing what to sell. Many people jump straight into how to start an eCommerce business in the UK without giving this any thought, but it’s important that you choose something for which there is a demand. This means checking how many competitors are already in your market – if there are several businesses selling the exact same products, then you likely won’t be able to compete on price.
Choose your niche
Think about an area that you are an expert in? Think about the marketable skills you have? How will your skills fit into the job market? Which category of products should you sell? You should have a idea of the type of business you should run. Look at other businesses in your sector and see where they have taken wrong actions. Get as many business ideas as possible.
Choose your product
Picking and selecting online products is the first step in your business model but also one of the biggest. You can analyse this based on the following questions:
What product or service can you offer that isn’t already on the market?
A unique product is great because it will allow you to expand your customer base. If there are already several businesses that sell the same products, how can you differentiate yourself?
How much would the product cost me?
If it is too expensive, you may struggle with how to sell your products. It’s often better for new businesses to start selling something that has a lower price point.
How much do I need to charge for it?
If you’re not sure about a products price, then check out how your competitors are pricing their products. You should also consider any taxes or fees that may be associated with the sale of this product in order to ensure profitability.
How quickly can I get my hands on my products?
An eCommerce business model success can hinge on how quickly you get your products into the store as this will influence online sales. Try and find a supplier who is able to give you stock much quicker than usual – this may incur extra costs, however it ensures you fulfil your orders.
How many of them do I need?
If you are planning to start an eCommerce business in the UK the number of products you have will influence how quickly customers find what they’re looking for. If you only have a few items, it may be difficult to attract visitors as there won’t be much choice. A good business model of the number of products to sell would typically be at least 25-30 different products.
How much competition is there?
Don’t forget to check how many other companies are selling the same thing! Remember, you need enough how to start an ecommerce business uk for your store in order to be profitable – so make sure you do some proper research before choosing what products to sell online.
Improve a well-known product
If you’re familiar with how something works or how much customers enjoy using it currently – look at ways that you can improve the product, make it more efficient or implement design requests from the public.
Discovering what sells best
The next stage of your research will consist of identifying products that offer the best value for money in the same niche and consider offering similar products or services. Visit the eCommerce businesses of your opponents and look at the products they provide. Apart from that, you can use Ubersuggest SEMrush and PageProfiler to discover competitors popular pages, which typically translated to the best-selling products. Monitor this and adapt your business strategy accordingly.
So when you enter into the market as a relatively new ecommerce business you’ll be even better positioned for exploiting the gaps in your competitors’ services. What are some things that people enjoy most about your competitor? What is your competitor not offering? Make well-researched choices and you can find a niche within the competitive space.
Find your target customers
You must understand how your target audience thinks and how they would be convinced to buy from you over a competitor. This is how you will find your niche. You must focus on how to attract the right people based on what they want and how they think – not how you would like them to behave or buy from you!
The most successful eCommerce stores are those that have a clearly defined customer in mind when it comes to appealing products/services.
Ask your target audience
One of the best ways to see if an eCommerce store idea has real traction is simply by asking how others view it. If you talk to a decent number of people (say 20 or more) and most give it negative comments, perhaps your new business idea is lacking. Establish connections on social media can be a method of reaching out to people interested in your ideas. You can also meet people in your area on sites like Meetup and other social networking sites like Facebook to find out their views.
Writing a business plan
A business plan is a document that helps you organize concepts and thoughts. It is important for your business model to determine what to prioritize, avoid common business problems and how to reach new customers.
Select your business name
Make a specific business name that shows what your online business is. The business name you select has significant legal, marketing and financial implications for your online store. If your domain name is currently being used you can consider another company name.
Do you have to register an eCommerce business UK?
If you decide to start a sole or partnership e-commerce business you should register with HMRC. As an eCommerce business, you will be required to pay VAT on all goods sold. You can opt-out for the registration of flat-rate 20% which applies if your turnover is below £85,000 per annum or standard rate applicable at the current level of UK VAT (20%) on any turnover above £85,000.
You can’t start your own eCommerce business if someone doesn’t supply you with products to sell. Now is the time to look up potential suppliers – gather as many quotes as possible. For drop shipping, your suppliers can provide details on the packaging as well as delivery methods for shipments. You must also check any storage/leasing costs to ensure they are factored within your budget. When looking at suppliers you need to think about the following:
Are you going to manufacture a new product or relabel an existing product?
Manufacturing a product entails working with a manufacturer to develop a one-of-a-kind product exclusively for your eCommerce business to sell. You submit your prototypes and product descriptions, the item is manufactured, and you choose whether to have it sent directly to the consumer or returned to you so that you may distribute it.
Applying your own business name and branding to a generic product acquired from an internet retailer is called white labelling. Look at items that are already selling successfully on a profitable online store for ideas. If they provide a white-label solution, you may purchase a shipment of stock with your own branding and market it and sell it through your own eCommerce store.
Dropshipping for eCommerce offers more autonomy than traditional delivery. Orders created for yourself are sent to your company supplier which then ships the product directly to the customer. Because you don’t hold the stock, dropshipping is an easy way to deal with eCommerce business logistics. Unfortunately, it may come at a risk. If your supplier damage or sends a product to the wrong address it’s your fault in the eyes of a customer. It’s your reputation at risk and when the responsibility for packaging goes to a third party you do lose control over the product your customer base receives.
Wholesale and warehousing
Wholesaling and Warehousing offer a flexible, dynamic business model to drop shipping. It entails using their facilities to store your business. Many eCommerce businesses opt to use a wholesaler as an extra layer of protection from the customer. In addition, if you have found products to sell that are not currently being sold on your eCommerce store – it can be an easy way to get access to these items and make a profit without having to worry about how they will reach customers.
Choose an eCommerce platform
Your eCommerce platform will serve as the base to build your profitable online store. Shopify is a complete online shopping solution with multiple add-ons. Woocommerce works best for business owners who are technical experts taking advantage of its open-source nature. Magento is a highly scalable eCommerce platform for online stores with complex inventory management and large catalogues.
Squarespace may not offer the same capabilities, tools, or add-ons as the other eCommerce platform but it focuses on cost and features usability.
Buy a Domain and hosting
A domain name should reflect the nature of your e-commerce business. If you plan to sell products that are handmade, organic, or healthy then “healthyshop” would be a good choice for the domain name. You can extend this further by adding an appropriate top-level extension (.com) and country-code Top-Level Domain (TLD), such as .co.uk or .com.au, etc.
You have to choose a separate hosting plan for your eCommerce business and domain name. There are three types of web hosting:
Shared hosting means you share a server with other websites. This type of hosting is typically the cheapest and offers basic features. It’s often slower than VPS or dedicated hosting options because your site shares resources such as memory and processing power with many others
Virtual Private Server (VPS)
VPS uses virtualization software to create isolated sections on one physical machine for multiple installations of one or many operating systems. VPS hosting provides a greater degree of security and isolation than shared hosting, but it’s more expensive
This uses up the entire server to run your website alone. It has all the features you need plus increases speed and security at a price that can be prohibitive for newbies.
So how do you choose the best hosting when starting eCommerce business (UK).
Consider how much content your eCommerce business will store?
How many products you’ll sell each day?
Look how big and how active your website will become?
Shared Hosting is perfect if it’s a small eCommerce store that doesn’t get much traffic or store lots of files (such as images).
VPS can be used by an eCommerce business with growing traffic, but may not meet future needs and can be more expensive than shared hosting.
A dedicated server is good for a high traffic eCommerce store if you require a highly optimized site with full control of the server environment, but it’s also the most expensive option.
Once you have decided on your hosting you will also need an email plan and an ssl certificate
Importance of an Email Account for your eCommerce website
An email account is how you will communicate with customers. You can use an existing email account but it’s probably not a good idea. It might be considered unprofessional by your target audience and make it difficult for you to sell products. You should consider using your domain name as your email address. The more email accounts you have the higher your cost will be. You can choose from a variety of plans that fit how many emails and what type of storage you need. Your email account will also be used to communicate sales, contact forms and live chat transcripts on your website.
Importance of an SSL for your eCommerce website
SSL is how you protect any information that’s submitted to your eCommerce business online. SSL certificates are how you will secure the information of your customer base online. SSL certificates add an extra layer of security to your e-commerce store by encrypting traffic between users’ web browsers and your eCommerce business website. SSL certificates help prevent anyone who might be snooping on the traffic between users and your successful eCommerce business, like Internet Service Providers (ISPs), hackers or governments.
Choose a payment gateway
A payment gateway is how you accept online payments.
There are different types of payment gateways to choose from based on how your eCommerce business will operate: Here are a few things to think about before making your final payment gateway selection.
There are many eCommerce platforms that offer free payment gateways. If you do not have a large volume of sales or need advanced features, then this might be the right choice for your business.
If you want to accept international payments and/or use an omnichannel approach, meaning that customers can purchase through social media sites like Facebook or through mobile apps, then you should choose a payment gateway that has global capabilities.
Will it automatically connects to your eCommerce store, or will you need a software developer to do this for you?
Is it feasible? Some payment systems charge a monthly fee, while others charge a flat rate. You may have to pay different fees based on your sales volume.
Is it able to take a broad range of card types? Is it prepared to accept the most popular international cards such as Maestro and JCB, as well as Visa and Mastercard?
Will you be using a website builder (website builders have their own payment gateway) or custom build your own eCommerce store.
Ecommerce business branding
Your eCommerce brand is not just your logo, brand colours etc, but how people perceive and talk about your eCommerce business. It’s the impression left on people by an eCommerce company they’ve interacted with directly or indirectly. Your online store is how others will judge you — how it looks and operates will become a reflection of what kind of e commerce business you are.
Your eCommerce brand is how people perceive and talk about your business, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear your company name. Your online store is how others will judge you — how it looks and operates will become a reflection of what kind of business you are.
The visual parts of branding normally consist of logo,typography and colors
A logo is how you visually communicate your ecommerce brand. It consists of the name of your eCommerce business, along with how it looks and acts within that visual context.
What should be included?
The best logos are simple while also communicating what makes your successful ecommerce business unique. This can include colours, symbols or even typeface style (font) like how Coca-Cola uses the bottle shape letter “C” within their logo.
What should I avoid?
Some things you want to think twice about are how your eCommerce business appears on social media, how it looks when printed onto physical objects like t-shirts or hats and how big it will be on screen for users that view it on their phone.
There are many different typefaces (fonts) that you can choose from, and how you use them will communicate personality. You can opt for a classic look like Helvetica or go with something more modern like Soho — each has its own unique tone of voice and design aesthetic.
Choosing how your eCommerce business appears is just as important as how it sounds. Think about how the combination of colors you use will work together and how they reflect what kind of brand you want to be perceived as.
The color wheel has a total of 12 basic hues, each with their own unique psychological association. For example, black is associated with power, while red means passion.
You can use the color wheel to choose how you want your eCommerce business to be perceived. For example, if you are selling an organic product, green would work well as it symbolizes nature and growth.
What should I avoid?
There are certain colours that shouldn’t be used together because they have a negative effect, such as how dark blue and brown can look dirty or how yellow and purple may cause nausea.
Build Your eCommerce store
It’s time to get started on your eCommerce business. This stage in the process is, without a doubt, essential. It’ll be how you find new customers and persuade them to spend their money. So, what are your alternatives for developing an online business that sells? Let’s go through them one by one.
Use an online website builder to create an eCommerce website.
Website builders are the quickest, easiest route to creating a sleek, professional online presence for your eCommerce business. You can create your eCommerce business from scratch without any coding knowledge or experience. You will be able to choose how many pages and the layout, from pre-existing templates which mean that it is easy to get started for someone who is a beginner. With a website builder, it is easy to add content, products, images add blog posts to your eCommerce store.
There are plenty of website builders but the most popular eCommerce website builders include: Shopify, Wix and Squarespace.
Use a CMS (Content Management System)
A CMS is how you update your eCommerce businesses website. You can add, delete or edit how content appears on the site without having to spend money on a developer every time you want to make a small change.
Companies will use a CMS like WordPress and Magento to manage their eCommerce store. A CMS offers more freedom when it comes to creating and displaying your content, as well as allowing endless dynamic possibilities. It will be a lot of work to set up, though, and you’ll have to be fairly tech-savvy.
Custom build your own eCommerce website
If you know how to use HTML and CSS, then it might be worth building your eCommerce business from scratch – especially if the eCommerce store is an extension of your existing brick-and-mortar one. This approach gives you the most creative control over your site and business, but – unsurprisingly – it’s the most labour-intensive, too.
When you build your eCommerce business yourself, it will also take a lot of time and effort to set up. It’s how businesses like Amazon started out – slowly building their audience by sending catalogues in the post before moving onto email marketing and eventually launching an online store.
Which is the best eCommerce platform for me?
There isn’t one correct answer. The best way to build your eCommerce business will be the one that meets both your requirements and how much time you have.
If you are looking for a quick, easy solution then an online website builder or CMS could work well for you.
For businesses who want more freedom in how they create their eCommerce store – either because of specific needs or high traffic volume – then a CMS or a custom build eCommerce business might be the best route to take.
Market your ecommerce business
Now that you’ve set up your eCommerce business, how do you find new customers and entice them to spend their money?
Email marketing is a great way of keeping in touch with past or potential customers. You can send promotional emails for discounts on products, as well as build relationships by sending helpful tips and information related to what they were looking at on your online store.
You can use a tool like Mailchimp to create email newsletters and track how your eCommerce businesses emails are performing. Mailchimp is how many eCommerce businesses get started with email marketing, and it’s also how you can integrate your eCommerce business with other popular tools like Facebook.
Social media marketing
A great way to market your eCommerce business is through social media. Social media marketing allows you to target specific groups of people based on how they behave and what they do – this means that it’s easy for an online store, like yours, with a niche product or service to find their perfect customer base.
Your eCommerce Business social media presence doesn’t have to be limited to how much merchandise is available or how many new products are in stock – clever businesses use their online store as a way of attracting people and then capturing their attention with the rest of your brand once they’re there.
Social Media Marketing is a great way of attracting new customers who are specifically interested in what you have on offer at your online store. It can be time-consuming though so you might want to outsource it – especially if your eCommerce business is starting from scratch.
Influencers are how some eCommerce businesses get their first few customers. Influencer marketing is finding people with a large following – whether on social media or elsewhere – and paying them to promote your eCommerce business through endorsements, reviews, live videos etc…
One way of finding influencers is by using an influencer platform like Tomoson. Tomoson allows you to search for influencers based on how many followers they have, how engaged those people are with their posts and what categories the influencer belongs in.
Another way is by using a tool like Traackr – which helps businesses identify key figures within different niches who can then be hired to promote your online store.
Another way to market your eCommerce business is through SEO. Search engine optimisation is how you can rank highly in search engines like Google for relevant keywords that are important to your eCommerce business.
There are a lot of ecommerce seo companies who specialise in this area but there’s also plenty of free information on how search engines like Google rank an eCommerce business from trustworthy sources.
Before you start your eCommerce business it’s a good idea to do some research into how SEO works and how to make the most of it – this will save you time and money in the long run as well as showing potential customers that you take their search for information seriously.
Adding a blog and engaging with the community of people who already buy from your store can help grow awareness for an existing eCommerce business too!
Well done on creating your first online business
But this is just the beginning on becoming a successful ecommerce business. Look out for our next guide which will focus on how to increase your ecommerce sales for your online store. If you need more assistance building your online store check out our ecommerce website design services