Setting up online: top tips

An online store can help you take full advantage of the retail opportunities that the internet offers. Here are some of the key points to consider if you’re thinking about setting up online:

1. Understand your legal obligations
Certain regulations and legislation on online and distance selling – such as the E-Commerce Regulations and EU Distance Selling Directive – must be adhered to by internet retailers. There are rules around clearly identifying your business, processing and acknowledging orders and data storage. You must also ensure that your business is registered appropriately with HMRC and that you understand and follow the rules around charging VAT, particularly if you plan to sell to overseas customers.

2. Find providers to build and host your site
Depending on your budget, you will need to think about providers who can design, build and host your website, as well as finding an appropriate payment solution. PayPal is a popular solution that will enable you to process credit and debit card transactions. Businesses with smaller budgets can choose from a range of ‘off-the-shelf’ online stores with built-in, secure payment solutions.

3. Make it as clear as possible
Design your store and the ordering process with ease of use in mind. Think about what you have to sell and why your customers are interested in your goods. Make it as easy as possible for your customers to find, view and purchase your products. Be transparent about your delivery charges and terms and conditions.

4. Spread the word
Think about how you will market your online store and encourage visitors to your site. Intelligent use of search engine marketing and optimisation can improve your website’s ranking for relevant search terms. You might also want to consider more traditional forms of marketing and advertising in order to raise your site’s profile.

5. Keep it up to date
Make sure you have the time and expertise to manage your website on an ongoing basis. Keep your stock listings up to date and deal quickly with any technical problems that effect site performance. Think about seasonal offers and promotions that you can use to build a loyal online customer base.