ecommerce-bagsInternet sales key points
  • The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in January 2013 was estimated at £546.5 million. This is an increase of 8.7% compared with January 2012.
  • The amount spent online accounted for 10.1% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.
  • As expected, more was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 68.1% of total spending in this sector, up from 67.2% in January 2012. In the food sector 3.7% of spending was online, up from 3.0% a year earlier. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending but stands at record levels.

Figures taken from Office for National Statistics website, Retail Sales, January 2013.

With online sales continuing to grow, it is not surprising that anyone with ambitions to sell products to the public or trade is going down the online shop route.

You can start a business from scratch in a very short space of time with minimal outlay. There is no time spent finding suitable premises to rent and paying high monthly overheads, just a well designed website that is built to convert traffic into product buying customers.

Just like a retail shop on the high street, you will need to have a plan to make the launch of your online shop run a smoothly as possible; here are some useful steps to help you get there:

Descriptions of your products need to be detailed and as full as possible. This will not only help your buyers select the right product, but also assist search engines to find and rank the products on your website.

You will need to supply;
  • product codes for each individual product to help identify items,
  • good quality images and prices.
Stock control
You will need to accurately input your stock into the system. Product stock will be reduced when a product is ordered from the website and shown as “out of stock”, or removed from the website, when stock levels reach zero.

Delivery and payment
Where will you be delivering products to, UK only or worldwide?
What delivery methods do you intend to use? Here are some options:
  • Standard 2nd Class
  • Standard 1st Class
  • Special Delivery Next Day
  • Courier.
How do you wish to calculate your delivery prices? Here are some options:
  • by each product having a postage price
  • by total weight of the items purchased
  • by total value of the items purchased
Bear in mind that FREE delivery over a certain value is a powerful persuasion tool to get people to buy, and spend more.

Will your products be sold inclusive of VAT? Usually for sales direct to public they will be. Do you need a VAT number?

Taking payments online requires a payment gateway. There are a number of suppliers of payment gateways, including banks. Do you have a preferred supplier in mind?

Do you require a secure certificate (SSL)? A secure certificate encrypts client data during the checkout process; this gives customers peace of mind. It is not required (but recommended) with Paypal express checkout, however most other payment gateways do.

How would you like customers to contact you (email, phone etc.) and where do you want to display the information on the website?

Special offers
Will you want to create special offers for your products? For example:
  1. Basic product discount
  2. The ability to offer a SALE price, and a WAS price
  3. Basic product percentage discount
  4. The ability to offer a percentage discounted price, and a WAS price
  5. Volume discounts per product
  6. The ability to have different unit prices based on quantity
  7. Buy one get one free (BOGOF) or similar offers, where a second, or indeed third product is discounted by percentage
  8. Spend over a certain threshold on an order to receive a percentage discount, free delivery or money off.

Do any of your offers need to have other limiting factors? For example:
  • From and to dates where the special offer is valid
  • Is the special offer open to existing customers, or perhaps just first time buyers
  • Are offers able to be used in conjunction with one another
  • In the case of value based discounts, how do they interact with order value threshold discounts

Do you want to be able to create Voucher codes?

Will you require the ability to email your customers with offers and information?

Related products
Will you want to show related products? Related products are a way of cross selling other products that are similar to the product being looked at.

Visitor statistics
Do you require advanced visitor statistics? Advance statistics allow you to monitor customer habits as they browse the website. They give key information allowing you to fine tune your products and offers.

Do you want to be able to monitor product views versus sales and show a ratio? This allows you to assess pricing and product information to ensure you maximise sales.

Will you want to show product testimonials? Product testimonials give the customer extra confidence when looking at a product that has had good feedback from previous buyers.

Do you want a buyer feedback stage at the end of the checkout? Getting feedback from the buyer straight after the checkout can help to iron out any issues that they had whilst shopping on your website.

Social media
Social media is playing a big part in online sales. Are you already using social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and do you want to integrate them into your online shop?

Other things to consider:
  1. Suitable packaging
  2. Delivery documentation
  3. Returns policy
  4. Refunds
  5. Statutory legal requirements
  6. Comprehensive terms and conditions

We can advise you on and help you with writing any of the information needed to set up a shop.

Mark Langston