One of the great things about the internet is the ability for your site to available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so no matter when people want to browse and buy, they can. There are no staffing costs and generally very low overheads. It is therefore no surprise that e-commerce is rapidly growing. From tents to telephones, cheese boards to cars, you can get it online, 24 hours a day, all you need is a credit card.

As an entrepreneurial nation, this means setting up a retail business is within the grasp of everyone for a relatively small amount of money. If you want to start an online shop, there are just a few things you will need to get going:

1. A web hosting package and domain name.

You will want to ensure that the host you choose is reliable and secure. An e-commerce site that is down even for a short period of time, will potentially lose you sales. You need to consider choosing a domain name that is catchy and easily remembered. You may also like to consider putting the product you are selling in the domain name as it can help when marketing your domain later.

One other important thing to bear in mind is if you are taking payments and / or personal details on the website, we would recommend an SSL, this encrypts all the data between the customers computer and your website.

2. A method of taking payments i.e. a payment processor.

There are lots of companies that do payment processing. We would typically recommend something like PayPal if you are just  starting out as it is cheap and easy to use. You won’t need to get a merchant account with your bank, which can sometimes be tricky for a new business with no trading history.

3. An ecommerce site

These can be custom made or use off the shelf software. They can be free or they can cost you £100,000. When starting out we would typically recommend an off the shelf piece of software such as Zen Cart, Cube Cart or OS Commerce, they all provide a great level of features at an excellent price. You can then “skin” them to look and feel how you want (or get someone to do it for you).

4. Some products and a way of dispatching them.

Obviously, you need to think what products you are going to be selling and also how you are going to get them to your customers. Are you going to dispatch them yourself? Are you going to use a pick and pack company? How you done postage trials to ensure they arrive in a good condition?

5. Marketing of your website

The actual setting up of the site is relatively straightforward but you now need to get some customers, this is often the part that people miss out. How are you going to drive business to your website? Are you going to use pay per click? Are you going to do search engine optimisation? Are you going to promote the site to your existing customer base?

There are lots of topics that we have touched upon here that we will cover in more detail in future blog posts, if there is anything specific you want us to cover in more detail, just let us know.