By Darren Wilson, Managing Director, Streamline
Recent research by WorldPay found that 90% of SMEs find the internet a profitable place to trade and 40% find the set up costs to be lower than anticipated.
Despite the current economic situation, retail spend online is still increasing dramatically year-on-year, making eCommerce a great opportunity for small businesses, and one that they cannot afford to miss.
This is a guide to setting up online for small and medium sized businesses from Streamline.
Before you start, plan:
Although setting up online is easier than ever, it is still essential you have a plan before you start any online activity. To begin with, you must identify your target audience and build your site accordingly – consider what they are looking for and think about how you can design your website to accommodate their needs.
You should also understand what your competitors are doing – notably how they use the internet to interact with their existing customers, how they attract new ones, and how you can improve on what they are already offering?
A good business plan looking at your objectives and strategies, the market, and financial forecasts will help you work out your goals and how you can meet them.
E-business trading brings with it a few extra regulations that you must comply with, such as Distance Selling Legislation, HM Revenue & Customs, Health & Safety and the Data Protection Act 1998.
These include terms and conditions that your customers can print off, displaying information such as your business name, address and contact details, clear prices and logos for the types of card that you accept. It’s crucial that you adhere to these.
Setting up online will require a Merchant Account. This is a bank account specifically designed to process online credit and debit card charges, and to transfer payment funds into a separate personal or business account.
Although these services are readily available from several banks and financial institutions, the specifics of the services they provide vary a lot so it is worth doing some research before you sign up.
It is important to ensure that they offer all payment methods, multiple currencies and fraud screening services so that you have peace of mind and don’t have to work with multiple suppliers.
WorldPay, for example, offers a combination of a Merchant Account along with multi-currency card processing, which is suitable for small and start-up businesses.