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How To Set Up An Online Shop UK With 9 Simple Steps

There has never been a better time to launch an e-commerce shop in the UK. Not only can you choose from a range of ecommerce platforms, but more people are shopping online than ever before, so it’s a great way to reach customers.

Building an online retail business requires careful planning when it comes to choosing the right website platform and marketing the online shop.

In this comprehensive e-commerce guide, we aim to equip aspiring e-commerce owners with the knowledge and tools needed to build thriving, successful online shops in the UK.

We will cover:

  • Selecting an e-commerce platform
  • Registering a domain name
  • Designing and customising your online shop
  • Adding products to sell
  • Configuring payment options
  • Setting up shipping
  • Handling taxes
  • Marketing your new shop
  • Managing inventory and finances

First, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of each step to inspire informed confidence on your journey.

Step 1: Choosing an E-commerce Platform

Before you think about what to sell in your shop, you need to decide on an e-commerce platform; this is fundamental to the success of your business.

These days, there are many platforms to choose from including Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and others; each platform has advantages and disadvantages that must be considered before your selection.

Shopify is a leading ecommerce platform that offers everything you need to launch a profitable ecommerce business in just a few hours. Thanks to it’s simple functionality and competitive pricing, there is little standing in the way of online business success–they operate on a subscription service with monthly plans.

WooCommerce is popular because it taps into the flexibility and customisation of WordPress. It is an open-source plugin which provides outstanding flexibility for developers and established brands. However, you can expect a steeper learning curve overall.

Magento medium-sized e-commerce businesses require more substantial functionality–such as Magento. While it’s more powerful it requires far greater expertise and technical skill sets.

BigCommerce is another enterprise-level e-commerce platform with high-end functionality and an excellent range of design tools and website analytics; again, you may require a broad range of technical skills to make the most of it, and it comes with enterprise-level pricing.

Before choosing a platform, assess them based on your budget, technical skills, design needs and business goals. Most offer free trials allowing you to experience them first-hand.

Step 2: Registering a Domain Name

After selecting a platform, you will need a domain name or website address. This is what customers search for in their internet browser to locate your shop. For example, yourstore.co.uk.

Ideally, your domain should:

  • Be short, memorable and easy to spell
  • Directly relate to your brand or product offerings
  • Incorporate relevant keywords (for SEO)
  • Use .co.uk or .uk (for UK shops)

It might seem like a trivial detail, but a domain name is a digital brand that influences the success of your business from the start. Choose a domain that is simple and descriptive.

Step 3: Designing and Customising Your Online Shop

After choosing a descriptive and catchy domain name, the creative work begins. It’s time to invent an ecommerce store that aligns with your core values and the products you provide.

Most platforms offer templates allowing you to customise branding to suit your shop. When designing your shop there are a few things to keep in mind: these are listed for you below.

  • Your brand logo and visual identity take centre stage
  • The layout is uncluttered with clear navigation
  • Imagery is optimised and professional
  • Key info is easily accessible (shipping, returns, contact)
  • The site is mobile-friendly on all devices

Remember, it’s important to tailor the platform template to your brand’s personality, that’s because well-executed designs build trust and engage target audiences more successfully.

Step 4: Adding Products to Sell

Hopefully, you have an idea of what to sell in your e-commerce shop, now is the time to populate your shop with products. Begin by defining your product strategy. Consider:

  • What types of products suit your business and brand?
  • Who is your target audience and what do they want to buy?
  • Will you sell your own products, dropship or both?
  • How broad or narrow should your initial product range be?

With a strategy in place, add individual products ensuring you include:

  • Quality product images from multiple angles
  • Compelling, benefit-focused titles and descriptions
  • Accurate pricing in GBP along with shipping costs per item
  • Logical categorisation and tags for easy browsing
  • Options like different sizes, colours and bundles

Offer comprehensive information of the products in your catalogue to ensure customers have all the details needed to make informed purchases–this reduces your returns rate.

Step 5: Configuring Payment Options

If you want your e-commerce shop to experience early growth, it’s important to pay attention to payment methods. Ensure online payments are recognisable and integrated into your site. Below are the most commonly used and trusted payment methods for e-commerce shops.

  • PayPal – is the gold standard for credit/debit card payments and PayPal accounts
  • Stripe – commonly recognised and easy to use, it has low fees and extra security.
  • Square – is another popular payment portal that has POS and payment processing.

When customers reach the checkout page you want the to convert as easily as possible, which means you need a streamlined payment portal with recognisable and secure options.

Step 6: Setting Up Shipping

Shipping is often overlooked when building e-commerce shops. Delight customers with:

  • Integration with trusted carriers like Royal Mail, Hermes and DPD
  • A choice of shipping options (next day, standard, economy etc)
  • Clear delivery timelines and shipping rates per item
  • Free shipping over certain order values

Automate shipping through your platform’s integrations and ensure customers are informed of delivery timelines and costs from the checkout; this will reduce any issues down the line.

Step 7: Handling Taxes

It’s important to stay legal and transparent with customers, which means charging sales tax.

  • VAT – this is charged on all physical goods in the UK and comes in at 20%–companies must register for VAT if their sales exceed £85,000 per year.
  • Income Tax – if your e-commerce business is classed as a sole trader operation, you will be taxed a basic rate of 20% on all profits above the allowance threshold.
  • Corporation Tax – Some online businesses choose to become limited companies to protect assets, in this case you will be charged 19% on any profits you make.

Optimising your checkout page to include taxes and deductions keep transactions clear for customers and accountants. Always ensure your business is compliant and transparent.

Step 8: Marketing Your Online Shop

Now that your online store is up and running, it’s time to get the word out there!

Below you can find some of the best and most effective marketing strategies in our latest internet era.

SEO – One of the best ways to bring new customers to your business is through digital advertising and search engine optimisation. Ensure you have quality on-page SEO–including great content–digital and social media ads, along with an effective backlink strategy.

Email Marketing – Gaining website visibility and traction for your website is step one, but you need to convert customers and sell products–that’s where e-mail marketing comes in. Create an email subscriber list, a newsletters packed with information, and timely promos.

Social Media Marketing – Globally, there are 4.95 billion social media users, so you need to tap into this lucrative market. Using timely social media advertising you can sell products and promote your shop on the most popular platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Online Advertising – When it comes to online advertising you have various options, these include social media advertising as well as PPC ads. If you have a small budget, PPC ads are a good starting point, but with the right optimisation, social media can be a great option.

Influencer Marketing – Forget about cold calling people who don’t want to be bothered, influencer marketing works the opposite way. Potential customers already have warm rapport with the influencer and are likely to accept their word-of-mouth product promotions.

Affiliate Programs – another popular form of digital marketing for e-commerce shops are affiliate programs, which allows other people to promote your business on their website and earn a small commission for anyone who clicks through. It is simple, effective advertising.

Step 9: Managing Operations

Scaling the business is another important stage of e-commerce, ensure you manage the key operations below.

Inventory – Depending on your products, inventory can be simple or complex, either way, it’s important to align your sales and stock accurately to avoid overselling or stock accumulation.

Order Fulfilment – The success of any e-commerce enterprise often comes down to efficiency, so make sure you have a scalable shipping and packing process in place.

Finances – Make sure you have the appropriate talent in place to manage your accounts including cash flow, sales and expenses, and financial reports for better decision making.

Analytics – These days, analytics is an indispensable part of e-commerce business growth, so make sure you operate on the most appropriate platforms and use website integrations.

When you maintain the integrity of your backend operations it frees up possibilities for growth and expansion, since it allows you to be a little experimental without fear of failure.

Driving Ecommerce Success Through Testing and Optimisation

Launching your online shop is just the beginning, the real work starts after you go live and begin attracting sales and customers. With your shop up and running it’s time to test the website’s performances, optimise content for better search results, and improve the shop.

Below, you can find some tips for driving a shop’s success through ongoing improvements:

Test and refine your product selection – Chances are you have an idea of what to sell in your shop, but personal products are not always the best sellers; avoid attachment to personal ideas and test products freely: always choose to focus on your best selling items.

Optimise site speed and performance – Core web vitals is a search engine measure for website performance which influences your website ranking. Ensure you test your website regularly for speed and user experience: this will help with website visibility and conversions.

Personalise the shopping experience – People are more likely to buy from you when they feel personally invested in the shopping experience, you can create personalised e-commerce through e-mail marketing and retargeted advertising to add a personal touch.

Run promotions and sales – It’s important to run regular sales and promotions to generate interest in your brand and products, and to spread word-of-mouth. Coupons, free shipping, and seasonal sales in line with competitors is an effective way to drive e-commerce sales.

Expand marketing channels – Don’t be afraid to embrace new ideas, technologies, and platforms to market your business. The world of digital marketing changes quickly, so stay on top of creative approaches to marketing your business and selling your products.

Study the analytics – Even if you are unsure about reading analytics, it’s a vital function of your e-commerce business that will drive sales with reliable data insights. View your best selling products, visitor demographics, and website bounce rates from a single dashboard.

Listen to customer feedback – The customer’s opinion is vital to the success and growth of your e-commerce business, especially in the modern digital landscape. Not only can honest customer reviews inform strategy, but they’re a valuable resource on the internet in general.

Refine your SEO approach – Chances are you will rely on PPC advertising at some stage, but it’s equally important to sustain an organic SEO strategy as well. Make sure your on-page, off-page, and technical SEO is up-to-scratch and brings in healthy traffic figures.

Keep content fresh and original – There is a lot of content around nowadays, and varies in quality, so make sure you publish content that aligns with your brand identity and provides real value to customers. Research skyscraper content, evergreen content, and pillar content.

Automate fulfilment processes – E-commerce businesses new to the industry might use manual processes for order fulfilment, but it becomes increasingly ineffective as the business scales. Always keep an eye out for ways to automate and streamline fulfilment.

Scaling Your Ecommerce Business in the UK

Now that you have an established e-commerce business it’s time to take it to the next level–which is called ‘scaling the business’.

Here are some tips to scale up a business.

Expand your product range – When you know your best selling products, you have a better idea of how to integrate them with new products to expand the range without a downturn.

Offer tiered pricing – When you have an established business you have the options for appealing to a wider range of customers–tiered pricing is an excellent route in this regard.

Sell across multiple channels – don’t be a one trick pony when it comes to selling products, diversify your operations and make the most of the available platforms.

Improve your branding – Minimum viable product is a great way to get the business off the ground, but it’s not the best way to grow. Make sure you optimise the brand going forward.

Upgrade your technology – Always keep an eye on the best technology for your stage of growth and don’t be afraid to switch platforms as your capacity grows when you start scaling.

Optimise your logistics – as you scale it’s important to keep the costs under control and maintain balanced accounts at all times. Make the most of cost effective fulfilment options.

Segment your customers – Fundamental marketing practices involve segmented audience groups and targeted advertising. Make sure you have the best strategy and platforms for it.

Establish an affiliate program – Affiliate marketing is a highly cost-effective form of advertising that sustains organic traffic and allows you to focus on website conversions.

Consider brick and mortar – When your e-commerce shop becomes the right size, a brick and mortar shop complements your digital presence, and caters to a wider customer range.

Expand internationally – Why focus on the UK market when you can expand overseas? Opening up your e-commerce business to new markets is an effective way to scale it up.

Raise funds if needed – If you think you have the capacity to scale, but you need investment for marketing or stock, consider raising funds through VCs and crowdfunding.

Conclusion

It’s a great time to launch an ecommerce business in the UK, thanks to user-friendly platforms and a growing number of online shoppers. Launching an ecommerce shop can be challenging if you haven’t done it before, but when you follow the steps outlined in the article it’s quite straightforward, and the long-term benefits hugely eclipse the initial hard work.

Why not convert your passion into a thriving ecommerce business with global reach? There has never been a better time to live your dream! If you don’t have an out-of-the-box idea, don,’t worry, sometimes the most successful ecommerce businesses sell products the owners have no interest in – as long as the margins are strong enough, you’re in business.

Set aside any doubts or reservations you have, and adopt a can-do attitude. The tools and platforms are readily available, all you need is the right idea and the right work ethic to make it a success. Using the steps in this article you can set up an e-commerce shop in a short time and begin your journey towards financial freedom today. So, what are you waiting for?

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