First Steps in Ecommerce

Posted: 11th May 2015

So you’ve set up your business and it’s going well. You’ve started selling your product and have got some great feedback and you are wondering how to improve sales figures without having to attend shows or man your shop 7 days a week. The obvious answer comes to you and you decide to sell online – after all, it’s the easiest way to make more money without having to do very much isn’t it?

Well, like most things the answer is both yes and no. This guide is to help you decide whether and how to sell online.


As a web development company we often help our clients with ecommerce sites and they can be problematic because the client hasn’t thought through the implications of taking online payments and the delivery mechanism. These two things are of vital importance. You should also ask yourself how much on average you will be selling your goods for – if they are low price (say less than £10) then it’s going to take you a long, long time to recoup your investment. You need to do the maths!

Delivery too can be complicated – for small items you can just trot along to the Post Office but what if you sell big or bulky items? You may eventually need to get quotes from a carrier who will pick up your goods and deliver them.

Also think about where you want to sell to. It’s easy to get carried away and think the world is your oyster but again, carriage costs to far flung places can be huge and there is also the issue of making sure you comply with the law, both at home and in the country of delivery. Read more about it here:

Taking credit card payments

Payments by credit card can be handled in  a number of ways – to understand the different options take a look at this site

it’s from the DTI so the information is unbiased and there’s a full rundown of the different providers and what it all means.

Paypal   – taking payment via Paypal is the easiest option. It’s free to sign up and free to send money – if you receive money you pay a small fee and you may also have to pay a fee to transfer your money from your Paypal account into your bank account. If you are transferring less than £50 you won’t pay the transfer fee. Disadvantages are that the purchaser needs to have a Paypal account themselves (however this can be set up in a few minutes) and the two tier charges – if your goods are of high price you may pay more for a Paypal transaction as you will be charged for the transaction itself on a percentage basis and for transferring the money to your bank account. You might get to the point where you want to apply for a merchant account from a bank to enable you to take credit card payments.

Merchant account from a bank – usually takes a while to set up and can be expensive with typically a set-up fee of around £200 plus a monthly charge of £15 – £25 plus a transaction fee. You’ll need to have been established as a business for a while and provide details of turnover etc. Shop around for some quotes – your own bank may not be the cheapest.