How to Start an Online Business in the UK

With changing habits and lifestyles, people have become more aware of how they utilise their time. Online shopping has become increasingly popular over the past few years but never more so than in recent months where physical shops were forced to close their doors and selling and buying online was the only option.
Starting an online business will have some similarities to that of starting a traditional brick and mortar business and in addition there will be other factors to consider. The initial setting up of your business will depend on the type of business you intend to run, where you will be working and whether you will take on people to help.

Get your online business idea 

The first step would be to decide what kind of business you wish to set up. There are a number of websites available that you can use to help determine what kind of market you wish to operate in should you not already know. However, if you are thinking of setting up your own online business, more often than not you usually already have some kind of idea as to what you want to do.
Once you believe you have a viable business idea and have decided on your chosen product(s) or service, it is essential that you carry out market research extensively. By researching and testing out the market you will be able to determine whether your business idea has the potential to be successful or not. Market research can also help you plan your next steps and map out how to set up your business, giving you an idea of start-up costs and any kind of funding that may be available to you as well as helping to define your target audience, pricings you should set and of course who your competitors are.

Create a business plan 

After you have carried out your market research and feel you have a sufficient amount to be beneficial, you’ll need to create a business plan. This is a great way to pull together all that information you have collated and visualise how you see your business in one form of documentation. This will be your working document that you will be able to refer to and add or change over the course of its time. This is also paramount when you are trying to get funding for your business.
Also consider your social media and marketing plan, a presence online is very important and gets your brand out there to potential customers.
For more on how to create a business plan read our advice here and to learn more about how to put a business strategy together read more here.

Choose your online business model 

As you have now established what kind of online business you are going to set up, you need to ensure your online business model suits your plan and gives you a structure to work with. The two main options which tend to be the most popular are ‘sole trader’ or ‘limited company’.
A sole trader tends to be the best option for those people who are looking to start up a small business. You and your company are seen as one entity and therefore any profit or loss will affect your personal finances.
A Limited company will offer you protection as your company is seen as a separate entity giving you limited liability.
If for example you are intending on starting an online shop or selling a product(s), you’ll be operating on an ecommerce business model making revenue from sales.
There are various models that you can choose from but it’s important to pick the one that suits your and your business best.

Decide your business name and register 

Before you register your business, you’ll need to come up with a name. It’s important that you remember to make sure that both your business name and domain for your website are available. It will be much easier for customers to find your website if these match, if they are different, this can lead to confusion and even loss of business as your potential customers can be directed elsewhere.
You can easily check if your business name and domain name are available when National Business Registers search here. Learn more about registering and protecting your business name here.

Prepare for the costs of setting up an online business 

These will vary dramatically depending on the size of your start up business as well as the type of business that is being started. However, some of the costs that will need to be considered are:
How much it will cost to build an inventory of the products you will be selling.
The equipment you would need to use, for example, technical equipment.
The cost of building a website.
Marketing costs and possible outsourcing of this.
Company formation costs, if you decide to go with a limited company structure.
Domain cost, there is usually an annual fee behind this.

Build your website 

Whether you decide to do this yourself or outsource, the website you create should reflect your business and ensure you align your vision with the web developers. Consider the user experience (UX), this should be easy to navigate and use. The aesthetics and logo, ensure your site is appealing and organised and finally ensure your site is mobile friendly, a vast majority of people use their devices to access sites and this is only getting more popular.
If you will be selling goods, consider payment methods and how you will be charging your customers and what online payment system you will be integrating into your website.
There are many elements to consider when starting your own online business using this simple guide to get started can make all the difference and give you that added confidence boost you may need.

How to Start a Business on Amazon in the UK

Amazon is the world’s largest online marketplace where almost anyone can list their products and make profit. It is especially important to note it is a profitable venture for entrepreneurs with minimal start-up capital. However, at first it sounds simple but there is a lot of work involved in order to have a successful business on Amazon. Here you will find some key areas to consider when starting a business on Amazon.

What is an Amazon FBA Business? 

Most products listed on Amazon are from independent sellers using Amazon fulfilment. FBA stands for ‘fulfilment by Amazon’. This essentially means that Amazon holds the seller’s stock and distributes and ships it when orders are made. Additionally, the customer service is also handled by Amazon, including returns.
For the customer, this makes no difference as the delivery options, returns policy and customer service are the same.
An FBA is the middle ground between a very small, bedroom business and a company with a lot of staff. Amazon FBAs take a lot of the weight from the seller’s shoulders by handling part of the operations. The main focus for the seller is getting sales.
Additionally, you can have multiple FBA businesses around the world – you just need to deliver the stock to the Amazon FBA warehouses.
Using Amazon’s FBA is not mandatory – you can choose to be responsible for storing the stock, shipping & customer service but bear in mind that might mean you will need more resources such as money, time and staff.

Establishing your Selling Strategy 

Before registering for an online seller account on Amazon, you will be asked to choose a selling plan. Your choice here should be influenced by your strategy, what and how much you are selling. For example, on the Individual Plan you will be charged £0.75 for each item you sell. On the other hand, the Professional Plan costs £25, regardless of the number of items sold. Additionally, Amazon takes a referral fee from each sale as a percentage of the sale value, depending on the product category.

How To Set Up Your Amazon Seller Account 

Ideally, you would already have a company set up as you will need to provide:
Business email address or Amazon customer account;
Chargeable credit card;
Valid passport (identity verification protects sellers and customers);
Tax information;
Phone number;
A bank account where Amazon can send you proceeds from your sales.
After setting up your Amazon seller account, you will have access to Seller Central. This is the website where you can monitor sales activity, manage inventory and add new products, update your prices, communicate with buyers and solve customer service issues.

How To Source Your Products 

Depending on your strategy, you might be a reseller of popular products or a brand owner who manufactures their own. If you are in the latter category, sourcing your products should already be in place and you might be able to secure your stock in time. For reselling products you could use either dropshipping or be a wholesaler.

How To Add Products 

While you can sell almost anything on Amazon, provided it is not illegal, there are some categories that are open to all sellers, some require a Professional account and some require approval, while some are completely prohibited to be sold by third parties. Check out where your products you intend to sell fit before you choose your selling plan ideally.
To add your products you can do so using Seller Central or via an API, either Amazon Marketplace Web Services (MWS) API or you can build your own.
A Product Listing should contain:
A product identifier, such as GTIN, UPC, ISBN, or EAN to specify the exact item you’re selling.
A SKU, which is a product ID you create to track your inventory;
Offer details, including price, product condition, available quantity, and shipping options;
Product details like name, brand, category, description, and images;
Keywords and search terms to help buyers find your product.
If there is already another seller listing the same products, you’ll match an existing listing. The product identifier might be already in place in this case. Amazon combines data from the different sellers and offers on a single detail page. Sellers can contribute to the listings detail page information and request reviews of that information, to ensure the information displayed is correct.
In the case of a completely new product, a new listing will be created. You can also register the product you own under a registered trademark using Amazon Brand Registry. This is a free service that allows you to have more control over product detail pages using your brand name.
In order to fill out the Product Detail Page you will need to input:
● Title: 200 characters max, capitalize the first letter of every word;
● Images: 500 x 500 or 1,000 x 1,000 pixels to increase listing quality;
● Variations: different colors, scents, or sizes;
● Succinct, descriptive sentences highlighting key features;
● Description: Keywords improve the chances that people will find your listing.

Marketing Your Products 

On Amazon, the most popular products usually feature Prime shipping, which is free to Prime members and provides fast shipping. You can get the badge on your products by using Amazon FBA described above.
You can also advertise your products on Amazon so they show up top of the page. This gives you more visibility and better reach. Another way of promoting your products is using a limited time deal or a discount coupon for customers.
Setting a competitive and fair price is the straightforward way to ensure your success while selling on Amazon. There are hundreds if not thousands of products in the same category and customers are always looking for the best deal.
After your first sale, encourage your customers to leave reviews on the page of the product they purchased. Listings with multiple positive reviews have a higher chance of selling to future customers, as it shows you are a trustworthy and reputable seller.