With online shopping figures at an all-time high, there has never been a better time to set your business up online. E-commerce presents a wealth of opportunities for your business such as increased revenues, growth in new markets and greater brand loyalty.
Although setting up an online business might seem overwhelming to begin with, knowledge is power - and in our experience, simply knowing the steps to take is half the battle. That’s why we have streamlined the process for you. Follow our simple ‘Trade in 24 tips’ and we can have you trading online in no time.
1. Ensure you have a legal entity
In order to trade online, you need to have a legal entity. To register your company and to get a company registration number, you can go to Companies House or a Company Formation Agent. The cost of this starts from about £20 and can even be arranged on the same day if requested.
2. Set up a business bank account
Go to your chosen bank to set up a business bank account. Any funds that are cleared from your online trading account will have to go into this account.
3. Prepare a business plan
To ensure that you have a clear vision for your business you need to create a plan that details who your company is, what you want to achieve and how you will achieve it. We understand you may not have prepared a business plan before but it is an easy task – after all, you are the expert and know your business better than anyone else.
4. What to include in your business plan?
- Who are you?
- What are you selling?
- Who is behind you (financial backing)?
- What is your previous experience in the industry?
- Where are you headed?
- What are your future plans for your company?
- How are you going to get there?
- Who is your target market?
- How will you market yourselves to that market?
- What are your sales forecasts (annually and/or monthly)?
5. Prepare a customer response plan
Your customers are your livelihood and the way you support them will have an impact on the success of your business, so it is important to have a detailed plan on how you will support customers with queries or issues. It is also important to have clear service levels in place to manage expectations; for example, ‘all customer email queries will be answered within 48 hours’.
6. Provide terms and conditions for your business
Legally it is critical that you make a comprehensive set of Terms and Conditions available to your customers.
What should you include in your T/C’s?
Every business model is different so no set of terms and conditions will ever be the same. However, we can provide you with an outline of what to include. T/C’s checklist.
Do you have the following?
- A refund/cancellation policy (even if you are not selling tangible goods, if you do not offer refunds/cancellations, this must be stated clearly on your website).
- A shipping policy including any exportation restrictions (tangible goods only).
7. Select your Domain Name
What is a domain name?
Put simply, a domain name is the web address that you direct your customers to. For example, our domain name is http://www.pay360.com
Why you need a domain name?
A domain name not only gives you credibility but if selected carefully it can help drive increased traffic to your site.
Where can you get your domain name?
Entering the term ‘Domain Name’ into a search engine will provide you with many domain name providers to choose from.
How much does it cost?
Registering a domain name can cost anywhere from £3 - £25 depending on the type you require. Generally a .co.uk is cheaper than a .com. You will be required to renew this every year (although some domain name providers allow you to buy longer licenses).
How long does it take to set up?
Registering for a domain name is almost instantaneous and can be set up in 24 hours if requested.
8. Select your hosting provider
What is a hosting provider?
A hosting provider allows you to make your website accessible to the internet which is pretty important to any online business!
How much does hosting cost?
Like domain names, web hosting is very affordable and can sometimes be offered for free if you are buying a package from a single supplier (i.e. domain name, hosting, web shop etc)
Where can I get my web hosting?
There are thousands of reputable hosting providers listed in search engines.
9. Setting up your website
What are my options?
Speak to a web developer
Your website is one of your greatest selling tools so you want to make sure you get it right. By working with a web developer you will get a bespoke website tailored to your specific needs.
Sometimes it can be more cost-effective (and convenient) to purchase a web shop. A web shop is a simple website that can be customised with your brand, colour scheme and products. It has everything you need to promote, sell and manage your products. An e-commerce solution requires no technical expertise and is incredibly quick to set up, easy to use and extremely cost-effective.
10. Website compliance
In order for us to process your online payments, your company website will need to undergo a compliance check. Although the rules of compliance can differ depending on your business model, we have supplied a general checklist for you to consider when setting up your site.
Is your website compliant? Use our checklist.
- Your company name and address must be clearly displayed
- Contact address (email or phone number)
- Terms and conditions
- Display your company policy covering refunds, returns and cancellations
- Details of your shipping policy or other conditions (if applicable) on the website (including any exportation restrictions)
- Minimum customer service standards
- State on your website that cardholders can expect a response to email and telephone enquiries within a maximum of 48 hours
- Product listings, descriptions and prices
- Display an accurate description and pricing (including currency) for all goods and services which are available to purchase on your website
- Display appropriate card scheme logos including Visa, MasterCard and any other payment schemes that you accept
11. Organise an Internet Merchant Account
In order to accept payments online you will need an Internet Merchant Account facility. This is different to your business bank account, as it is used specifically for online trading. At Pay360 we can provide you with your Internet Merchant Account – you simply need to provide us with some information on you and your business. Just follow the simple steps below.
12. We need to know about your business
Before we set up your Internet Merchant Account we need some basic information:
- Company registration number and where your company is registered (there are some geographical territories that we cannot support)
- Your business bank account details (account number, sort code, IBAN, swift code etc)
- A copy of your business plan if you are a newly established business with less than 6 months trading history.
- If you are an established business we will just need a description of your business, including details on the company structure, the business model and sector
- Background information on your Company Director(s), including a brief career history
- Details on your customer response plan
- Your terms and conditions
- Who your domain and hosting providers are
To make the process even faster and more efficient:
13. Include copies of personal documentation
We require proof of who you are. It is standard practice to provide us with valid, unexpired, notarised proof of ID such as your passport or drivers licence, as well as notarised proof of address such as a bank statement or utility bill.
14. Make it easier on yourself
It may be that you have someone involved in your business that specialises in technical questions or financial matters. Please provide us with details of key contacts in your business so we can contact them directly for further details. This will free you up to concentrate on growing your online business.
15. Be honest and upfront
If you have had previous trading issues, credit issues or feel that there is something important about your business that you should tell us, then do so. In many cases we can work with you on a solution and your honesty can often save all parties a lot of time and money.
16. Share your payment requirements
Have you thought about how you would like your customers to purchase from you? Will you accept payments through the web or over the phone? Or do you require a combination of both?
Types of payments
Please describe whether you will be taking subscription payments, one-off payments, payments for downloads or payments for bookings.
Additional payment methods
Apart from processing cards, have you thought about any alternative payment methods you would like your customers to accept? Are you interested in online cash payments or PayPal? If so, please let us know. All of these questions will provide us with a better understanding of what your payment requirements are and will give us an idea of which Pay360 solution is best suited to your business.
17. Already processing?
Have you had processing facilities with another supplier? If yes, who? How long for and can statements be supplied (3 months of processing statements would be ideal)? An understanding of your trading volumes, chargeback and refund volumes, is required as this can affect what type of account we provide you with.
18. New Business? No trading volumes?
We know that you won’t have a good idea of your trading volumes, so if you are a new business starting up, make this very clear from the beginning of your application.
19. Include product delivery timeframe
What are the average delivery timeframes for your goods or services? How long are you anticipating it will take for the full service or product to be fulfilled to your end customer? Please provide us with details.
20. Provide samples of advertising/marketing material
If you are taking payments by phone, fax and mail order you will need to supply us with an example of your marketing / promotional activity. Whether this is an email campaign, printed advert or product brochure, please provide us with an example as we will need to have some form of evidence of the goods and services you are offering your customers.
21. Post-purchase examples
Provide examples of screenshots or printed receipt confirmation after the purchase has taken place so we have an understanding of your purchase process and what you are communicating to your customers.
22. Keep everything in the one place
Although this may seem blindingly obvious, by keeping all of your documentation in the one place you will ensure that all of your information is at hand so you can respond swiftly to any additional queries our compliance department may have.
23. Get PCI Compliant – (What’s that)?
Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a global security standard set by the PCI Security Standards Council and applies to any businesses that store, process or transmit cardholder details.
In October 2009, PCI DSS compliance was mandated by the PCI Council whose founding members are the globally recognised payment card schemes Visa, MasterCard, American Express, JCB International and Discover Financial Services. Every online business processing less than one million transactions annually must process using a PCI DSS certified provider or provide certification of their own PCI DSS compliance to their acquiring bank.
Our Guide to Getting PCI compliant covers what PCI DSS compliance is and how you can get it. If the thought of it is already giving you a headache don’t worry as many payment providers like Pay360 are already PCI DSS compliant meaning you are covered by default.
24. Be available
The best chance you have at getting your business online and trading is by making yourself available during the early stages of setting up your business. It’s often the case that accounts sit in transit with us simply because we have been waiting for a Director's signature or copy of a passport etc. Being available today could mean trading online tomorrow, so keep your phone on.