Starting An Online Business In The UK- Complete Guide
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Starting An Online Business in The UK

by Shivani Rajput
Estimated reading time: 18 minutes, 46 seconds

Starting an online business in the UK requires the same dedication and efforts as starting a traditional brick-and-mortar business, plus a few other unique steps. If you don’t know what these steps are, then this guide is for you!

Starting An Online Business UK
Starting An Online Business UK

How To Start An Online Business?

Starting an online business in the UK definitely has its own perks. From a handsome revenue potential to the ease of management, it provides you with endless opportunities. With the UK online retail stats touching 100 billion British pounds in 2020, it has become quite clear that this is the best time for starting an online business in the UK. But how? Where to get started?

While an online business may seem like a get-rich-quick policy, you still have to put a lot of effort and passion into it. To help you explore and successfully launch your online business venture, we have compiled this comprehensive guide with every single step you need to perform. All you need to do is, keep scrolling till the end!

Get Your Business Idea

Owning and running an online business gives you an opportunity to make money from any part of the world. No doubt the idea is very enticing, provided that you know what you're stepping into. The most important step for setting up a profitable online business is to have a business idea that matches your thinking, skills and interests.

A common mistake most entrepreneurs make is starting a business they are not passionate about. Such a business might hold a lot of potential, but you'll not be able to sustain it for the long term and it will eventually fail. The reason is simple, you'll never be able to connect with the audience and understand what they really want. On the other hand, starting an online business in the UK you're interested in, will automatically keep you motivated and dedicated. You'll put your 1000% to make it work. It will not only help you in making good money but will also offer you the peace of mind you deserve.

So, take your time and come up with a unique and fresh business idea that matches your interests. And because competition is fierce, you need to find an idea that sets you apart from thousands of other businesses.

If you're falling short of inspiration, here is a small tip — Ask your friends, family, colleagues, forums etc, what kind of services or products they would like to find online. You can also take inspiration from your own experience.

Once you've decided the type of business you want to own. Follow the below steps:

1. Get Feedback of Idea

Having a couple of expert opinions is always a great idea. Sometimes, you may not be able to see the obstacles and challenges a particular decision can throw at you. So, better safe than sorry and get honest feedback on your business idea. You can consult your friends or colleagues who have experience in running an online business. Hopefully, they will make you more insightful about the business path you have chosen.

Moreover, don't worry, if you receive negative feedback. Think again and try to add a unique element to your idea that makes it more prominent.

2. Conduct Market Research

As soon as you've finalised your online business concept, conduct in-depth market research. This will help you in determining the profit potential of your business. Go through your industry stats and find out how it is performing and what its future looks like. Besides, you can also raise questions in forums, communities and consult industry experts.

3. Competitor Analysis

Make one thing crystal clear, it is 2021 and most of the businesses and entrepreneurs have already taken themselves to the digital platforms. You'll be competing against thousands of businesses of your kind. So, if you want to stand out from the rest and outperform your competitors, you must carry out a competitor analysis.

When done properly, a thorough competitor analysis will help you learn about the following:

  • Who are your competitors?
  • What kind of business are they running?
  • What is their business model?
  • What does their target audience look like?
  • How much revenue are they generating?
  • How much time did they take to get a hold of the industry?
  • And more!

4. Figure Out Target Audience

Customers are everything. Period.

If you want your business to become a hit, then find out what your target customers look like. Whether they belong to a particular age group, gender, demographics and so on. This will help you understand their requirements and the kind of products /services they are looking for. And once you have this information, you can devise a marketing strategy and launch products/services to meet their demands. Not just that, knowing your target audience will also help you connect with them on a personal level. Using this data, you can fuel up your business plans and move in the right direction.

5. Pick Up a Business Name

This step is no brainer and you might have already come up with a good name for your online store. But keep in mind that the name you've selected is unique. It shouldn't only represent your business, but also drive more and more traffic to your platform.

Below are some tips on selecting the right name for your business:

  • Make sure your name is unique and meaningful.
  • It should be able to represent the motto of your business. For example: if you're planning to sell pizzas online, then your store name can include the word "pizza" in it.
  • Make sure it is not complicated and absurd. It should be easily perceivable.
  • A good idea is to keep your business name SEO friendly. There are numerous SEO services that can help you in this matter.

Choose a Business Model

Choosing the right business model is the second most important step for starting an online business in the UK.

Once you've finalised your niche, business name and researched about your target market and audience, the next step is to decide on a business model. Your business model will decide the way you will earn money through your online business.

The business model will depend upon the purpose of your website and will help you monetise it. There are basically four mainstream business models :

1. Ecommerce

If you are planning to set up an online store or website for selling products, services or downloads. Your business model will fall into this category. Here, the main source of your revenue will be sales and conversions. The higher the sales, the more money you'll be able to generate.

2. Advertising

Once you set up your site, many businesses will approach you to rent an advertisement space on it, sponsored content and visual ads, for example. So, the more traffic your website gets, the more you can charge from your clients.

3. Subscription

These types of websites are usually ad-free. They make money having their customers pay on a regular subscription basis in order to use the services, content or products of the website.

4. Dropshipping

Dropshipping is one of the most popular and successful business models in the world. In fact, it is the easiest way for starting an online business in the UK. Here, you set up your store and run it like a normal ecommerce store. The only difference is, you don't handle the products directly. Instead, you collect your customer's order and then place the order to a wholesaler who then delivers the product directly to your customer.

Estimate The Overall Cost

While it's true that starting any kind of business requires significant investment, it should not break your bank. You don't want to mindlessly invest all of your lifetime earnings in setting up a business. The good thing is, online businesses cost way less than traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. So, it's always better to have a properly planned budget.

For that, estimate the total cost of starting an online business in the UK by adding different expenses such as the cost of building a website, hosting, domain name, CMS, licensing, annual maintenance, marketing etc.

At the time of planning your budget, make sure to keep it flexible and avoid compromising on the quality of services just to save a handful of money.

Another thing you need to understand is that online businesses don't start generating revenue from the very first day. Think this way, an online business is like a sapling, you need to pot it, water it, and provide favourable conditions, so that it can grow and bear sweet fruits. Note that the initial years of an online business don't necessarily offer you any profits. This is the time you need to nurture it and after some time, your business will surely pick up a pace and offer amazing returns on your investments.

1. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)

GDPR compliance is a prerequisite for Starting an online business in the UK. Come into effect in May 2018, GDPR offers customers more protection and control over their private data. It states that businesses must be completely honest regarding their use of data.

Under GDPR, online businesses must be very consensual. You must ask for consent before using the customer's data. You must also be transparent about how you're going to use that data and adhere to the request to have it removed.

2. Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

This EC Directive regulation addresses the use of cookies and prevents them from being used for illegal activities.

As per these regulations, if your website uses cookies, then you must :

  • Notify your site visitors that you're using cookies.
  • Allow your customers to either deny or accept the cookies as per their preferences.
  • Display a privacy policy regarding the use of cookies.

3. The Electronic Commerce (EC Directive) Regulations 2002

These regulations are extremely crucial for all kinds of online businesses. They address the way in which online businesses communicate with their consumers.

Under this act, if you're selling online, then you must adhere to the following:

  • Display your company's name, location, address, contact information, registration/license number, etc along with the VAT number on your site.
  • Make your terms & conditions clear and visible to the site visitors.
  • Be very transparent about your prices, delivery charges, taxes, and special teams & conditions for deals and offers.
  • Provide your customers with an order confirmation via email. A good idea is to set up an automatic email response.

4. The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000

These regulations cover B2C (Business to consumer) dealings and address the rights of consumers.

This act mainly focuses on the returns. It states that every online business must offer its customers at least a 14-day period during which they can return or cancel the orders if they want. Further, returns must be followed by a full refund. Moreover, these regulations also demand you to provide complete information about your charges including the original price of the product, VAT, shipping cost, packaging cost, etc.

Build Your Website

Now comes the most exciting part of starting an online business in the UK — building a beautiful, stylish but easy to navigate and functional website!

Think of your website like a brick-and-mortar store. It will create an impression of your business in the industry and among your target audience. But remember, looks aren't the only thing that will keep your customers engaged. If your website is very complicated and offers poor navigation, then no matter how elegant it looks, your customers will not show any interest in using it.

So, the goal is to create a simple, attractive, but optimised website that offers swift navigation and a top-notch user experience. By building a website like this, you'll be able to have more control over your business.

In order to build a website, you need to register a domain name, choose the right hosting, design a website, integrate it with a CMS and Payment gateway, and whatnot. This is a comprehensive process that needs a lot of technical skills, expertise and specialisation. There are different kinds of websites you can choose from depending on your needs. To know about the pricing check out how much does a website cost in the UK.

Although it is possible to build your own website, the process can be very overwhelming if you don't have any experience and technical knowledge. So, instead of wasting your time and efforts on doing something you're not very good at, hire a trusted web development company to do the job in a professional way

When you get your website built, make sure to stick to the following checklist :

  • Easy to use
  • Easy to navigate
  • Faster loading time (less than 3 seconds)
  • Well-organised
  • Mobile optimised
  • Secure (PCI-DSS & GDPR compliant, SSL certification, data encryption)

Add Content On Your Website

Content is EVERYTHING!

Content is a magnet that attracts traffic to your website. Doesn't matter what kind of online business you're running, it should be able to address the queries of internet users via fresh and meaningful content. Remember, the right content allows your target customers to land in your online store, think of it like a roadmap.

Whether the purpose of your website is to sell products, provide users with informational and entertaining content, make people aware of your offline services, or anything else, the content on your website should:

  • Be fresh, meaningful and backed by trusted sources
  • Be well-written. Hire professional content writers to create error-free content that has the power to engage and encourage your users.
  • Clearly explain what your services and products are all about. What are they used for, how can they help your customers
  • Answer the queries your users have raised on the search engines
  • Be completely SEO focused.

Follow these points to any kind of content you have on your site, including service pages, blogs, product descriptions to full-fledged articles.

SEO of Website

No matter how trailblazing your business idea is, excellent your products are, well-designed your website is, it's all worthless without Search Engine Optimisation.

Searching Engine Optimisation or simply SEO is the key to ensure the success of your online business. It helps you optimise your website in order to rank on the top of search engine result pages.

Ranking on the top of SERPs is extremely important because most internet users don't even bother exploring the search results past the first two pages. They blindly choose the sites that come on the top of SERPs. If you want to get more customers, you can use this local SEO guide and attract more local traffic to your online store.

SEO Facts So, if you want to gain high volumes of traffic, improve your online visibility, and maximise your sales and conversions, then we highly recommend taking help from reliable SEO services like RVS Media. We have some of the most talented SEO experts in our team, who can help you improve your search rankings and online visibility.

Be Visible On Social Media

Social media plays a key role in building your online presence.

Nowadays, it's almost impossible to believe that any person with a smartphone doesn't have a social media account. Not just the internet users, almost all kinds of businesses have their social media handles on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin etc. etc.

You can look at these popular social media platforms as a free marketing tool. These platforms have millions of users from every nook and corner of the world. This means they provide you with plenty of opportunities to market your products/services, acquire new customers, and generate quality leads all at the same time.

For this reason, you should consider creating your page on any or all the popular social media platform(s) you like.

Below are some points that will help you get started on social media platforms, check these out!

  • Run giveaways/launch competitions. This will help you engage more and more people to your brand and familiarise them with your offerings.
  • Utilise paid ads. Platforms like Instagram and Facebook allow businesses to launch paid ad campaigns. By doing so, you can direct your adverts in the feed of your target customers.
  • Link your website / online store. Share posts and stories about your products and don't forget to provide links to your site or particular products.
  • Post religiously. Again a very important step. Be very consistent in posting fresh and interesting content on your social media pages. This will keep your customers engaged.
  • Offer quick responses. Don't avoid replying to the messages and comments of your followers. Consider it as a chance to turn them into your customers.
  • Ask for feedback. Encourage your customers to share ratings and reviews of your business and products.

1. Influencer Marketing

As soon as your website goes live and you're ready to take off, consider approaching social media influencers for promoting your products or services. These influencers greatly impact the buying decision of their followers. So, getting your products reviewed/promoted by them will help you generate good quality leads and gain some brand value as well. All you need to do is connect with the right influencers.

Apart from this, a good idea is to work with a social media marketing company that will plan and execute powerful social media marketing campaigns to improve your sales.

Market Your Business

We have discussed enough about starting an online business in the UK, let's now learn about the best ways to drive traffic on your site.

Besides running engaging social media pages and reaching the top Google rankings with exceptional SEO practice, there are other things you need to do in order to attract high volumes of traffic to your freshly built website.

You've guessed it right, we are talking about the most important part of running online businesses — Marketing!

Here are the most effective marketing techniques you can use to drive high volumes of traffic :

1. Pay-per-click (PPC) Marketing

In a PPC or CPC (Cost-per-Click) campaign, your search engine will make sure that your website appears on the top of result pages whenever a user searches for a particular keyword.

Here, you have to pay the search engine a decided fee each time any user clicks your link. If you don't already know, Google Ads is one of the most popular PPC systems available at present. Using it, you can appear as "Ad" on the top of SERPs.

A PPC marketing campaign is one of the quickest ways to gain traffic on your site. However, it's up to you whether or not paying per click is worth the results you're generating.

Always remember, the effective your campaign is, the powerful your landing pages are, the more positive results you will get.

2. Email Marketing

Email marketing is known to be the best form of digital marketing at present. It is capable of offering the highest returns on your investments. Statistically, you can get around £35 for each £1 you spend on email marketing.

For those who don't know, this is a process of sending well-designed and attractive marketing emails to your customers and potential targets to keep them engaged and encourage them to make purchases. Not just that, email marketing allows you to keep your customers updated regarding the new launches, sales, deals and special offers.
To help you get started, below are some great email marketing tools you can look into:

For effective email marketing, you need an actionable list of emails that you can easily generate by attaching a sign-up form to your website. Remember, whenever you build an email list, make sure it is GDPR compliant.

3. Affiliate Marketing

To launch an affiliate marketing program, you simply place an advert or include the links of your business, in the articles of third-party sites known as the affiliate websites, for free. Whenever a user clicks your ad or hyperlink to visit your site and makes a purchase, you pay a fee ( commission) to the affiliate website the user has clicked from.

4. PR Agency

By hiring the right PR agency, you can push your business into the eyes of the public through impactful media coverage such as newspapers, magazines, websites, interviews and so on.

The right PR professionals can help you spread the word of your business which in turn will help you increase your brand value and gain some authority in the market. But here is the thing, the more trusted and popular your PR agency is, the more impact it will make on your targets.

Conclusion

Starting an online business in the UK is one of the best things you can do right now. In this digitally active era, online businesses hold great potential of generating higher profits and revenue. We have discussed everything you need to know to start an online business in the UK from scratch. But following all these steps can be extremely overwhelming, especially if you don't have any experience. If that's true, then don't worry, RVS Media has got your back. Just tell us your business idea and goals, we will handle the rest. From building a website, to running lucrative marketing campaigns, we take care of everything.

Don't let your business idea get stale, contact us TODAY and take the first step towards starting an online business in the UK. Get in touch now!

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