How to set up an e-commerce business

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When starting an online business, it’s important to incorporate market research and make a detailed assessment of the market you are about to enter. Who is going to buy from your e-commerce site, who are your competitors and how are you different, how will you tell customers about your website, what are your main product lines and how much will they cost?

You need to map out and plan for what happens when your customers have clicked the ‘buy’ button. Consider how and where you store your products, how you package and label each purchase and how you get the product to the customer, plus what you do if a product comes back to you.

Marketing your e-commerce store

Get a Facebook group, Twitter feed and develop an army of contacts on LinkedIn; develop a newsletter list and set up Google Adwords (if appropriate), a website analytics package and a blog – keep them all updated regularly and watch interest develop.


If online sales worldwide are growing fast, then sales on smartphones are shooting up rapidly. If your site isn’t mobile friendly, then you’ll miss out on this fast moving and increasingly profitable sector.


There are plenty of rules that keep e-tailers in check. These include the Data Protection Act 1998, the Electronic Commerce Regulations 2002, and the Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations 2000.

Devote some time to understanding these rules. They’re common sense for the most part and protect customers through quality standards, minimum levels of security of purchases and legally-binding online contracts affecting ‘buy and supply’.

Find your first customers

Friends and family

Encourage family and friends to share your website on their social networks: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest – these are all great channels to spread the word. Offer them a discount if they buy from you and spread the word.

Social networks

Do your own social networking too. Get the message out about your e-commerce website – this should be done in a friendly and informal way. Tempt would-be customers with alluring messages and avoid the hard sell.

Google Adwords

Google Adwords work on a pay-per-click basis. It allows you to ‘buy’ views on your website which increase the chance of you winning new customers.

Search on google for ‘Adwords voucher’ for £75-worth of free advertising. But a word of warning, pay per click is not the cheapest form of advertising so be sure to set a limit on spending!

eBay or Amazon shops

Setting up an eBay shop is super-quick and is another easy way to get your first customers. The fees represent a cost to your business, but you benefit from a massive ready supply of eager customers – unlike with your own fresh-faced website. Putting a few products up on the auction site will get the ball rolling and make people aware of what you’re selling. This is great early advertising and a brilliant way to hit the ground running.

Vouchers / Offers / Competitions

Everyone loves a deal or a free prize, so set up a voucher and post about it on the various voucher websites (just search for ‘online vouchers’ to find the most popular ones). Likewise discount offers and competitions.

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