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DURING the last couple of editions we’ve been looking at the basics of getting your business selling online. We’ve already covered the different kinds of software available and how to take payments online.

RULES AND REGULATIONS

So, now you’re all ready to get stuck into selling your products to the eagerly-waiting public? Not quite. You have to make sure that you comply with the various rules and regulations that relate to selling online. At the very least, your website should clearly:

z Provide a full geographic address;

z Provide a proper email contact address;

z Flag up any hidden or unexpected charges early in the buying process;

z Be clear about cancellation rights;

z Provide a full refund, plus refund of delivery, when things go wrong.

The Distance Selling Hub is a resource set up by the Office of Fair Trading. It’s a great place to find out what rules apply to you and how you should implement them: www.oft.gov.uk/business-advice/treating-customers-fairly/dshome/

COPY

Give your customers as much information about your individual products as you can, in a clear and concise way. They are more likely to buy from you if you provide a full specification rather than one line of text.

Many e-commerce systems allow you to structure your product pages in a way that presents a short overview of the product, and then delve deeper to get more information if they wish.

The copy should also reflect the personality of your site: a small boutique selling unusual clothing would have a far more informal approach to speaking to its customers than a large site selling computer gear.

PHOTOGRAPHY

There’s no point in having a swish-looking website if the product photography isn’t up to scratch. Don’t be tempted to use your phone’s camera to snap a few pictures of your products. Many manufacturers invest thousands of pounds in taking professional shots of their products, so check with those you buy from to see if they can provide you with any.

One disadvantage to this is that your images will more than likely be exactly the same as many other sites that are selling the same products. Seriously consider investing in hiring the services of a professional photographer. If the budget won’t stretch to having all your products photographed, just use key ranges that you want to highlight. This can also help if you use shopping sites such as Google Shopping, where your unique images will stand out from the rest.

DELIVERING THE GOODS

You’ll need to have an efficient system in place for processing and delivering orders when they start coming in. Get quotes from a range of delivery companies to see which best fits with your business. Also, make it clear on your website how much delivery charges are – don’t make customers wait until they add an item to their basket before you tell them.

So that’s the basics of getting your e-commerce site set up … but we haven’t even touched on how to market your site and get it noticed. That’s another story for another day.

z Andrew McEwan of The Web Workshop in Morebattle (www.thewebworkshop.net) helps businesses in the Borders and beyond with their online presence and digital marketing.