Marketing your business: A beginner’s guide to buyer personas

You’re great at running a small business… but how about marketing it? There are so many things to think about: where to find new customers; what they like; and how to get your business out there so people can see what you do!

Say goodbye 👋  to the confusion with buyer personas! You might have heard of them before, perhaps you know what they are, or maybe you’re scratching your head. Whatever your knowledge, don’t worry – we’ve broken down:

What a buyer persona is

How to create yours

How to use buyer personas in your marketing

We’ll take you from theory to action, without breaking a sweat. The result? You can stop stressing about marketing and get back to running your business. We’ve even created a free downloadable eBook The Beginner’s Guide to Buyer Personas for you to takeaway.

1. What are buyer personas and how can they help?

A buyer persona is a representation of your typical customer. Think of it as snapshot or collage of the kind of person that buys from you.

Buyer personas help you market more effectively. Created from your knowledge of customers, as well as a little market research, they help focus your marketing efforts. How? Clarity around who buys from you means you can serve your customers more effectively. Instead of trying to reach everyone, buyer personas focus your marketing efforts.

Our eBook, ‘The Beginner’s Guide to Buyer Personas’, aims to make knowing your customer easy. The outcome? The rest of your marketing falls into place.

2. Get to grips with the theory of buyer personas

Who to include in my buyer personas?

What information should I research?

When can I use my buyer persona?

All of these questions and more are covered in the eBook. The first section lays out the theory, to make the process as simple and transparent as possible. As with anything in life, understanding the reasons for something before doing it provides clarity and confidence. Because without a good understanding of what matters and why, it’s hard to create effective buyer personas that work for you.

3. A hands-on guide to creating your buyer personas

The second part of the eBook gives practical information about what to include in your buyer personas.

Use our hints and tips to create your own personas. You can also take a look at our example for inspiration, or make use of the template included and use your own customer data to fill in the gaps. The aim is to give you the knowledge and the tools to build up a set of buyer personas that work for you and your business.

4. Action! How to put your personas into practice

While it’s fun to get creative, the third and final section of the eBook is about action!

The best thing you can do with your buyer personas is to use them. Think of your personas like a fancy new bike. It arrives in a box, in many pieces, and you follow the instructions to slowly, slowly, build the bike. The process is challenging but fun – it’s exciting to see the bike take shape.

Here’s the thing though. If you don’t take the bike for a spin, you miss out on the benefits of cycling. Your buyer personas are no different: the best part is putting them to use in your marketing. You’ve put a lot of effort into creating them, so why not make the most of them?

5. Create your buyer personas with confidence

Knowing where to begin with marketing can be tricky, especially when you’re trying to run a business or juggle a side hustle. Defining your buyer personas is a great place to start, because you already know lots of information from serving your customers. And once your buyer personas are complete, they make the rest of your marketing much easier.

6. So why not create your buyer personas today?

Download our free eBook below👇 

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How to manage your small business during the Covid-19 crisis

Mother working on laptop at home, while her child using tablet. Boy and mother sat on the sofa. The Mother is managing her business on her laptop during the Covid-19 crisis

Change can be scary and when it happens fast it’s even more worrying. The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted our movement, our work, and how we go about our daily lives. Sadly, small businesses are highly impacted by the global pandemic and need to adapt during these uncertain times. That’s why we’ve put together a guide to support you. In this article, we’ve outlined 4 areas to help you as a small business owner navigate this crisis: wellbeing, work, communications, and taking stock.

Of course, the most important thing is to always act in accordance with local health guidelines and official advice. Don’t do anything that would endanger yourself or others.

With that in mind, we hope the following information is useful.

Wellbeing

Taking care of your wellbeing is the most important thing during a health crisis. If you are well, you’re able to look after the people you love and serve customers effectively.

Take care of your physical wellbeing:

  • Online fitness classes – exercise outside might not be possible right now. There are many, many classes available online, from free exercise videos on YouTube to personal trainers carrying out virtual workouts. Try to get a good mix of everything, as you would in normal life, for example: movement, cardio workouts, strength training, and flexibility
  • Keep moving – regularly get up from your workspace and walk around. If allowed, take permitted exercise outside
  • Get some fresh air – open windows, sit on the balcony and make use of outside space at home, if it is available to you
  • Cook homemade meals – use what’s available. Eat a balanced diet and keep regular mealtimes

Look after your mental wellbeing:

These are unprecedented times; keeping your mind healthy is an important part of staying well.

  • Exercise – As above. Scientists have shown a link between physical activity and an uplift in mood
  • Homeworkers/homeschoolers – set up a desk away from where you sleep or rest if possible. Dedicate a specific area of the house to ‘work’ or ‘school’. If that’s not possible, tidy things away once the day is over to create separation
  • Stay in touch – contact loved ones virtually, FaceTime wherever possible and share messages of support to keep each other going
  • Accept the new normal – it is beyond all of our control. Focus on what you can control, such as cooking, school, or sending a text to someone you care about
  • Get some rest – keep your regular sleep routine and make sure you are getting enough rest. Sleep is an important part of our health. A good night’s sleep will mean you’re present, alert and better able to connect with people – including your customers

Work

All of life has been impacted by the crisis, including work. Many small businesses have been particularly affected. Control the controllable with these tips:

  • Keep communicating – with workers, suppliers and customers. Let people know what will change due to the pandemic, what you’re doing about it, and how it impacts the service you provide
  • Keep channels open with suppliers – we are all in difficult circumstances. Bear in mind that your suppliers’ challenges may impact your turnaround. It’s important to communicate this information to customers if this is the case
  • Things are different – stay focused on what’s possible, rather than what isn’t
  • The situation is changing constantly – keep up to date with official government guidance on public health and financial measures to support businesses and individuals. As a business owner, take it upon yourself to establish the facts: trust government websites and media, reliable news sources, and respectable journalism. Do not rely on information shared on social media

Communications

The situation is scary. There are many unknowns. In the face of a crisis, running away and hiding feels like the only option.

Whatever you do, keep communicating. Customers rely on you, and it’s up to you to let them know whether you can still serve them during this uncertain time.

  • Update customers – let them know what is going on. If you are able to carry on working, communicate key information such as new hours, availability of support staff, and changes in shipping times
  • Review scheduled posts – emails, content and social media must all be reviewed, especially if campaigns were scheduled days or weeks ago. Check if the content is still appropriate in the current climate. Change it if not
  • Be mindful of your tone – keep on sharing on social media, but be careful. People are frightened and the entire world is impacted by this crisis. Be sensitive
  • Avoid posting if you have doubts – if the message could come across as insensitive, too much of a hard sell, or seems to contradict official guidelines, do not post the content
  • Be helpful – now is a time for kindness and community, even if we are physically distanced. Thanks to the power of the internet one thing you can do right now, is provide help and insight. Share your knowledge with the world: your customers might not be able to visit you physically, though it doesn’t mean that you can’t share hints and tips with them

Take stock

The challenges the world faces now are unprecedented. The impact on small businesses is far-reaching. If COVID-19 means you are unable to trade, try not to panic. Is there anything you could do differently? If not, is now an opportunity to review your business and plan for the future? 

We’ve divided the following section into two: the short term and the long term. The short-term actions are designed to help you make the best of the present moment, if that option is available to you. The long-term actions are designed to help you plan for the future, so that your small business can come back stronger.

Think short term:

  • Things have changed a lot in a very short space of time – ask yourself, ‘What CAN I do?’
  • If you can’t sell in person, can you trade online? – online stores mean customers can visit you any time of the day or night to make purchases. If you can ship your products, or provide them as a download, then you can sell online
  • If you make things, can you make something different at this time? – for example, can you create essential supplies such as masks, soap or hand sanitiser?
  • If you provide a service, take it online – if possible, carry out meetings and work over video and phone call. Perhaps you could record a series of videos, create a course, or write an eBook and sell them via your online store

Think long term:

  • Reflect on your business – so far, what has worked? What didn’t work so well? Think about your answers to each question and plan ways to do more of what worked well in future
  • Plan for the future – think deeply about your business goals and the strategy that will help you get there
  • Adjust the way you operate – has the Coronavirus revealed any weak spots in the way you run your business? What steps can you take to strengthen these areas and make sure your business is watertight going forwards?
  • Make contingency plans – nobody could have predicted a global pandemic just a few months ago. If you haven’t already, now is the time to imagine the worst-case scenarios your business could face. Plan how you would respond to them and the resources you would need to survive
  • Consider diversifying your business income – you’re fantastic at what you do, we’re sure about that! Focus is great. Though a crisis means that if you only have one way of making money, and that is impacted, your income suffers. Think about different revenue streams, new products and services. Variety helps ensure you maintain a level of income if one area is hit

We are here to support you…

Times are tough, and we really hope that the information in this article is helpful. Our aim is to provide practical support to help your small business thrive – with or without a crisis! That’s why we’ve put together an exclusive offer, to help small businesses at an uncertain time….

Our 14-day day trial is still free, and always will be. That means you can set up a website and an online store when being online is more important than ever.

After that, if you wish to upgrade your account, we’re giving you the first 12-months at a 50% discount. That’s just £6.50 per month for a domain name, up to 5 email addresses, SSL security and a professional website or online store with no limitations.

To get this offer, simply head over to our getting started page and the discount will automatically be applied at checkout. Remember, you’ll always start on our 14-day free trial where you can access all features without needing to enter any credit card details.

We can’t wait to see your business online!

Your guide to creating a landing page that converts

When you have your own business, an online presence is a must. And making sure yours is as good as can be doesn’t have to be complicated. With our simple tips, we’ll show you how to create a landing page that converts, so you can leave your website to do the hard work, whilst you keep doing what you do best.

What is a landing page?

A landing page is where a visitor arrives after clicking a link, usually from a search engine, social media or a marketing campaign. A landing page should turn a visitor into a potential customer, or a ‘lead’: your business offers something through its landing page and asks for something in return, often contact details. Landing pages are different to other pages of your website because their purpose is to encourage the visitor to take a specific action.

Six tips for creating a landing page that works

1. Define the purpose of the landing page and your goals
Being clear about the page’s purpose and what you want to achieve will help you get the best results. Do you want people to call or email you? Would you like to encourage sign-ups to your mailing list? Or perhaps you’re promoting a product and you’d like people to purchase via your page. Think about how many people you’d like to take action, so you’ll know when you’re near your target. This will help you determine if your landing page has been a success or if something needs to change (more on this in step six).

2. Use the right message and tone for your audience
You know your customers better than anyone. Write a message on your landing page that will appeal to them. Bear in mind the tone too: this is how your message comes across. The message and tone for an electrician looking for commercial contracts are very different from a craft business selling home décor. Keep your message short and to the point, so your visitors understand quickly what you’re offering.

Business owner planning a landing page that converts. Tone and messaging for her business

3. Create attractive layouts and design with no fuss
OK, now you know what you want to say and who you want to say it to. It’s time to design your page! Landing pages are a chance to be a little creative – after all, you want to make sure it helps you fulfil your goals. It should still look and feel like your brand, though you can play around with the layout and design to find what works for you. Text, images and buttons should be neatly spaced, and don’t forget to optimise for mobile! Luckily, Go Sitebuilder has a choice of pre-designed sections to help you. And all of our sites and landing pages automatically look great on all devices. So you can relax, knowing that wherever your potential customer is, they have a great impression of your business. 

4. Don’t forget to include a strong call to action
Your message is clear, your landing page design looks great…it’s ready to go, isn’t it? Not quite! A key part of any landing page is a powerful call to action. Your call to action is how you bring your page goals to life. While you don’t want to be patronising, it should be clear and prompt the response you’re looking for. If you’re stuck, think of it like this: a good call to action makes life easy for the visitor, like a takeaway menu with the phone number for ordering printed loud and clear, not small and hidden! Go’s library of designs, fonts and colours make your call to action stand out, so your landing page visitor will know exactly what to do next. 

5. How to improve landing page engagement 
You’ve built a fantastic landing page, and you can’t wait to share it with the world. Before you hit ‘Go!’ there are a few things you can do to boost the chances of visitors engaging with your page:

  • Videos are an effective way to communicate online. Make sure it’s not too long: around 60 seconds is a good amount of time to share information without taking up too much of people’s day.
  • Images are another way to keep people’s attention. Photographs of a product or images showing an event help people to picture what you offer, so it’s easier to understand what’s in it for them. If your business or product is a little more complicated, a diagram of how something works is useful.
  • Simplicity is key. From the design of your page to your message and even the form for capturing details – keep it simple and you’ll keep people’s attention. 

6. Finally, measure your landing page performance 
It’s important to keep an eye on how your landing page performs. Whether it’s tracking the number of leads generated or how many visitors have left without engaging, it’s all valuable information. If something isn’t working, you can make tweaks to the design, the layout and the message and see what difference it makes. On the other hand, if your page is successful, you’ll know what works for next time!

Landing pages that work – in a few simple clicks

A landing page is a powerful tool for collecting leads and turning them into customers. We hope that these tips are useful when building your own landing page. With a little thought and some clever design, landing pages are a great addition to your website and social media presence. Why not give it a go yourself? No upfront cost, no credit card required: sign up for your 14-day free trial today. Let us know once you’ve created your landing page. We’d love to hear about how you got on and the leads it generated for you!

What day of the week should I launch a website?

The moment you unveil your new website can have a big impact on its performance in the early days. It’s important to pick the right date to premiere your website, but choosing the right day is not always that straightforward. Here is some advice on how to choose the right date and day of the week to launch your site.

What is the best date?

The first question to ask is whether your business is a seasonal one. Is there a certain time when your target audience will most want to use your products/services? When is that time? For example, it wouldn’t be a great idea to launch your new skiing equipment store right at the end of the ski season, as nobody will be looking for new products at that time. Find out when your audience is likely to be most active online, and aim to put it out then.

What is the best day?

Days of the week, and times of day, make a difference for different audiences, but also for you…

For example, launching a site on a Friday is one of the worst things to do. This is because putting your website online is not going to be a smooth process; you want your web team, client, host, and the domain registrar all to be ready in case issues arise. These negatives hold true for launching your site on a Saturday or a Sunday, especially if your product is designed for a corporate audience. 

Tuesday is one of the best days to launch your site, as it’s likely that your potential clients are browsing online and haven’t yet been bogged down in so much work that they don’t have time to look at your site. Choosing Tuesday means that not only do you have Monday to properly prepare your team and tease out any loose ends when your brains are fresh, it also gives you the rest of the week to work with your team to deal with potential bug fixes or other problems as and when they arise.

The right day could be completely different for a different company though; make sure you know when your target audience is most online so that you can identify the best day and time to reach them with a new website. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but with the right work and attention to general trends and statistics, you can get an idea of what day might work best for you.

Be prepared and plan ahead

It is always a good idea to plan ahead to ensure a successful website launch. And, once your website goes live there is a whole new list of things you need to prepare for. For example, you need to plan who you are going to tell about the launch and what platforms to use on social media. Influencers and news sources that speak to your target audience are important too. You’ll also need to set aside some time to respond to people when they have queries about your business.

There are no real shortcuts when it comes to making a success of your website launch. You will need to do the research and plan accordingly to see the best results. You know your business, and this empowers you to understand who your target audience is. If you’re unsure, by downloading our free ‘A beginners guide to buyer personas’ will help you learn more about them, find out their habits, and launch your website at a time that they will be receptive to it.

Having a website is crucial for every business. If you haven’t created yours yet, why don’t you check out Go Sitebuilder? Create your website from anywhere without the need for any technical skills. Try Go Sitebuilder free for 14-days to see just how easy it is to get your business online.

Announcing our latest integration with PayPal 🎉

We’ve teamed up with PayPal to bring you their latest integration, packed full of business-boosting features. And, like us, it’s now completely mobile!  

What’s so good about the latest version? 

  • We’ve already said it – it’s mobile! Get started from any device with a streamlined set-up flow.
  • More checkout options. Take payment from a wider range of credit cards and payment services. 
  • Faster set-up. Set up your PayPal business account within minutes, from any device.
  • Additional security. Complying with the latest EU regulations with PayPal’s security update.

I haven’t used PayPal before…

No problem! PayPal is one of the most popular payment gateways in the world, allowing anyone to send or receive money with just an email address. Setting up an account is easy; you can do this when creating your online store with Go Sitebuilder or head over to the PayPal website to sign up for your PayPal business account.

PayPal Commerce Platform

The PayPal Commerce Platform for business is PayPal’s most comprehensive e-commerce offering to date, enabled on your Go Sitebuilder online store. You can now automatically give your shoppers the flexibility to pay the way they want!

Selecting from the traditional PayPal button, a range of Alternative Payment Methods, Credit and Debit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, Maestro, American Express – All safeguarded by PayPal’s best-in-class machine learning fraud capabilities.

The new PayPal Commerce Platform also includes customisable credit and debit card fields in order to offer a seamless checkout experience for your customers paying by card.

… what are the benefits?

  • Sell more. PayPal Checkout provides a seamless checkout experience that makes it easy for your customers to purchase and helps you increase sales. Shoppers are 54% more willing to buy when a business accepts PayPal, especially in unfamiliar situations.​
  • Reach more customers. 93% of merchants who offer PayPal Checkout say they have reached a wider customer base.​
  • Proven Protection. PayPal’s fraud prevention tools are continuously adapting and give merchants total transparency and control.

Start selling

If you’re looking to open an online store, you’re in luck. A Go Sitebuilder subscription includes an online store (with unlimited product listings!) and much, much more. Sign up for a free trial and start selling online today!

More about PayPal…

Check out our dedicated PayPal page to learn even more about this latest update:

How to make your first online sale

How to make your first online sale

If you’ve already set up your online store, congratulations! You’re ready to start selling. We’ve come up with a few ways for you to get your store out there and make your all-important first sale.  

Haven’t set up your store yet? Take a look at how easy it is!

So, whether it’s in real life, with social media and online communities, or through advertising, here are a few ideas to help make your first sale…

How to promote your eCommerce store in real life

Even though your store is online, there are lots of ways to share it offline too:

  • Friends and family – Once you’ve set up your online store, tell your friends and family about it. Ask them to spread the word and share it with their own personal and online networks.
  • Sign-written vehicle – A little unusual, but stick with us! This is especially good if you have a strong online presence – which you will do now your beautiful site is ready! Have your web address, unique hashtags or social media handles made into a sticker. Put it in the rear window of your vehicle and you’ll have an easy way to direct people to your online presence.
  • Physical presence – If there are local places where your ideal customers regularly hang out, why not drop off some flyers? Leave them there for people to find and they can navigate to your store in their own time.
  • Pass on printed material – If you’re already attending things like makers’ fairs, local events or marketplaces, have business cards printed. Include your store details and hand out cards when somebody makes a purchase. That way, customers can share your store with their own friends and family. Who knows, they might even come back online and make a repeat purchase!

Leverage the power of online communities and social media

It couldn’t be easier to share your store online. However you choose to connect, be genuine and make it easy for customers to find you.

  • Share a link to your store on social media – Once your site is set up, you can share it to your online channels directly from the store itself. Click the social buttons and off you go!
  • Keep a link to your store in your bio – Whether you’re an Instagram person, a Twitter devotee, or you’ve set a Facebook business page, the bio section is prime real estate. The text ‘about you’ at the top of the page is highly visible. Put your store link there. If people are looking at your social feeds and they like what they see, they can explore your eCommerce site with a click.
  • Online communities – Join small business groups or residents’ groups local to you. There are communities of makers, side hustlers and business owners across the internet. A small word of warning: be sure to genuinely engage. Often communities will have rules about when, or if, you can post promotional material. Not only will people remember you better if you’re genuine, you might find that the support of a community is valuable in its own right.
  • Write a blog – Your blog is a great place to keep your followers up to date with everything that you’ve been up to. Sharing your store on your blog can be particularly useful, especially if you’ve got an engaged following. So, let your readers know your store is ready for business!

Don’t be afraid of online advertising

It might sound scary, but don’t worry! With the tools available to small businesses today, it’s easy to start advertising.

  • Google ads – You can drive traffic to your store in a few simple steps. Land the right customers on your website with clever targeting or take people to whichever product page you want to promote.
  • Facebook ads – If your ideal customer is on Facebook, then Facebook’s targeted advertising allows you to reach them.
  • Competitions and giveaways – These are different to the structured advertising on platforms like Facebook or Google. Social posts, where you offer a giveaway or hold a competition can help raise awareness of your products. Even if your followers don’t win the competition, you will at least have made them aware of your store. And you never know… they may go on and buy from you anyway.

 A quick word on advertising…

The key thing to remember with any kind of advertising is to know your audience. Have a clear idea of the kind of people that buy from you, where they like to spend time, what appeals to them and what doesn’t. For example, don’t advertise on Google, if people won’t be searching for your products on a search engine. Or, if you know that the kind of people that buy your products don’t use Facebook, you’ll probably be disappointed if you advertise there. So, bear your audience in mind when you plan your advertising.  

Good luck with your new store…

We hope this blog is helpful; these are a few ideas to help you on your way to your very first sale. Remember to be creative and keep letting people know that your store’s ready and open for business.

Excited? So are we… 😄 🎉

Set up your store today! Register for a free 14-day trial and you’ll be one step closer to selling your products online…

How do I find a niche for my online store?

Asian woman using smartphone with happy mood smile face in shopping mall niche market

An online store can help you make some cash on the side, or it can be the start of a great new business venture. Either way, to make the most of your online store, you’ll need to put some research in at the beginning to make sure that you are supplying a product that will sell! If you’re still looking for a website builder, make sure you do your research and choose one like Go Sitebuilder that doesn’t have any hidden fees for selling products online. 

What is a niche?

Choosing a niche can mean several things, but the aim remains the same; providing a product or service that is different from others. Choosing a niche in general means deciding on the area you want to specialise in; that is, instead of DIY products in general, choosing kitchen DIY products, or painting products. This comes down to the old adage of being a jack of all trades and a master of none; if you specialise in an area, then people are more likely to trust you and your knowledge than if you sold many different products. 

This concept applies to a niche product – where you choose a specific type of product to specialise in (think leather shoes rather than all shoes) and to a niche market. A niche market is when you design a product for a specific market and then focus your marketing efforts on that small community. 

Why do I need a niche for my online store?

If you don’t choose a niche then you’re setting yourself up to disappear among the thousands of other online stores that are selling the same things as you. In 2020, competition is fierce in the ecommerce industry, product markets are saturated and consumers are becoming more and more demanding in terms of the convenience and speed of service. 

Choosing a niche product means that you won’t be in direct competition with huge competitors, who will be able to provide a faster, more convenient service. Because of their infinitely larger resources, this is not a competition you will be able to win. If you have a niche, however, you are more likely to appear higher up on a search engine results page when a user is looking for a specific product. More clicks – more revenue!

How to choose a niche product

Many niche products are unique, handmade products that cannot be replicated, so if you make jewellery or ceramics then this is a good area to move into. You’ll still need to focus on a niche though – in handmade industries it’s a good idea to focus on your brand to help you with this. Is your jewellery made with precious stones from a certain area? Do you have a certain glazing technique that makes your ceramics stand out? This is what you’ll have to rely on to set you apart from others. 

Other niche products are designed due to personal experience. Is there a gap in the market that you think needs to be filled? For example, Hatch is a clothing brand that was created by a mother who was looking for dressy maternity wear for events such as weddings and parties, but couldn’t find anything she liked. This company focuses on two niches; maternity wear and formal wear, making it a great example of a niche product. 

How to choose a niche market

A niche market, on the other hand, focuses on the consumer rather than the product itself. This makes your marketing easier, but also gives you more freedom in the items that you want to stock and sell. A niche market can be defined by its own unique needs, identity or preferences in comparison to consumers in general. 

A good example of this is conscious buyers. These are people who want to make less of an impact on the environment by reducing their waste and plastic use, and are looking for more sustainable solutions. Once you’ve decided on a niche market, it can help you decide on other things that are important for your ecommerce strategy. 

For example, how much would you charge for your products and how old are your audience likely to be? People are more likely to spend more on sustainable goods rather than traditional ones, and Gen Z and millennials are more eco-conscious than baby boomers. Once you’ve decided on a niche market, everything slots into place. 

Other considerations when choosing a niche

Make sure you carry out research when deciding on your niche; you don’t want to spend ages elaborating your ecommerce plan and then find out someone has already had the same idea! It’s also a good idea when you’re starting out to choose a product that will have high profit margins, as otherwise you might not make any profit at all after subtracting your time, website builder costs, delivery fees and potential return fees. 

There are lots of things to think about when choosing a niche for your ecommerce business, so why not have one less thing to worry about? Choose Go Sitebuilder as your website builder; we’re one of the cheapest website builders with a free integrated ecommerce platform, and no limits on the number of products you can sell. Try our 14-day free trial today to see how quick and easy it is to get your website up and running. 

Do I need a business licence to sell online?

Website building entrepreneur

Ecommerce sales are increasing steadily, and now consist of almost half of all retail sales in the UK. Are you thinking that setting up a small online shop could be a good way to make some extra money, but not sure about whether you will need a licence to do so? We take a look at the necessary licences you’ll need for general sales, selling alcohol or restricted goods, and selling products abroad. 

If you’re new to ecommerce, you’ll need a website builder that has ecommerce capability; Go Sitebuilder is one of the few that has an online shop platform within its software, so it’s easy and simple to set up without getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

General selling online

In many cases you can trade without a business licence in the UK, but you must make sure that you are properly registered with HMRC; you can follow the steps to set up your business here. This is a compulsory step in owning a business, and should be done no more than three months after you start trading. 

For selling general goods online within the UK, then you don’t need a licence but you do need to follow a certain set of rules. These rules include listing the steps involved in placing an order and giving the total delivery cost. There are multiple rules that need to be considered though, which are available on the government’s Online and Distance Selling page.

Selling restricted goods

If you are looking to sell restricted goods such as alcohol, however, you will have to apply for and get multiple licences to do so. 

  1. Personal licence. This requires taking the BIIAB Level 2 Award for Personal Licence Holders from an accredited provider, and then applying for a personal licence on the government website. The award training only lasts one day and costs around £100, whereas the personal licence application can take up to three weeks and costs £37. 
  2. Premises licence. You’ll need to apply for this licence from your local authority or council. It can be fixed to any commercial property, like a warehouse or a shop floor, but it is unlikely that you will be granted a premises licence for your home, as it is a domestic dwelling. A small building on your land that is separate from your house, however, could be given a licence, but you’ll have to get planning permission that allows it to operate as a commercial premises. The cost of this licence is based on the value of your business premises, and will be charged annually.

The other thing to bear in mind is that it is illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 18. This is almost impossible to check over the internet however, but all you need to do is show that you took “all reasonable steps” to verify the person’s age. Make sure you put adequate age verification measures in place to ensure your customers are under 18.

Selling online to other countries

Opening up your online commerce website to an international audience may seem daunting. However, US customers spend £12.5 billion on UK goods and services online every year, so your small company could grow sales and revenue by exporting your products across the pond. 

There are complications to this though. Your products will require documentation and will be subject to both customs duty and sales tax when they arrive in the US. This Trade Commission Database will help you work out the duty rates you’ll need to pay, and speak to a customs agent at the place where your products will arrive for more information.

Tax is also complex in the US. There is no VAT in the US, but many states have their own sales tax that apply to out-of-state businesses. The government’s page on exporting products to the US explains what state uses which sales tax. 

If you’re exporting goods to the EU, you might need a special licence depending on what sector your product falls in. Then you need to fill in a proforma invoice, where you only need to charge VAT if you’d do the same for customers in the UK. The invoice and any other necessary paperwork must travel with the product when you send it. Don’t forget to keep copies of commercial invoices and customs paperwork! 

It may seem like there are countless hoops to jump through and licences to get if you are selling products online, but this is only really true if you are selling restricted goods or exporting your products to another country. The most important step for any small business owner is to make sure your business is correctly registered with the government so you don’t accidentally end up flouting the law!

Start selling your products online now with a new website. Go Sitebuilder has a super-simple ecommerce platform that allows you to upload, price, and publish products to sell in seconds! We have a 14-day free trial so you can see how to make a stylish and professional-looking website in moments, so try us out today!

What are some of the latest web design trends?

top view of a computer, laptop, smartphone and tablet on a desktop workspace. responsive website on screen. 3d rendering. All screen graphics are made up using the latest web trends

You’ve come to make your website and you want it to stand out and look professional, modern and stylish, but you know you don’t have the time to design a website from scratch. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with a list of some of 2020’s latest web design trends that are easy to implement in your website builder.

Vibrant colours

Don’t be a shrinking violet! Using big, bold colours will help your website stand out, but make sure not to use too many at the same time – neon yellows, pinks and greens all together will be a real shock to the senses! Instead, choose one or two vibrant colours – preferably one that is in your logo or part of your brand identity, and then use a muted colour of text to complement it, like Cyclemon have done on their website. If you’re not sure what colours to go for, try a colour palette generator like Coolors to give you inspiration.

This adds visual interest, and makes it more likely that people are going to remember your brand. The most important thing to remember, though, is that this is really dependent on your company and what you’re trying to promote – a lawyer’s website might want darker and more professional-looking colours, whereas an events site that organises festivals can go wild with a rainbow of hues. Make sure you are accurately representing your brand to avoid a sense of disconnect between your site and the services you provide.

screenshot of Cyclemon homepage

Cyclemon use a bright yellow background with a complementing red for their brand title, but the rest of the text is in muted colours.

Gradients and duotones

Still thinking about colours, now we’re talking gradients! For those who spent hours deliberating on which colour gradients to use in their powerpoint presentations in IT class at school, it has a retro feel. Now though, these gradients are getting a modern twist with futuristic colour themes, like blues, purples and hot pinks. 

Play around with radial (circular) or linear gradients, or have more than one colour like Spotify. This is a simple and effective look, as you don’t need super high-quality images; the colour does the work for you.

Screenshot of spotify homepage

Spotify’s homepage uses a radial gradient from left to right that fades to black at the bottom. 

Enhanced images and filters

Images are extremely important when it comes to websites. They have to be good quality, well composed and represent your brand, but for 2020 you can go a little further. 

To make your images stand out, you have different options. If you’ve already got a vibrant colour background, why not make your photo monochrome to make it stand out? Another trend is images that are in a shape, like a circle or a triangle, that you can layer with other elements on your page. 

The simplest way to get your image to stand out is to add a filter. You can overlay the image with a colour – the colour of your brand, perhaps – or just a colour that represents what you do most.

We love this Go Sitebuilder website example, where Polly Evans Hypnotherapy have put a muted filter on a vibrant image to emphasise the sense of calm their hypnotherapy will bring to clients. 

screenshot of a hypnotherapy website

Polly Evans Hypnotherapy does a great job of adding a filter to an image to represent her brand.

Dark mode

It’s not as scary as it seems! Dark mode, simply put, is having a dark background with light text, as opposed to the standard mode on your phone or laptop that usually has a light background with dark text. Dark theme on screens reduces eye strain and extends a screen lifespan, and as more devices are giving users the option to enable the dark theme, people are getting used to it. 

The good news is that using a dark mode colour theme will help your design elements stand out more by making them contrast more. Black and white is an obvious choice, as displayed beautifully here by design studio Wonderland, but feel free to play around with it – what about a navy blue background with pale cream text?

Screenshot of wonderland design studio homepage

By having contrasting white text against a dark background, Wonderland’s message really stands out. 

Extended white space

Another trend that is really gaining traction this year is the use of space. It’s easy to think that an area of white space looks unfinished, or messy, but in fact it adds to a minimalist charm that is growing in popularity. 

Rather than using five photos, really think about what you want to show your users and try and limit it to just one or two on the homepage. This shows that you’re not trying too hard and that you’re confident that these pictures show the quality and style of your work. It will also prevent the user becoming overwhelmed when they arrive on your site. You can do this with our website builder; have a look at MND Tee that does a great job with managing white space. 

Screenshot of MND Tee website]

The white space on each side of the images draws the eye to the centre of the site. 

We hope this has helped you with some ideas on how to make your website look on trend for 2020! With Go Sitebuilder, we have ready-made themes to help you choose which one represents your brand best, colour palettes to help you create a stylish look, and an in-site image editor so you can really make your images pop!

Try our 14-day free trial today to see how our website builder can make your website building experience quick, simple and – most importantly – on trend.

How to start a small independent online store

Online store owner writing an address on a package

The number of small independent stores creating an online presence is ever increasing. With a wide range of potential customers to reach and easy cost-effective ways to reach them, there has never been a better time to start an online store.

Although the thought of starting an online store may be daunting for some, the benefits for your business are worth the time. Whether you are selling arts and crafts or high-end trainers, an online store can help you promote your products, increase brand awareness and establish a loyal customer base. Online stores can also help in building customer profiles and creating a rapport, through emails and offers tailored to them. If you want to build a successful online store then read on!

Choose your Product or Speciality

You may already have an idea of the type of product you want to sell, or maybe you know exactly what your company specialises in. Either way, deciding on your product or speciality is a vital step in creating your online store. When deciding on your product is it important to think through the following points:

Supply chain – will this product be something you make yourself (and if so where will the materials come from?) Or are you selling something on from somewhere else? 

Price – the price of your products is central to how successful your product may be. The best way to scope out price is to take part in some market research, look up similar products and their prices. Alternatively ask people who you feel may use your product how much they would be prepared to spend.

Know your audience – it is key to know your target market. Does your product appeal to teenagers or avid sports fans? It is important to know who you need to market your product at so as to achieve the most sales. 

Gaps in the Market – with such high numbers of online stores selling an incredible range of products, how will you make your product stand out? Additionally, even if you can make your product stand out, is there a demand for it? There is little point investing time, energy and money into something which has no potential to develop a strong customer base.

Creating a Platform to Sell your Product

Once you have decided on what you are selling, it is now time to think about how you will sell it. The best way to do this is to create a website where customers can browse the range of products. It is also crucial for your website to have ecommerce features such as a shopping cart, pages for customers to view products and a method of securing payments. Many website builders will provide this if coding is not your speciality! 

When creating your website it is also important to think about how your website portrays your brand image and the products you are selling. Aspects such as photographs, colours, fonts, layout and logo can all have an impact on whether customers return to your website or continue browsing once they find the site. 

Think about how your Products are Displayed

In order to get the most out of your website, it is important to market your products correctly. Key aspects to consider are: 

Photographs – these should be clear, high-resolution pictures that clearly display your product from multiple angles. They should be bright images that are well composed in order to attract customers’ attention.

Product Description – having an accurate product description will help you promote your product and avoid any customer confusion. Consider including key specifications such as size and material of the product.

Policies – what is your returns policy? Ensure that you are clear with each product what the returns policy is and state the policy with every item.

Creating an Effective Marketing Strategy

Marketing can help improve how many visitors see your website and therefore how many products you sell. There are a few methods which your business can use to increase brand awareness and product sales. 

The first is utilising social media. By creating pages on sites such as Facebook and Instagram, you increase the range of people you can reach and communicate with. There are also features on these sites which allows you to link products to photos, creating an easy way for customers to find your products. 

Another way to increase brand awareness is to use Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) tools, which boost your product up the ranks in Google search results. Many website builders have this feature as part of their package to help you boost sales easily. 

These steps can help you build a successful online store with a wide customer base and high visitor numbers. 

If you are looking to build a website for your company, then look no further than Go Sitebuilder! Our simple design means you can have a professional-looking website up and running in minutes, and eCommerce features are included as standard. Try our 14-day free trial today.