eCommerce in the UK

eCommerce statistics change very quickly and occupy many different categories. When taking an overall look at the eCommerce landscape in the UK it would be easy to throw bundles of these at you.

So we’ve picked some to illustrate the potential of eCommerce to the UK economy and our thanks go to the variety of sources, credited or otherwise, quoted on these pages.

eCOmmerce in the UK

In August, the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Survey showed online sales experiencing the highest growth in 2012, recording a huge 17% jump on July 2011. This works out at an annual figure of about £6.5 billion spent online with each person spending an average of £128. Total growth for the 2012 year to date stands at approximately 13%.

Generally, it is accepted that more than 90% of retailers can accept credit and debit cards – although most are offline. However there is a tidal wave of these businesses heading online – attracted by the fact that on average more than 95% of UK shoppers have made an online purchase. More than 70% of UK businesses have a website, but less than 40% of these can take online payment.

UK customers are now comfortable with online shopping and are using everything from computer tablets, smart phones and laptops to access the web at home, at work, or travelling.

We’re all familiar with the big online brands like Amazon, Tesco and eBay but even the smallest businesses are getting involved in eCommerce and watching their turnover and business grow as a result.

Maybe we are a nation of (online) shopkeepers because UK businesses are at the forefront of eCommerce – second only to the US and in front of Germany and France. Almost anything can be sold online, if you’re not convinced, go to a search engine and type in your product or service and you’ll nearly always find someone, somewhere, somehow will have figured out how to have it available to buy, order or reserve online.

There are very few barriers to entry to get selling online these days; powerful yet simple to maintain eCommerce websites can be set-up for less than the price of a family beach holiday, online payment (a subject close to our hearts) is also easily available for most small businesses.

When it comes to choosing an eCommerce solution, it pays to do your research and the first thing to think about is what you want to achieve with your platform.

Are you planning on selling from your website or are you merely providing information on your products. Will customers come to your site for help and support, or do you want suppliers to access restricted information via log-ins?

If you plan to sell online – and if you’re reading this page there’s a good chance that you are, you may need to rethink many of your business activities. You will need to work out how every aspect of a transaction is handled – including order confirmation, invoicing and payment, deliveries and returns. And there are numerous ways to advertise online either for a fixed budget using Google AdWords or virally for free using Facebook.

Your level of technical expertise will have a huge influence on your eCommerce decision and it would be wise to talk to an IT specialist or consultant before paying for web hosting services, payment processing facilities, payment gateway products or any other aspect of your eCommerce solution.

About eCommerce: the law

eCommerce is much like conventional business in that there are rules governing the way you operate and the how the industry is regulated.

When selling online or by some other distance-selling method, there are several key sets of regulations you should be aware of.

The Consumer Protection (Distance Selling) Regulations cover businesses that sell to consumers over the internet, by mail order, phone, fax, or on digital TV.

Generally these regulations require you to provide consumers with specific information before they place their order, an order confirmation and information on their cancellation rights.

The Electronic Commerce Regulations place some similar requirements on businesses that sell or advertise products or services to businesses using distance-selling methods.

For any online sale, the regulations also require you to:

  • Clearly identify commercial communications as such
  • Outline the steps that need to be taken for a contract to be concluded

Other laws you must comply with

You must also comply with a range of other laws on the supply of goods and services. You must ensure:

  • Goods are fit for their purpose and of satisfactory quality under the Sale of Goods Act
  • Products are exactly as you describe them
  • Services are carried out with reasonable skill, in a reasonable time and at a reasonable price
  • You provide specific information about your business, services and complaints procedures to service recipients in the UK and other European Economic Area countries under the Provision of Services Regulations

You must also comply with privacy and data-protection law when contacting customers or processing any personal information about your customers.

For more information on eCommerce and the rules for businesses operating online, go to:

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