Dash Cams: The Ultimate Guide for UK Businesses

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 18 January 2021

What is a dash cam? How does it work? And which type of dash cam can accelerate your business’ growth?


Dashboard cameras. Once primarily the facilitator of questionable YouTube entertainment, dash cams are now gaining serious traction in the world of business. With one in four motorists in the UK using one, it’s not hard to see why fleet managers are flocking to them in their droves.

Dash cams can help you cultivate better road safety habits, cut out lazy or aggressive driving, and settle disputes. Dash cams aren’t just a boost for your reputation, either – with the savings available on fuel, mileage, and your insurance, they’re a breath of fresh air for your wallet, too.

But what is a dash cam exactly, and how does it work? Furthermore, how do you choose the right type of dash cam for your fleet, and ensure you’re getting the best value for your business?

Read on to find out. Or, if you’re short on time and want to get to the business end, simply let us know your requirements. We’ll ask about the types of vehicle in your fleet, how many there are, and what dash cam features you’ve got your eye on, if any. Then, you’ll receive quotes tailored to your business’ requirements. It takes 30 seconds, and it’s free.


What is a dash cam?

Dash cam attached to a car interior mirror

A dash cam is an onboard recording device, usually attached to the inside of the windscreen, which is used to capture video and audio from in and around your vehicle. This footage can be downloaded and viewed to provide insight into your drivers’ habits, and get to the bottom of things if there’s an accident.


How do dash cams work?

As with most tech solutions for businesses, dash cam solutions are comprised of two parts.

Dash cam hardware

First, there’s the hardware – in this case, the windscreen-mounted camera itself. 

Once it’s installed to the inside or outside of your vehicle (tucked in behind the rearview mirror is usually the safest bet), it’ll capture what you want it to: whether that’s a view of the road ahead only, or footage from within the car, too.

And – at least where basic, off-the-shelf dash cams are concerned – that’s all there is to it. When you want to view the footage, you’ll have to manually remove the camera’s SD card, hook it up to your computer, and download the recording. Unless…

Dash cam software

With more advanced dash cam solutions, though, there’s a second component – the software. Here, video footage is transmitted via the cloud to an app on your smartphone or tablet. 

Rather than having to wait until a journey’s over, you’ll get insights into what’s happening out on the tarmac in close to real time. With Verizon Connect, for instance, footage is available between three and five minutes after unsafe driving occurs. 

You’ll also receive push notifications that let you know when there’s been an accident, so you can address it straight away  – without having to sift through hours of footage first, or wait until your vehicle is back at base.

Providers offering this business-grade level of software include Verizon Connect, Samsara, and UK Fuels. Click below to tell us about your requirements, and get tailored dash cam quotes.

Want to explore how a dash cam can help your business grow? Yes, please!

What are the features and benefits of a dash cam?

Though recording the road is their raison d'être, dash cams bring a whole host of additional features to the table. Here’s a whistle-stop tour:

GPS (Global Positioning Service) capability

A GPS-enabled dash cam has obvious advantages. As well as recording your vehicles’ journeys, it allows you to see where those vehicles are – and how far they’ve travelled. The good news is that GPS also allows you to optimise your routes and save cash on fuel

The better news? These days, most dash cams do work with GPS – even the more basic varieties. However, the high spec dash cam options, such as Verizon Connect, still come out on top. Verizon Connect’s hardware sits as a function within its wider GPS fleet management software – allowing you to not only track your vehicles, but leverage data insights to get the most out of them, too.

G-sensors

Also known as an accelerometer, a G-sensor detects sudden changes in acceleration and direction, as well as harsh braking. Helpfully, it also measures the force applied during a collision – allowing you to extract important details from the footage, in the event of a crash.

Parking mode

Dash cams with ‘parking mode’ have the ability to record footage continuously – even when the vehicle isn’t in motion.

Parking mode (also known as ‘sentry mode’, or ‘360-degree surveillance’) is indispensable if you’re worried about your vehicles being vandalised or stolen when stationary.

While this feature tends to be restricted to the more high-end dash cam models on the market, we’d still recommend it – particularly for tradespeople that travel in vans full of expensive tools.

Night vision

Simple, but essential. If your fleet is in haulage or logistics, and requires a lot of travel by night, you’ll need to make sure your chosen dash cam supports this feature.

What do all these features mean for your business? Let us count the ways.

The benefits of using a dash cam for your business’ fleet include:

  • Helping settle insurance claims and determine liability
  • Identifying where drivers are relying on inefficient routes
  • Cutting down on fuel spend and reducing idling
  • Driving down your insurance costs
  • Acting as a deterrent for disruptive customer or passenger behaviour
  • Maintaining a record of collisions, even when parked
  • Determining the speed, acceleration, and location involved in an incident
  • Monitoring the progress of deliveries or jobs in near real time

However, not all dash cams are created equal. And not all will provide the entirety of features above. 

There’s a world of difference between a camera you might pay a few quid for at Halford’s, and a fully integrated, machine learning-driven piece of tech from a provider such as Verizon Connect.

Essentially, the benefits your business will get from a dash cam rely on how much you’re willing to pay, and on the specific type of dash cam your fleet needs.


What type of dash cam do I need?

Dash cams aren’t ever a ‘one-size fits all’ approach – just one of the reasons we always recommend a tailored, integrated dash cam solution, rather than a generic, off-the-shelf version.

Ultimately, the right dash cam for you depends on what you want to use it for. Whether that’s mainly for insurance purposes, or to make sure your drivers are on the ball, read on to find out what type of dash cam suits you best.

Front-facing dash cam

Lorry with front view dash cam

The bread and butter of the dash cam world, this device captures everything happening on the road ahead of your vehicle.

As the cheapest, most simple dash cam option around, front-facing dash cams are a great way to enter the market. They’re useful for proving who was at fault if there’s an incident, and for ensuring your employees are driving safely. And, if you decide you like it, it’s easier to scale up to a more high-end solution.

Front-facing dash cams are best for:

  • Individuals
  • Small fleets (less than five vehicles)

Front and rear dash cam

Lorry with front and rear view dash cam

Traffic accidents, when they occur, tend to happen from behind. One piece of abrupt braking from the vehicle in front, plus one distracted driver behind, equals a mess your business doesn’t need. Here’s where the front and rear dash cam comes in.

By capturing footage from the rear – as well as the front – of your vehicle, this type of dash cam doubles your coverage in case of an unwanted prang. 

That’s why we most recommend it for heavy vehicles, or those making long cross-country deliveries. It’s the law of averages, after all – the more hours you spend out on the road, the higher your chance of a scrape… and the more coverage you’ll require.

Front and rear dash cams are best for:

  • Lorries and other HGV fleets
  • Haulage businesses
  • Logistics

Cabin view dash cam

Lorry with front and cabin view dash cam

Cabin view dash cams record footage from both the inside and outside of your vehicle. Why do you need footage from inside your vehicle, you ask?

Well, it’s not about spying on your employees – though a cabin view dash cam does allow you to stamp out dangerous and distracted driving. Rather, this type of dash cam is useful for taxi firms, who wish to provide their employees with an extra layer of security.

Dash cam footage can – and, in fact, has beenused in court as supporting evidence. That means it can act as an effective deterrent for any antisocial behaviour in the back of your taxis, and make your drivers feel safe and supported.

Better still, the more advanced cabin view dash cams can even prevent accidents happening in the first place. Samsara’s AI-equipped camera can spot if the driver is distracted, has their eyes closed, or is looking anywhere other than at the road.

Then, this smart dash cam speaks directly to the driver, issuing a warning and urging them to refocus their attention. It’s a life-saving feature that could be the difference between a successful job and serious injury.

Cabin view dash cams are best for:

  • Taxis
  • Couriers
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians

How much does a dash cam cost?

The answer to this question really depends on how advanced (and how scalable) you need your dash cam setup to be.

The most basic dash cams (such as the RAC 100) start from around £15. Slightly more feature-rich off-the-shelf dash cams will set you back between £49 (for Nextbase’s rear-facing camera) and £89 (the Garmin Mini). Beyond this, you can pay up to £400 or more for higher spec solutions, such as the Blackvue DR900S front and rear-facing package.

Though these dash cams are available at a one-off (and relatively affordable) cost, we’d only endorse them for individuals, or for the smallest of fleets. If you’re in charge of at least five vehicles, you should consider a more advanced setup.

That's why (for businesses, at least) we recommend an integrated dash cam solution – one that backs up your onboard camera with intelligent software. A package like this will cost you a monthly fee to lease the software, with a single, one-time cost to purchase the devices themselves. Verizon Connect Integrated Video and Samsara are our top picks for this type of dash cam.

For more information about costs, check out our complete guide to dash cam prices for UK businesses.

FAQs

Am I responsible for installing my own dash cam?

Should you opt for a basic dash cam, then yes – you will be required to install it yourself. However, when you invest in an integrated hardware/software package, installation is often included at no cost, or is available from a team of experts for a nominal fee.

Many companies offer much-needed flexibility when it comes to installation. Verizon Connect, for instance, provides the option to self-install (with instructions online and activation available through an app), or to have a technician come to you.

Do dash cams constantly record?

Most dash cams are made to record continuously. However, some of the more high spec systems can be configured to only begin recording when sudden or adverse motion is detected. 

Dash cams with parking mode can record continuously, regardless of whether the engine is on or the vehicle in motion.

How long do dash cams keep footage for?

When it comes to reviewing longer-term insurance claims, having access to historical dash cam footage is vital. However, you’ll need to ensure that you’re remaining compliant in the eyes of the law – specifically, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

That’s why we recommend opting for a cloud-based dash cam setup. This software puts GDPR at the forefront, allowing you to remain compliant by not holding onto any data your business might not strictly need for longer than permitted.

Verizon Connect’s software, for instance, can only retain footage for 90 days – helping you avoid hefty fines for non-compliance.

What are the best dash cams for businesses?

Our top pick is Verizon Connect’s integrated video solution, though we also recommend devices from Garmin, ASUS, Nextbase, and Cobra. For our full rundown on the best dash cams for small businesses, check out our bumper guide.

Or, for an even faster, more direct route to exploring the best dash cam selections for your business, try comparing quotes with us today. You know the deal – hit the button below to provide us with some details, and get free, no-obligation advice about the next step on your journey to dash cam success.

Want to explore how a dash cam can help your business grow? Yes, please!
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

Mitrefinch Payroll Review

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 24 April 2020

Flexipay is Mitrefinch’s flexible and intuitive payroll software program. But is it right for your business?


Mitrefinch logo

Pros:

  • HMRC-recognised
  • Easy to use and quick to implement
  • Comes with forward-thinking features, such as instant calculations and anytime pay
  • Free demo available

Cons:

  • Doesn’t transparently advertise its pricing
At a glance: Mitrefinch’s payroll software, Flexipay, is innovative, easy to use, and suitable for businesses big and small.

Picture the UK in the late 1970s. Ford Cortinas and Austin Allegros roamed the streets. ABBA was spinning in everyone’s cassette players. And Mitrefinch was busy pioneering computerised clocking in systems.

In the decades that have followed, Mitrefinch has continued to develop innovative workforce management solutions for businesses – from HR software to time and attendance solutions. Today, though, we’ll be holding the metaphorical microscope over Mitrefinch’s HMRC-recognised payroll system: Flexipay.

So, can Mitrefinch – and more to the point, Flexipay – meet your business’ unique payroll needs? Let’s find out.

Quick facts

  • Mitrefinch has gained over 7,500 customers around the world
  • Flexipay is used by some of the leading outsourced payroll providers in the UK

What are Mitrefinch's payroll’s best features?

Let’s kick off with a snapshot of our favourite things about Flexipay… 

Unique instant calculations

Quite possibly the most exciting thing about Flexipay is its unique ability to make instant calculations. That’s right – no more waiting endlessly for payroll calculations to run! In fact, during Mitrefinch’s benchmark testing, the software was able to produce gross to net calculations for 10,000 staff in just 20 seconds.

How does this work? Well, just as the Hulk’s secret is that he’s always angry, the key to Mitrefinch’s super rapid sums is that its innovative calculation engine is always running, 24/7, in the background. So essentially, whenever you need gross to net calculations, they’re just… already there.

As well as winning over the impatient among us, this feature also enables more accurate reporting, as well as more flexible submission deadlines. Mitrefinch has solved a prevalent payroll frustration here, and we’re impressed.

Adaptable paydays

Flexipay offers optional integration with Wagestream, which enables employees to draw down pay when they need it most, instead of having to wait until their official payday.

In enabling staff to access pay that they’ve earned whenever they need it – in the face of an unexpected bill or expense, perhaps – you’ll be offering an excellent workplace perk that’ll not only make your employees’ lives easier, but also show them that you care about their wellbeing. That can only boost their loyalty to you as an employer.

Speedy implementation and dedicated support

Paying staff is, of course, a time-sensitive endeavour – so when it comes to setting up a new payroll system, holdups and hiccups are the last thing you want. Fortunately, Mitrefinch promises pain-free implementation, providing an on-site “implementer” and a dedicated project manager to ensure the installation goes as smoothly as possible.

Plus, the company offers robust customer support and guided training to help your team get to grips with Flexipay quickly. In fact, Mitrefinch states that full implementation can be achieved within just three weeks. It helps, of course, that the Flexipay system itself is incredibly easy to learn and use, with highly-polished, intuitive, user-friendly dashboards.

Flexible integration

Mitrefinch’s workforce management solutions can work independently of one another. So, if Flexipay is all you want from the company, that’s fine – it’ll work well as a standalone product.

However, if you’re looking for a full suite of management software, you’ll be happy to know that Mitrefinch’s systems can integrate with one another to create a cohesive end-to-end management tool. This minimises the time you’ll spend inputting information and gathering reports across different platforms.

So, what exactly can you integrate Flexipay with? Well, besides payroll software, Mitrefinch also supplies time and attendance systems (don’t forget to check out our review of those here!), HR software, and access control systems.


How much does Mitrefinch's payroll cost?

One of the frustrations of working with a big payroll software provider like Mitrefinch is that its pricing is bespoke. In other words, it’ll depend on factors such as the size of your businesses, the number of users who’ll need to have access to the system, and whether or not you choose to integrate it with any of Mitrefinch’s other systems, as discussed in the section above.

The crux is this: we can’t tell you how much Mitrefinch will charge you right now. But tell us a bit about your business, and we can help you to quickly and easily gather tailored quotes from the payroll service providers that can best meet your unique needs.

Simply answer a few quick questions about your business, and we’ll match you up with the right payroll providers for you. They’ll then be in touch with no-obligation quotes that are tailored to you. It’s a super easy way to compare the price options and suppliers available, without hours of endless research. Oh, and it’s completely free!


Is Mitrefinch's payroll right for my business?

Check the statement that applies to you to find out!

“I run a small business with a handful of employees”

Flexipay is a breeze to use and pretty painless to set up, which makes it a solid option for small businesses that are new to the world of automated payroll. Plus, Mitrefinch’s focus on dedicated, responsive customer service means you’ll be in reliable hands if something ever goes wrong. It has to be said, too, that Flexipay is easy to scale – adding new payments and deductions is super easy – meaning it can grow as your business does.

All that being said, we know that as a small business, your budget may well be a limiting factor. Unfortunately, due to its bespoke pricing model, we can’t advise on whether Flexipay will suit you in that respect. But we can help you to quickly find and compare prices from providers that do suit your needs. Just answer a few quick questions about your business, and payroll providers that can cater to your unique requirements will be in touch with no-obligation tailored quotes. Simple!

“I run a larger business with 100 or more employees to manage”

That’s great – we think that Flexipay’s flexibility, scalability, and integration options make it ideal for businesses like yours! 

With so many employees to manage, any number of complex scenarios could arise while processing payroll. Fortunately, Flexipay is well-equipped to deal with all sorts of unique calculations, handling multiple pay groups, tax references, and pay elements and benefits all on one payroll. Plus, its instant calculations engine will save you serious time when it comes to running those numbers.


Compare tailored quotes from leading payroll system providers Request free quotes

What do Mitrefinch’s payroll customer reviews say?

Now, you can’t get a clear picture of what a supplier’s really all about without checking in with its customers. So we took to Mitrefinch’s Trustpilot page and scoured through acres of reviews to find out what real users honestly think of it.

Happily, the majority of Mitrefinch’s reviewers seem very pleased with the company – it boasts a rare ‘Excellent’ rating, with 74% of reviewers awarding it five stars. A further 14% gave it four stars, with just 12% of users rating it average to bad.

We have to bear in mind, of course, that not all of these reviews are about Flexipay specifically. However, we’ve plucked out a few of the most telling reviews that shed light on Mitrefinch’s payroll offering.

The majority praise Mitrefinch’s speedy customer service and system implementation:

“We chose Mitrefinch on the promise of a speedy implementation, having been let down by another provider who shall not be named.

 

“I'm happy to report that we went live on time and to budget – paying our staff accurately using the payroll module without a hitch. Having moved into support, we find the team both knowledgeable and responsive.

 

“Highly recommended and we are pleased we made the right choice.”

 

– Paul, Mitrefinch payroll customer

“Whenever I have a problem using the payroll system, or have a new payment to set up, the Mitrefinch support team is very efficient in sending a reply and easy to follow instructions, with screenshots, on how to do it.

 

“The online process to create a ‘ticket' for a query seems to work much better than waiting for an advisor to call you back.

 

“Often, with payroll, a response is needed pretty urgently, especially if a payday deadline is looming. Mitrefinch seems to understand this, and responds quickly.”

 

– Dianne, Mitrefinch payroll customer

Some highlight the fact that they have had technical issues with the system – however, that’s countered by the fact that Mitrefinch has been quick to fix those problems:

“I use Mitrefinch to process payroll, and although there have been some problems with the system, Mitrefinch has always been friendly and helpful in solving these issues.”

 

– Jenny, Mitrefinch payroll customer

Meanwhile, others laud the system for its ease of use, and the fact that all of Mitrefinch’s tools can be integrated for a smooth user experience:

“One of the things I like best is the interconnectivity of the software. We used to have several different softwares for the different sections of HR and payroll, and were constantly manually entering information several times into different systems. Now, if it’s in one it’s in them all, so there’s less room for human error. I also love how I can automate and customise pretty much anything through field calculations, reports, and overnight server processes.

 

“Flexipay is a godsend with HMRC. It does all the tax and NI automatically, RTI is a breeze, and month-end PAYE and year-end submissions are all done for you. It has all the AOE parameters set up in the background, and the sick diary makes SSP very simple. I can’t really say much bad about Flexipay – it does everything. I bought the p11d and benefits module, and that’s very straightforward too – it handles all the p46 submissions, which saves me navigating that awful HMRC website, and it sorts out p11d at the end of the year.”

 

– Stuart, Mitrefinch payroll customer


Mitrefinch payroll: the expert verdict

In our opinion, Mitrefinch’s Flexipay should definitely be on your list of payroll software programs to investigate. It’s forward-thinking – its instant calculations engine and integration with Wagestream are pretty innovative – and importantly, it comes with slick, intuitive dashboards that are easy to navigate. Plus, its existing customers seem to be very happy with it, which is always a fantastic sign.

Unfortunately, Mitrefinch’s downfall is that it isn’t very transparent about its prices. However, we can help you there. 

It’s so important to compare your options – pros, cons, prices and all – before committing to a single supplier. That’s what our service aims to help you to do. Simply answer a few quick questions about what your business needs, and we’ll match you up with the very best payroll providers for you. They’ll then be in touch directly with no-obligation, tailored quotes and further info. It’s fast, easy, and free – why not try it today?


What other payroll systems could I consider?

If you haven’t completed your payroll-hunting journey just yet, why not check out some of our other reviews of popular payroll software providers:

The GuildRead review

Compare tailored quotes from leading payroll system providers Request free quotes
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Best Fulfilment Companies for Small Businesses in 2021

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 20 April 2021

Often, the smallest businesses come with the largest workloads. Find out how you can ease yours, with our top six order fulfilment providers in the UK


Growing your ecommerce business is fun. 

Seeing orders rush in, watching your bank balance grow, and witnessing your products (quite literally!) fly off the shelves – it’s all part and parcel of the adrenaline rush that is online selling.

What’s less fun, though, is the legwork. Staying up late to sort through stock and pack goods, with only a cup of coffee and a few flattened cardboard boxes for company… who wants to be doing that?

Not you – so it’s time to start outsourcing your ecommerce fulfilment responsibilities. By hiring a company to handle the picking, packaging, and postage of your sold stock, you can cut costs, streamline your operation, and free up time for what matters.

In other words, you can focus on growing your business – not running it.

But choosing the right ecommerce fulfilment company (also known as a third party logistics, or 3PL, supplier) isn’t always that easy. Most 3PL providers are geared towards catering to clients with larger sales volumes. Smaller businesses tend to get the short end of the stick, becoming saddled with minimum charges and bloated monthly fees.

It’s not fair. So, we decided to put together our list of the best fulfilment companies for small businesses.

Read on to explore which one is best for yours.

Fulfilment centre employees wearing hard hats in discussion

Time, money, hassle, coffee consumption… outsourcing your small business’ order fulfilment duties can save you more than you think


The best fulfilment services for small businesses in 2021

We compared the range of ecommerce fulfilment services in the UK to find the ones best suited to the needs of small businesses. In particular, we kept an eye out for low fees, straightforward pricing, and a focus on catering to the needs of smaller scale operations. And here’s what we came up with.

The best small business fulfilment companies in the UK are FedEx, Huboo, Core Fulfilment, Abstrakt, James and James, and Amazon FBA.


FedEx

Best for online stock and order management

FedEx is, quite simply, a huge name – if not the name – when it comes to delivery services. In the UK alone, FedEx boasts 75 locations, over 4,000 employees, and a fleet of vehicles that’s more than 2,200 strong. FedEx is common knowledge – but what’s less well-known is how adept this big business is at catering to small ones. As well as integrating with marketplaces such as Etsy, Magento, eBay and more, FedEx’s stock and order management software is among the best on the market. Why?

Well, FedEx’s cloud-based platform syncs with your existing software to provide insight into the whole ordering process – from placement to fulfilment, and all the way to transit and delivery. You’ll also know exactly when it’s time to order in new stock, while FedEx’s best in class analytics let you crunch the numbers to drive better business decisions.

Just ask FedEx Supply Chain’s senior vice president Ryan Kelly:

“FedEx Fulfillment gives small and medium-sized businesses the potential to achieve profitable and scalable growth. Online shoppers show deep-rooted loyalty to brands with fast shipments, easy returns, positive customer service experiences and flexible delivery options.”

Pros:

  • Its brand name inspires trust and confidence
  • Its broad network of fulfilment centres promises quick delivery
  • Integrates with payments, payroll and accounting tools, such as Square, Quickbooks, and Xero

X Cons:

  • Rates aren’t transparent, so you won’t know how much you can expect to pay unless you enquire with FedEx directly

FedEx pricing

FedEx offers pricing that's tailored to the unique product, storage, and packaging demands of your business. Get in touch with FedEx with a few more details, and they’ll be able to provide a better idea of what your fees will be. 

Alternatively, you could answer a couple of quick questions and receive quotes tailored to your small business right here, right now. 

It’s nothing like a survey – we’ll just ask for a little more info about how you currently deliver your products, where you deliver them, and how many parcels you ship daily. 

In return, you'll receive quotes from the best ecommerce fulfilment suppliers in your area. And you can rest assured that the companies that get in touch have all been hand-picked by our team, to help small businesses like yours scale.


Huboo

Best for lowest costs

If there’s anything small businesses shouldn’t have to do, it’s pay through the nose for fulfilment services. And with Huboo, you won’t – its rates are the lowest in the industry, and by a fair distance, too. Huboo offers two months' worth of free storage when you sign up, and tailored discounts on space after that. Huboo also boasts an incredible range of integrations – not just the big names such as Amazon and eBay, but the more obscure ones, too. And if they don’t already have it, Huboo promises to build that integration for you – for free!

Pros:

  • Offers instant setup
  • Provides strong customer support
  • Huboo sports excellent online customer reviews across the board

X Cons:

  • You'll need to be shipping at least 30 units per month for it to be worthwhile

Huboo pricing

Huboo’s standard rates for individual items start from 95p (a small letter – up to 20g – processed within 72 hours) and go up to £4.49 (an medium parcel – up to 2kg – processed within 24 hours). This fee includes all receipt, picking, and packing, as well as your postage and courier costs.

This is a partially tracked service, meaning a third-party company collects your package from Huboo and delivers it to Royal Mail. At this stage, you'll receive a notification that it's been dispatched, and is on its way to your customer. It's a cheaper service, but comes with clear logistical limitations, and is slower than Huboo's other options.

Here's where Huboo's fully end-to-end tracking service comes in. Rates for this start from £3.70 (for a small parcel – up to 500g – processed within 48 hours), and go up to £7.40 (for an extra-large parcel – up to 20kg – processed within 24 hours).

And, if you're a fan of simplicity (and why wouldn't you be?!), you can also opt for one of Huboo's subscription tiers. Pricing is as follows:

  • Bronze (30 unit per month limit) £10
  • Silver (300 unit per month limit) £25
  • Gold (1,500 unit per month limit) £50
  • Enterprise (5,000 unit per month limit) £150

For corporate rates of over 5,000 units per month, contact Huboo directly. 


Core Fulfilment

Best for late order cut-offs

There’s a lot to get excited about when it comes to Crewe-based 3PL provider Core Fulfilment. Its industry-leading 10pm order cut-off times for next-day delivery, for instance. Its weekend order processing, too. Oh, and did we mention Core Fulfilment’s cloud-based software, and its seamless integrations with Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce? Core Fulfilment is also totally upfront with its pricing, with a handy cost calculator on its website to help you understand exactly what you’ll pay in fees.

Pros:

  • Allows you to offer your customers a wider choice of parcel delivery partners
  • Has experience in several sectors, including cosmetics, clothing, and consumer goods

X Cons:

  • You’ll need to be processing at least 250 orders per month to be eligible

Core Fulfilment pricing

Core Fulfilment’s picking and packing fees start at £1.95 per single order with one item in it. It’s 25p extra for each additional item added to the same order.

Storage fees weigh in at £10.88 per pallet (approximately one m³), when you have up to 50 unique products (SKUs, or stock-keeping units) in your inventory. As you add more unique SKUs, storage fees will increase accordingly.

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Abstrakt

Best for returns handling

These days, handling returns is a huge part of running an ecommerce business. If it’s not easy to return, a customer won’t buy it. That’s why it’s such a relief that Abstrakt goes the extra mile to accept and process any returned items; getting them repackaged, re-shelved, and ready for resale. Abstrakt also offers kitting, reworking, and gift-wrapping services, too, while its software chips in with daily insights into the status of your stock.

Pros:

  • Offers excellent integration with the big ecommerce marketplaces, such as Amazon
  • Its Birmingham-based warehouse allows it to cater to businesses from all over the UK

X Cons:

  • No pricing information available

Abstrakt pricing

Abstrakt doesn’t advertise its rates transparently on its website. All of Abstrakt’s pricing is bespoke, so you’ll need to get in touch with the supplier directly, and provide some information about your business.

Remember, though, that you can also do that here. Simply provide us with some brief details about where and how you currently sell online. Then, leading 3PL providers will be straight back in touch with quotes tailor-made for your small business.


James and James

Best for startups and micro-businesses

Unlike many 3PL providers in the UK, James and James offers a fulfilment service that caters to businesses taking as few as 150 orders per month. As well as being tailored towards young businesses looking to grow, James and James’ service is also highly scalable – which means it’s perfectly placed to handle spikes in demand from marketing pushes, fresh investment, or kickstarter campaigns. Better still, this is all powered by James and James’ award-winning cloud-based software, which offers real-time stock and dispatch information to keep you in the loop.

Pros:

  • Its highly intuitive software provides a 360-degree view of your stock levels
  • Its US, European, and New Zealand fulfilment centres pave the way for your business to scale internationally

X Cons:

  • Its network of fulfilment centres isn’t as wide as those of the big 3PL providers

James and James pricing

James and James is also coy when it comes to disclosing exact ecommerce fulfilment rates. What it’s website does tell us, though, is that you’ll pay three different types of fees:

  • Fulfilment services costs: These include dedicated customer support, integration with your shopping cart, and your order fulfilment software licence fees
  • Fulfilment centre costs: These are what you’ll pay for the receipt and storage of your stock at James and James’ fulfilment centres (warehouses)
  • Order fulfilment costs: These fees are for the picking, packing, packaging, and shipping of your stock, and include a returns handling service
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Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon)

Best for selling small-sized, low value goods at high volume

Amazon may have its faults, but we’ll say one thing – it has big, big brand power. Its name and logo alone inspire enormous consumer confidence. And, for your small business, ‘piggybacking’ on that brand recognition can go a long way towards boosting sales – at least in the early days. Add to this Amazon’s slick returns handling, excellent customer care, and vast network of fulfilment centres, and you’ve got a whole host of reasons to give it a go.

Oh, and those faults we were talking about? Well, Amazon FBA hikes its prices during the leadup to Christmas. It’s also widely known that Amazon co-mingles stock, meaning the product your customer ordered may not be the one they actually receive.

Pros:

  • Provides 24/7 customer support
  • Has no monthly minimum order amount
  • Allows you to sell through a variety of ecommerce channels and platforms – not just Amazon

X Cons:

  • Amazon has strict guidelines for having goods shipped to their fulfilment centres

Amazon FBA pricing

Amazon FBA offers two pricing plans. There's the ‘Basic' plan, for sellers shifting fewer than 35 items per month, and ‘Professional' – for everyone else.

With the ‘Basic' plan, you won't pay a subscription fee. Sounds good, right? Well, let's dig a little deeper. Firstly, you will pay a ‘selling' fee of 75p on every item you sell – plus ‘additional fees'. Huh?

Looking into the latter a little more closely, they're what Amazon dubs ‘referral fees'. This is an extra charge calculated against the total sales price of your item, and includes the cost of any delivery or gift wrapping, too. It'll depend on the category of the items you're selling, and is typically a minimum of 25 per item.

Percentage-wise, these ‘additional' fees (or ‘referral' fees, if you like that better) can be as low as 7.14% of your item's sale price (clothing, computers, cars/motorbikes, consumer electronics, large appliances, and tyres), and as high as 45.9% (Amazon device accessories).

Not sounding quite so cheap any more, is it?

The alternative is Amazon's ‘Professional' plan. With this, you'll pay a monthly subscription fee of £25 per month (excl. VAT). You won't be charged the 75 per item ‘selling' fee of Amazon's pay-as-you go plan here. However, you will still be eligible for those pesky ‘additional fees'.

Don't let guesswork define your small business's approach to ecommerce fulfilment. Find out exactly what you can expect to pay with FBA's ‘additional fees', or… simply go with another provider!

There's five excellent ones here – and, when it comes to affordable, professional service, Huboo in particular is hard to top.


Next steps

Which ecommerce fulfilment provider you ultimately choose for your small business should depend on several factors.

The first is down to which kind of features you’re looking to prioritise. If it’s total visibility and control over your inventory and order management – with excellent reporting features to match – then FedEx is your best bet. If low fees are at the top of your wishlist, though, don’t look past Huboo.

As a young, growing business, you’ll also need to think about how to best optimise your customers' experience. To do this, we’d recommend both Abstrakt (for making the returns process as seamless as it can be), and Core Fulfilment (for offering your customers late cut-offs for next-day delivery).

Finally, you’ll need to take into consideration the size and specific needs of your ecommerce business. If you’ve literally just started out, James and James is the best option for you. Likewise, if you’re building your reputation selling low value goods at high volume, Amazon FBA is a good place to start.

Don’t just take our word for it, though – find out for yourself which ecommerce fulfilment service is the most well-suited to your small business. It takes 30 seconds, and it’s your shortcut to getting the best deal. 

Simply answer a few short, straightforward questions about your current situation. We’re talking about:

  • How long you’ve been trading for
  • How you currently deliver your products
  • Where you sell your stock
  • The number of parcels you deliver daily
  • The rough size of an average parcel you’d deal in

Once we have all this, we’ll match you with the suppliers that are most well-equipped to handle the channel and volume of the products you’re shipping. 

They’ll then provide you with quotes tailored to the responses you gave, ensuring you get an ecommerce fulfilment solution that’s as unique as your small business is.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

How to Take Payments Online and Over the Phone

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 16 March 2021

Learn how to accept ecommerce payments, and safeguard your business against the uncertainties of COVID-19


“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”.

For British businesses, at least, Albert Einstein’s words have never been more relevant. Because things have changed, and they’ve changed fast.

Though the first confirmed UK cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) didn’t arrive until late January 2020, by the end of March the high street was unrecognisable. Shops across the country have been forced to close their doors indefinitely, but – with the population in lockdown in an attempt to stymie the virus’ spread – does this mean they’ve been robbed of their customers, too?

Well, no – because online buying and selling (ecommerce) remains as strong as ever. The postal service is continuing to function, websites are still live, and people are at home with more time than ever before – and with the same desire to shop. 

So it’s time to take Albert’s advice: to change, to adapt, and to make the smart choice for your business. 

It’s time to start accepting payments online, and over the phone, too. But how? Let’s take a look at how you can embrace ecommerce to defy COVID-19’s impact on your sales – and future-proof your business while you’re at it.

Alternatively, get straight to the good stuff with credit card processing quotes tailored to your business. Answer a few brief questions about your business’ industry and requirements (it takes about 30 seconds), and we’ll match you with hand-picked merchant account providers that’ll help you accept online payments.

Before we begin: This article focuses solely on accepting payments online, helping businesses respond to the government’s recent measures to close bricks and mortar establishments. 

For information about how to accept payments in person (with a PDQ machine and an electronic point of sale (EPOS) system), dive into the article below.

Read more: How to Take Credit Card Payments 4 Simple Steps


How to take payments online

Making an online payment with a laptop

Merchant account

First things first, any business that's looking to accept credit or debit cards (whether that’s in person, online, or over the phone) needs a merchant account

Of course, if you were accepting card payments from your physical store (i.e. at the point of sale) before COVID-19 happened, you’ll already have a merchant account. 

If this is the case, you can head straight to the section on payment gateways below.

If you’re completely new to accepting credit or debit card payments, though, you’ll need to apply for a merchant account before you can get online.

Think of a merchant account as a kind of holding pen. It’s where funds go to be settled, before they arrive in your business bank account.

Types of merchant account

Merchant accounts are either:

  • Dedicated (or traditional): This kind of merchant account exists to process your business’ transactions only. Dedicated merchant accounts offer negotiable rates and flexibility, and are ideal for businesses that process larger amounts of transactions.
  • Aggregated: This kind of merchant account is offered by providers that ‘batch’ together your transactions with those of other businesses. Ideal for small or seasonal businesses, aggregated accounts are typically easier to get approved for than their dedicated counterparts – and offer simple, flat rate pricing to boot.
  • High-risk: This kind of merchant account exists for businesses with poor credit, or those that operate in a high-risk industry such as gambling, travel, or online pharmaceuticals. If this sounds like you, we recommend checking out our list of the best high risk merchant account providers in the UK.

You can apply for a dedicated merchant account directly through an acquiring bank such as Barclays. Your other option comes in the form of third-party merchant account providers. In industry parlance, these companies are known as ISOs (Independent Service Organisations), and include suppliers such as takepayments and Fiserv.

As the name suggests, ISOs are independent companies that offer dedicated merchant services directly to businesses. They still work with the banks, but are generally cheaper, and offer superior customer support. 

Sure, dedicated merchant account fees can be trickier to get your head around. But in the long run, a dedicated account is a more cost-effective route for businesses – especially those that accept more than £2,000 per month in card transactions.

Alternatively, you can opt for an aggregated merchant account through a company known as a payment facilitator. Funky name, but you’ll certainly be familiar with the likes of Square, Zettle, and SumUp – their modern, mobile card readers are a staple on the counters of market stalls and micro-breweries across the country.

Payment facilitators (PayFacs) are well-suited to small businesses and sole traders. They offer straightforward, flat rate pricing, charge no monthly fees, and are typically easier to apply for (Square, for instance, doesn’t run a credit check). 

PayFacs are also called ‘all-in-one’ providers, because they give you the ability to take payments via multiple channels (online, in-store, over the telephone, by mail, and via invoicing) with the convenience of handling everything through a single supplier.

As for the application process, you’ll have to do it the only way most of us have these days… online. When that’s done, it’s time to get down to the real business – accepting payments online. To do that, you’ll need a…

Payment gateway

A payment gateway is a piece of software that authenticates and secures payments made through your website. 

A payment gateway is hosted either on your website (to help maintain a consistent customer journey) or on the website of your payment gateway provider (cheaper and PCI compliant, but potentially disruptive to your customers' user experience). Either way, it can usually be customised to fit the look and feel of your business’ colours and brand. So how do you get one?

Well, how you source your payment gateway service will depend on the type of merchant account you’ve selected. Take a look at your options below.

With a dedicated merchant account

If you’ve opted for a dedicated merchant account, a payment gateway should be available to purchase as an ‘add-on’. Most providers offer it as a service for which you’ll pay a monthly fee (typically around £20), and in return get a set amount of ‘free’ transactions (usually between 350 and 400 per month).

If you exceed your number of transactions, you’ll then be eligible for a small per transaction fee (most likely around the 10p mark).

To reiterate, most merchant account providers offer a payment gateway. But if yours, for whatever reason, doesn’t, then stress not. You can also integrate your merchant account with a payment gateway from a third-party provider

Many providers (Authorize.Net, Braintree, and Amazon Pay included) specialise in such a service. Some, such as Stripe, are customisable to the extent that they’re almost a white label solution. So, if you’re tech-savvy (or have a software engineer or two at your disposal), then this could be the best option for you.

Be warned, though – this is a more complicated solution, and will probably be pricier, too. We always recommend entrusting your credit and debit card payments to a single provider, such as takepayments or Fiserv.

With an aggregated merchant account

If you’ve opted for a PayFac such as Square or Zettle, accepting payments online is a fair bit easier. That’s because – as we mentioned earlier – these companies offer an ‘all-in-one’ service. It’s a payment gateway, virtual terminal, and invoicing tool, all rolled into one

All-in-one providers also help you remain PCI compliant, and also throw in a bunch of other added benefits – including fraud management, subscription billing, and customer loyalty features.

Providers such as Square also work with website builders, such as Wix. This team-up allows you to use drag-and-drop functionality to create a stunning website, then start selling through it. These providers also integrate with a range of shopping carts and ecommerce platforms, including Shopify, Etsy, and BigCommerce – allowing you to manage your sales and inventory from a single, convenient hub.

Going down this route is surprisingly affordable, too. Unlike with certain dedicated merchant accounts (where there can be hidden fees), you’ll pay only a small fee on each transaction you accept via your website. This cost will be a bit more expensive than it would be if you were accepting card payments in person (because of the higher level of data risk involved with ecommerce transactions), but it’s still minimal.

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How to take payments over the phone

Woman taking payments over the phone

Of course, you won’t only need to get on top of accepting payments online now that COVID-19 has shut down the high street. You’ll also want to explore the possibility of accepting card details remotely over the phone, or via mail order.

Here’s how.

Virtual terminal

A virtual terminal is a secure webpage that allows you to accept payments over the phone. You simply log into the page from your device, enter your customer’s card details (which you’ve received either over the phone, or via mail), and take the payment. These payments are called MOTO (Mail Order/Telephone Order) transactions.

Once chiefly the domain of freelancers, tradespeople, and food delivery businesses, MOTO payments might just be exactly what your SME needs to send sales back in the right direction. And they’re simple to accept, too – virtual terminals are basically an online version of a card machine.

Sage Pay virtual terminal

Opayo (formerly Sage Pay) offers a slick, simple example of what a good virtual terminal interface should look like


Virtual terminals can also be used to process invoices, and you can save customer card details to speed up service. Better still, they’re totally secure – virtual terminals use AVS (Address Verification Service) to authenticate the payment, and are fully PCI compliant, too – providing, that is, that you don’t leave anyone’s card details lying around on a scrap of paper in your office.

Virtual terminals – a no-brainer, right? So how do you get one?

With a dedicated merchant account

Well, as it turns out, it’s as simple as obtaining a payment gateway. A virtual terminal is available as an optional add-on with a merchant account. It’ll set you back a monthly fee, usually starting at £10, plus a small cost per transaction beyond an agreed limit of sales made through the terminal.

With an aggregated merchant account

If you opt for an all-in-one provider, a virtual terminal will be included as standard – no monthly fees or hidden costs in sight. However, you will pay a percentage-based fee for each transaction you accept through it. With Square, that’s 2.5%, while SumUp will set you back 2.95% + 25p.

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Next Steps

“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”.
Albert Einstein circle

This is another Einstein quote. Like the one we referenced earlier, it also sums up the days and weeks you have ahead of you.

Because, though COVID-19 will continue to test your business, it also presents a myriad of opportunities to take a look at your existing processes – and how you can improve them. How much does your business have to gain by accepting card payments online, or over the phone? 

More sales, for example? More customers? More ways to connect people with your services, products, provisions, or pleasant diversions that might even help them through a tough time?

Plus, even if the current pandemic wasn’t happening, accepting payments online and over the phone would still make perfect business sense. So let us help you get started.

To begin, simply take a minute to answer a few short questions

We’ll ask you about your industry, and the total number of card payments you’re looking to accept per month. We’ll also ask for your postcode, so we can match you to suppliers in your area.

Once we have a sense of your requirements, we’ll match you with merchant account providers that fit the bill. They’ll then be in touch directly, with quotes tailored to the specific needs of your business, and information about your next steps towards accepting payments online and over the phone.

It’s free to complete, and you could be speaking to an expert today. Why not give it a go?

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

The Best Countries for Social Distancing and Remote Work During COVID-19

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 27 March 2020

Social distancing. As the world writhes in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been cited again and again – along with hand washing, of course – as the public’s best defence against contracting and spreading the deadly coronavirus. 

So what does it actually mean? Well, social distancing measures include staying home, avoiding large gatherings, and refraining from touching others – fist pumps are out, elbows are in, and traditional handshakes have been replaced by the Wuhan variety. People all over the world have been told to work from home, and – when allowed out for essentials – they must remain at least two metres from one another.

Covid 19 spelled out with wooden blocks

It’s gotten so bad that most of Western Europe has clamped down, enforcing increasingly draconian measures to keep people indoors. Yet – in the UK, at least – people are still ignoring the advice. Similar circumstances have been seen in the furbizia of Italian citizens, and the Parisians’ flouting of the French capital’s strict lockdown laws en masse. Which begs the question…

How good are we all at social distancing? More pertinently, are certain countries better set up for success in minimising the ravages of COVID-19 through effective self-isolation?

Let’s take a look at what the data says.


Our research

We wanted to find out which of the world’s citizens are best-placed to work from home during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. To do this, for each country, we’ve examined nine of the most useful metrics for exploring the comfort, speed, and overall effectiveness of the average white collar remote worker:

  1. Number of internet users, relative to population
  2. Broadband download speed
  3. Contactless mobile wallet payments at the point of sale
  4. Number of households with a computer
  5. Social media usage
  6. E-government development
  7. Intelligent connectivity
  8. Mobile download speed

Sources: 1, 2 & 8, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

We ranked the world’s countries across each of these nine metrics to come up with a total aggregated score for each. The higher the score, we reasoned, the better-equipped the country is for social distancing success… and, therefore, the better it’d be at slowing the spread of the virus.

So which countries came out on top?

RankingCountryIndex score
1South Korea6.7
2Denmark6.5
3Sweden6.2
4Singapore6.1
5Norway5.7
6Netherlands5.6
7UK5.4
8USA5.3
9Switzerland5.1
10Canada5.0
11Australia4.7
12New Zealand4.3
13Japan4.0
14China3.4
15Germany3.2

The top five: unpacked

With huge smartphone penetration, high internet usage, and a particularly prominent penchant for social media, South Korea tops our list. Denmark is next, and is joined by two of its closest comrades – Sweden and Norway – in the top five.

Like Scandinavia, East Asian countries fared well – and it’s Singapore that rounds out our top five countries for social distancing during a pandemic. Let’s take a closer look at these countries… and why they might just be some of the best places to hole up, hunker down, and work from home during COVID-19.

South Korea flag

South Korea

  • Has the highest social media usage
  • 95% of South Koreans regularly access the internet…
  • And almost 9 in 10 of them own a smartphone

South Korea. One of the hardest-hit countries in the early devastations of COVID-19, its denizens can at least take solace in their smartphones. More than 87% of South Koreans own one, while basically all of them utilise the internet.

It’s no surprise, then, that South Korea’s social media usage is the highest in the world. As well as the usual suspects (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter), South Korea sports a vast array of its own local social media platforms. So – even if its citizens must continue to stay at home indefinitely – social media, at least, will ensure that the distancing remains only geographical.

South Korea also ranks third in the world for e-government services, second for broadband download speed, and first for mobile download speeds. This potent combination has allowed South Korean authorities to succeed with a ‘self-health check’ mobile app, empowering those entering the country to monitor any potential symptoms of the virus.

Denmark flag

Denmark

  • Boasts the best levels of internet access
  • Has a near perfect score for e-government development, which takes in online services, human capital, and telecommunications infrastructure
  • 88% of Danish citizens interact digitally with public authorities

Denmark’s excellent levels of internet usage, computer penetration, and hygge propelled it to number two on our list of the best countries for social distancing. 

Similar to the rest of Scandinavia, the last 20 years have seen Denmark’s public sector undergo a rapid push towards digitisation. This, combined with the Danes’ already elevated levels of trust in public authorities, makes communication during COVID-19 a speedier, safer, and more effective proposition – particularly when 88% Denmark’s people already interact digitally with the government.

And why wouldn’t they, when their country dominates the rankings for e-government development? With top telecommunications infrastructure, high human capital, and on point online services, there aren’t many better places to hole up during a pandemic.

Sweden flag

Sweden

  • Ranked highest for digital evolution
  • This includes supply and demand conditions, as well as innovation and change
  • Swedish businesses reacted quickest to quell the onset of the coronavirus

Not to be outdone by its next-door Nordic neighbour, Sweden topped our rankings for digital evolution. This metric takes into account the growth rate of a country’s digitisation, and is based on supply conditions, demand conditions, institutional environment, and innovation and change – and Sweden bosses it.

Sweden’s always provided a nurturing home for startups, and its corporate stars were characteristically ahead of the curve when it came to COVID-19. Big names including IKEA and Spotify reacted swiftly to the virus’ spread, closing their offices and initiating remote working procedures even before anything official was announced. Great spot!

Singapore flag

Singapore

  • Scored higher than any other country for broadband speed
  • Ranked well across all data points
  • One of the first to use a mobile app to combat COVID-19

Singapore’s quick internet and mobile download speeds (plus its impressive e-governmental development scores) haven’t just made it a haven for working-from-home wizards. It’s also helped authorities and citizens join forces in using tech to combat COVID-19. 

How? With an app, of course. TraceTogether allows local authorities to use wireless Bluetooth technology to track people who’ve been exposed to those with the coronavirus, helping medical teams to react quicker to new cases.

Norway flag

Norway

  • Almost 97% of the population uses the internet
  • Over 95% of households have a computer
  • Tied with Sweden as the most digitally evolved country

More commonly known for fjords and expensive beer, Norway has a few more feathers in its cap. Alongside Sweden, it boasts the highest ratings for digital evolution, and 19 out of every 20 households have computers. On top of this, almost all Norwegians access the internet on a regular basis.

To be honest, there was barely a metric that Norway didn’t excel in. If it was let down by anything, it’d be its lower e-government development score, which saw it sink below Scandinavian rivals Denmark and Sweden in our index.

Still, with fast internet, good mobile wallet penetration, and the Northern Lights on your doorstep, it’s certainly not the worst place to be stuck during an outbreak!


…The rest

How do the remaining ten countries in our top 15 stack up?

6-10

Claiming the next five places is a predominantly European contingent, with the Netherlands, the UK, and Switzerland being joined by the US and Canada. 

As it turns out, the Dutch are pretty well-equipped to work from home, with almost 98% of households owning a computer. Switzerland and Canada achieved average scores across the board, while here in the UK our folks have a bit of a mixed bag.

While Britain’s percentage of internet users, e-government development, and computer penetration are all good, we’re let down by – wait for it – the second worst broadband and mobile internet speeds on the list (it’s the Aussies that take that unwanted plaudit). Still… wifi in the UK is slooooow.

Want the proof? A mere fortnight into the more serious anti-COVID-19 measures, and our broadband is already floundering.

That said, it’s not all bad for Britain. We do, after all, have magnificent e-government development scores. Take the MyGP app, for instance – which recently updated its remote consultations section to streamline COVID-19 diagnoses – or NHS software provider AccurX, which has added video consultation to its services. 

USA flag

Spotlight on: USA (8th on our list)

  • Ranked highest for intelligent connectivity
  • This metric is based on ICT (information and communications technology) investment, ICT maturity, and economic performance in broadband, cloud, IoT (Internet of Things), and AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology
  • Scored poorly for percentage of internet users relative to population (75%)

Ah, the United States. The Land of the Free – at least, until state orders instructing over half of its population to stay at home came into effect this week. Luckily, the US population has the tools and technology in place to successfully self-isolate, and work from home with ease.

The USA’s investment in the growth and performance of broadband and cloud technology is empowering its workers to keep the communication lines open, and pave the way for real-time collaboration through the internet. 

After all, most businesses are powered by some form of cloud technology – whether it’s CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software, payroll, or a communication tool such as Slack or Google Hangouts

However, the US was let down by its internet usage, with only three quarters of the country using the worldwide web. Though, as more and more states order citizens to stay home without much to do, we’d be surprised if this number doesn’t start to accelerate!

11-15

Further down our list, it’s a trip down under, where New Zealand and Australia’s strong social media usage and e-government development should see them through these dark times. They’re joined by Japan and Germany in our 13th and 15th positions, while in 14th place, it’s the country where it all began…

China flag

Spotlight on: China (14th on our list)

  • Lowest number of internet users on our list
  • Highest mobile wallet usage (by far) at the point of sale
  • High contactless cap encourages more hygienic, cashless spending

China’s story is a tale of two halves. On the one hand, its citizens’ efforts to work remotely and effectively socially distance were stymied by the worst levels of internet access on the list – just under 59% of Chinese people have accessed the internet in the last year

Away from the confines of the (home) office, though, China excels – particularly when it comes to making purchases in stores. China’s contactless usage was unprecedented, with a whopping 36% of transactions at the point of sale being made with mobile wallets

Experts around the world have already pointed the finger at banknotes as a major culprit in the spread of the notoriously contagious virus. So, China’s propensity to favour a completely hands-free way of paying should help its citizens to social distance effectively. 

Plus, at CN¥1000 (over £100), China has one of the highest contactless spend limits in the world. That means Chinese consumers can buy more, without reaching a cap at which they have to handle a well-thumbed card machine and enter a PIN code. 

For context, this is something we’re desperately trying to replicate here in the UK – our own contactless limit was increased by 50% just days ago!


Our methodology and metrics: explained

Methodology

Our index was created to measure how countries stack up when it comes to the factors that contribute to a digitally advanced society. These countries are more well-equipped to work from home; and their citizens, therefore, have a better chance of successfully social distancing.

These are the nine metrics mentioned above, and countries were only chosen if data was available for seven of the nine sources we used (Sorry Finland, Iceland, and Hong Kong; we tried). 

In order to be able to accurately quantify how digitally-equipped a country is, we awarded each one a score from 1-10, on each metric. The higher the score, the better a country’s capability in that specific area. 

We obtained a score for each metric from the raw data, via this formula:

Score(i) = 10 * ( ( (x(i) – x(min) ) / ( (x(max) – x(min) ) )

Final scores (the ones you see in the table up at the top) were calculated from the total sum of the points awarded for each category, divided by the number of datasets that we had for them.

Metrics

The nine metrics were chosen because we felt they represented the most accurate, overall reflection of how able a country's citizens are to work from home, connect with one another remotely, and buy essentials without too much contact. We figured that people who are more empowered to do these things will be more successful at social distancing.

Basically, these countries are the best ones to ride out the current COVID-19 pandemic in.

To further narrow down our nine metrics, we sorted them into five categories:

Internet capabilities

This includes:

  • Number of users of the internet
  • Broadband download speed
  • Percentage of households with a computer

Why is this important?

The distribution of decent internet (and functioning computers) across a country is instrumental to the effectiveness of home-working. Anyone who’s ever had to struggle through a video meeting with slow internet – or fill out a spreadsheet without a computer – will know exactly what we mean.

Digital infrastructure

This includes:

  • Digital evolution
  • Intelligent connectivity

Why is this important?

Endava defines digital evolution as a country’s:

“[I]ntentional choice to rapidly accelerate its organisational rate of digital adoption and change, through the simultaneous creation, renovation, and marshalling of digital products, alongside the creation, flexible reinforcement, and agile maturation of their platforms and infrastructure.”

Essentially, it refers to how committed a country is to going digital

Intelligent connectivity, in this context, is a country’s commitment to investing in, and making available, technology that facilitates human communication.

Without a more digitised, cloud-based approach to connecting people, a country’s population will struggle to work remotely – just look at the current mad scramble for cloud services for all the evidence you need of this!

Digital communication

This includes:

  • Social media
  • Mobile download speed

Why is this important?

The importance of social media in maintaining virtual (if not physical) human contact in pandemic times simply can’t be overstated. Instagram, TikTok, and Zoom are but a handful of the big platforms to have benefited since real-life social events began slipping off the calendar.

Why does it matter? Well, the more access a country’s citizens have to social media, the less need they’ll have to defy government warnings against gathering in public. Thus, they’ll be better at social distancing, and more effective when it comes to working from home.

Public services

This includes:

  • E-government development

Why is this important?

E-government development relates to the effectiveness of a country’s online services, plus its telecommunications infrastructure. 

It matters, because how well a country’s existing processes are equipped to handle communication and coordination during a crisis will affect its citizens’ ability to concentrate on work, and maintain a commitment to social distancing practices.

Contactless payments

This includes:

  • Mobile wallet penetration

Why is this important?

Supermarkets are basically some of the only shops left on the street – and, COVID-19 or no COVID-19, buying food will always be a necessity.

Yet banknotes are a proven conductor for the virus, and consumers will always require a quick, seamless experience at the checkout. The availability of contactless-equipped terminals, penetration of mobile wallets, and ability to spend more with contactless will always be huge factors during a pandemic.


Conclusion

We are in truly unprecedented times. COVID-19 has swept the earth, sending the world’s countries into panic and its economies into recession. Governments are responding by enforcing oppressive lockdown measures, and businesses by sending their employees home – with a paycheck, or without one.

People all over the world are faring differently. So how does your country stack up?

As we’ve seen, the data suggests that South Korea should be the country most capable of weathering a lengthy spell of remote work and social distancing. Denmark, Sweden, Singapore, and Norway also all possess the infrastructure and technology in place to ride out the devastating storm that is COVID-19.

To what extent our research will bear out in real life, though, we can’t say. How well a country reacts depends on when it gets hit, where it is, and the customs of a nation’s people and culture… not to mention the scope and accuracy of reporting on the pandemic.

What we can say is this – with almost half a million recorded cases (at the time of writing), COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere soon… and neither is remote working. And everyone, whether you’re in Swansea or Switzerland (and regardless of the speed of your broadband!), has a responsibility to stay home, and follow government advice about social distancing.

That’s all from us. Tweet @robdbinns to chat. Alternatively, send us an email at rob.binns@expertmarket.co.uk if you have any questions about the data, or our approach to it.

But most of all, stay safe.

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

What are the Best Alternatives to Amazon FBA in the UK?

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 11 January 2021

Is Amazon’s ecommerce fulfilment solution the best option for your online business? Or can you Find Better Alternatives elsewhere?


Your ecommerce business is taking off, your product range is expanding, and your inventory has finally outgrown the size of your basement. In other words, it’s time to ease the load, cut a few costs, and start outsourcing your ecommerce fulfilment responsibilities

If this sounds like you – and you’ve already started looking at where you could go to outsource the storage, packaging, and delivery of your goods – then chances are you’ll have already come across Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon).

FBA is a big name in fulfilment, attached to an even bigger name in the world of ecommerce. And we won’t lie – with 66% of Amazon’s top 10,000 sellers using FBA to fulfil their orders, it’s certainly a popular choice.

But is it the right choice? We’re taking a closer look at Amazon FBA; its triumphs, its pitfalls, and – most importantly – which fulfilment companies might be better-suited to the unique demands of your small business

So, read on to explore our list of the best alternatives to Amazon FBA – or if you’re short on time, try our shortcut to finding the best third party logistics (3PL) supplier for you. Simply provide us with a few details about your business, and we’ll match your requirements with leading ecommerce fulfilment companies near you.

You’ll then receive free quotes tailored to where you sell, how you deliver your parcels, and how many of those you deliver daily. Take 30 seconds to do it now, or dive into the list below to get immediately acquainted with the best Amazon FBA alternatives in the UK.

alternatives to Amazon FBA

Just can’t decide who to trust with your business’ ecommerce fulfilment? Let us help!


What is Amazon FBA?

Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon) is Amazon’s own order fulfilment solution. It allows growing ecommerce businesses to outsource storage, packaging, and shipping, directly to Amazon. 

If you choose this option, your inventory will be stored in a fulfilment centre (basically a big warehouse) operated by Amazon, who’ll also take care of the customer service involved in the delivery and returns process.

Basically, what it comes down to is this – you sell it, Amazon does the rest.

Here are FBA’s key benefits:

Customer care

Amazon is renowned for putting the customer first – and it shows. After sending the product, Amazon follows up with the buyer, handling any questions and collecting feedback. And, in the event of any consumer dissatisfaction with your product, FBA also takes care of returns, logging products back in and getting them ready for resale.

Quick delivery

Amazon FBA draws upon an extensive network of fulfilment centres across the UK and beyond. This means your products won’t ever be too far from your customer’s shipping address, and is what allows Amazon to offer next (or even same!) day delivery.

Versatility

Just because FBA is Amazon’s own channel, that doesn’t mean you’re restricted to selling through Amazon alone. Amazon’s multi-channel fulfilment (MCF) lets you sell through a wide variety of ecommerce platforms and channels, while still having Amazon shoulder the storage, packaging, and shipping duties.


What are our issues with Amazon FBA?

Amazon FBA isn’t for everyone. And, somewhat paradoxically, the things that make FBA great are also some of the biggest issues that we have with it. 

Because, as we mentioned before, FBA puts the customer first. Sure, this is a plus when it comes to Amazon handling questions and aftercare – but it also means that you, as the seller, come second

Here are a few things you should consider before jumping into a deal with Amazon:

You may see more returns

FBA makes it very easy for customers to return goods – it’s all part of the service, after all. But (let’s face it) when it’s that simple to send stuff back, people will exploit the system. Consider that 30% of goods purchased online are returned anyway… do you really need to be making it any easier?

Your stock may get mixed up with that of other sellers

It’s not just your business’ inventory being stored in Amazon’s UK-wide fulfilment centres. There are plenty of other sellers also using FBA, and selling similar (if not identical) products. 

Here’s where the issue arises. For organisational reasons, products of a similar nature are stored close together in these warehouses. And all it takes is one individual mistake to have a product from another seller shipped to your buyer.

At its worst, this could mean products of a lower quality (or even counterfeit goods) are sent to your buyers; impacting on your brand’s reputation, and leading to bad reviews. Amazon has suspended seller accounts as a result of these mixups, so be wary. 

FBA is expensive…

Amazon’s storage fees are among the highest. Unlike Huboo and other 3PL providers, FBA offers no period of free storage – rather, you’ll pay from the word go. Worse still, FBA hikes prices from October to December, cashing in on sellers at the most cruel and inconvenient time – during the leadup to Christmas.

…and complicated

Amazon’s guidelines for having your products shipped to its fulfilment centres are notoriously strict. Each product has to be labelled and packaged individually, and then sent to a multitude of different FBA warehouses. 

Doing all this is a head-scratching experience, particularly if you’re just starting out in business – and when it comes to shipping costs, all it does is shrink your bottom line.

Amazon deliveries on Christmas

Amazon FBA: is it really all smiles?


Is Amazon FBA right for your business?

So, let’s recap. Amazon FBA excels when it comes to quick delivery and simple returns, and its multi-channel options are fantastic. However, its customer-focussed approach hamstrings sellers with more returns, more fees, and more paperwork.

Also, what you’ve got to remember is that Amazon is in the business of selling… not storing. So, while FBA offers cost benefits for ecommerce businesses that make regular sales, its hefty storage fees make FBA less ideal if you trade in items that take up more space (and those that don’t exactly fly off the shelves).

Essentially, FBA works best when you’re dealing in high volumes of low value goods. Think books, batteries, cheap electronic stuff (chargers, cables, phone accessories, etc.)… basically, whatever can be bought at scale.

Alternatives to FBA work best if you’d like a solution that values your ecommerce business as much as it does your customers. Amazon FBA alternatives also offer an inherently more customisable, personalisable way to outsource your fulfilment – and smaller storage fees give you more leeway when it comes to both inventory and total spend.

Take a look at the table below to decide whether FBA or a 3PL alternative is the right selection for your business.

FBA logoFBA alternatives
Choose FBA if you…Choose one of our alternatives if you…
Sell at high volumeWant to pay lower fees
Deal in smaller, lower value goodsNeed the flexibility to house inventory of varied size, value, and volume
Prioritise the security of working with a big namePrioritise personalised customer service
Want Amazon branding on the products you shipWould prefer to develop your own brand image and presence
Are excited to draw on Amazon’s fast shipping promisesRequire a highly customisable solution, or one tailored to your industry
Would like to make it super easy for your customers to send back purchasesDesire ultimate control over your channels and integrations

Got your heart set on an alternative? Great – simply complete our free, 30-second webform to receive tailored quotes, and start comparing top ecommerce fulfilment providers in the UK. Otherwise, read on to choose an FBA alternative from one of our top four selections.


What are the best alternatives to Amazon FBA?

We’ve put together our list of the top four ecommerce fulfilment alternatives to FBA. The following 3PL (third party logistics) providers, between them, offer fewer fees, less hassle, and more personalised service. 

So, let’s get straight to it. Our best alternatives to Amazon FBA are Abstrakt, Huboo, Green Fulfilment, and Sprint Logistics.

The best alternatives to Amazon FBA for UK ecommerce businesses:

Read on to find out why.


Abstrakt

Best FBA alternative for returns handling

Anyone who’s ever shopped online knows how vital the returns process is to the overall customer experience. It’s a relief, then, that Abstrakt handles all returns with speed and efficiency. As a seller, you can rest easy in the knowledge that anything that gets sent back will be inspected, and then either added back to your stock, held in quarantine (gulp!), or disposed of as necessary. Better still, returns are dealt with on a daily basis  ensuring that you stay in the loop with regards to stock levels, and enabling you to act quickly in refunding customers.

And, if you do ultimately decide to go with Amazon FBA, Abstrakt can still play a role in streamlining your order fulfilment. It offers a service that's tailor-made to work hand in hand with FBA; applying Amazon-compatible barcodes to your goods, and packaging them to the ecommerce giant’s strict standards.

Pros:

  • Boasts an impressive 90% client retention rate
  • Offers tax and savings benefits to your European customers

X Cons:

  • Its online reporting methods aren’t as strong as the other alternatives on our list

Huboo

Best FBA alternative for the lowest costs around

What’s better than a 99.9% accuracy rate and simple account setup? The best ecommerce fulfilment rates in the country, that’s what. Huboo offers all this, but the benefits don’t stop there. You’ll also get two months’ worth of free storage (blowing Amazon’s offering right out of the water) plus discounts tailored to your product type after that. What’s more, Huboo’s service is personal, and bespoke to the nature of your business and industry. When you call up, you can be sure of a real person on the other end of the line – Huboo even goes the extra mile to put you in touch with the very team managing your orders, and help forge a lasting relationship.

Huboo also does away with the stress of integrating it with your ecommerce platform. Its extensive array of multi-channel integration options rivals that of FBA, and here’s the kicker; if it can’t currently work with the channel you sell through, it’ll build that integration from scratch – for free.

Subscriptions start at £10 for businesses that dispatch a maximum of 30 units per month, and cap at £150 per month for up to 5,000 units. Larger businesses can get in touch to bag a corporate rate.

Standard rates for individual items start from 95p (a small letter – up to 20g – processed within 72 hours) and go up to £4.49 (an medium parcel – up to 2kg – processed within 24 hours). This fee includes all receipt, picking, packing, and postage/courier costs.

This is a partially tracked service, meaning a third-party company – in this case, Whistl – collects your package from Huboo and delivers it to Royal Mail, upon which you'll receive a notification that it's been dispatched, and is on its way to your customer. 

However, if you'd prefer to pay a bit more for that extra peace of mind, we'd recommend plumping for Huboo's fully end-to-end tracking service. This starts from £3.70 (for a small parcel – up to 500g – processed within 48 hours), and reaches up to £7.40 (for an extra-large parcel – up to 20kg – processed within 24 hours).

See Huboo’s website for its full range of up-to-date fees, or use our free, 30-second webform to get quotes from Huboo and several other hand-picked 3PL providers.

All pricing information is correct as of 11th January, 2020.

Pros:

  • Outstanding customer reviews
  • All prices are available online, for absolute transparency

X Cons:

  • When it comes to customer care, Huboo can’t compete with all the trimmings Amazon FBA has to offer

Green Fulfilment

Best FBA alternative for the environmentally-conscious business

When you’re processing hundreds of orders per month, it can be easy to forget about the impact your business is having on the planet. That’s why it’s handy that Green Fulfilment does the remembering for you. As well as using only eco-friendly paper, it recycles plastics and cardboard, and does away with using styrofoam as packaging void fill. Plus, Green Fulfilment doesn’t just think about the earth – it lets you store stock around it, too, making for easier, quicker international shipping.

Green Fulfilment also offers a live, online dashboard to help you track sales, stock, and shipment. Pulling together data from across multiple channels and locations, you’ll have access to everything you need to dominate your ecommerce business’ orders and inventory – 24/7, from wherever in the world you are.

Pros:

  • You can be set up within 24 hours
  • Its relationships with carrier partners help drive down shipping costs

X Cons:

  • Green Fulfilment’s rates aren’t available to view online

Sprint Logistics

Best FBA alternative for online stock control

Based in London, Sprint Logistics sorts, packs, and ships thousands of parcels every day. And, while its team does the (literal) heavy lifting, Sprint’s simply excellent online interface puts you in the driver’s seat. As well as automating re-orders and providing granular stock usage reports, Sprint’s platform offers multi-level, multi-user access, and works with multiple channels to boot.

Sprint also offers logistics tailored to the needs and pain points of specific industries. Fashion, retail, marketing, travel, and cosmetics are among the sectors Sprint caters to with bespoke solutions. 

Pros:

  • Excellent customer service
  • Offers a comprehensive returns handling process

X Cons:

  • Its range of ecommerce platform integrations is more limited than that provided by the other 3PL suppliers here

Next steps

To FBA, or not to FBA; that is the question. Hopefully, though, it’s one we’ve gone a fair way to addressing. If low fees are on your mind, call Huboo. Try Abstrakt for hassle-free returns handling, and Green Fulfilment for a logistics solution that cares.

And, while all of these providers offer online dashboards for managing stock levels and deliveries, Sprint Logistics’ interface is the most intuitive and feature-rich of the lot. So, which one’s right for you?

If it still seems like there are too many ecommerce fulfilment providers to get to grips with, why not let us help break it down?

Simply take a moment to answer a few quick questions about where you sell, and how many parcels you ship daily. We’ll match you with 3PL suppliers tailored to your business’ size, sales volume, and location, who’ll then provide quotes made just for you. 

It’s free, easy, and designed to help you scale. Hit one of the buttons below to get started.

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1. Do you already outsource your ecommerce fulfilment needs? YES NO
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

Ecommerce Fulfilment

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 12 January 2021


There are two hard and fast rules when it comes to online businesses.

The first? All businesses have to begin somewhere – and it’s usually at the bottom. Do a little digging, and you’ll find that even the most accomplished ecommerce entrepreneurs probably started out with a pair of scissors and a roll of parcel tape in hand, filling orders from their front room.

The second? As your small business grows, you’ll need to start offloading some of your workload. You’re already taking on new staff, and outsourcing everything from payroll and HR to website design… so why not put down those cardboard boxes, and hand over the keys to your ecommerce fulfilment, too?

With an ecommerce fulfilment service, you can wave goodbye to the hassle of managing your own warehouse team, and know that the picking, packing, and delivery of items is (quite literally) in safe hands. As for you, an online dashboard makes it easy to keep tabs on your stock’s comings and goings in real time, while dedicating your own day to growing your business.

But what is ecommerce fulfilment, exactly? What do we mean by a 3PL service? How does it all work, and which provider offers the best value for your business? Let’s find out.


What is ecommerce fulfilment?

Ecommerce fulfilment refers to the process of getting the stock you sell online to the customers that have ordered it. It primarily refers to the sorting, selection, packaging, and delivery of items to your customer.



Ecommerce fulfilment can be done either in-house (not recommended for growing businesses) or by outsourcing the logistics to a third party company, who’ll do it all for you. Handily, this company is called a third party logistics (3PL) provider

Rather than arranging for the products you sell to ship straight from the supplier to the customer (drop-shipping), you’ll instead have them shipped to a fulfilment centre (a fancy name for the warehouse where your goods are stored) operated by the 3PL of your choice. You’ll own those goods (inventory), but the 3PL takes care of their storage and management. 

So, what happens when an order comes in?

Employee in flourescent jacket packing boxes in a fulfilment centre

How much time, money, and hassle could your business save by outsourcing your ecommerce fulfilment duties?


Want to explore how outsourcing your ecommerce fulfilment can help your business scale? Yes, let's go!

How does it work?

It all starts with your customer. Browsing your website from their home, office, or commute, they – on an impulse – hit the ‘Buy Now’ button. It’s then that the cogs of the ecommerce fulfilment process slowly begin to turn….

Receiving

The order details are transmitted in real time to your 3PL provider, which receives them at the order fulfilment centre where your inventory is stored. Sounds deceptively simple, right? So how is it achieved?

Well, most 3PL companies offer integrations with all the primary platforms you’d think of selling through – Amazon, eBay, Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, you name it. This allows for the bidirectional (and completely automated) flow of order, stock, and shipping information between your ecommerce website (where the order is placed) and the fulfilment centre (where it’s picked and packed).

Picking, packing, and shipping

‘Picking’ refers to the selection of the right items from the fulfilment centre. It won’t just be your inventory stored on the many shelves of the warehouse – one centre can cater to the fulfilment needs of multiple different ecommerce businesses. 

Similar products being sold by various sellers may also be housed in the same area of the building – so the picking of the correct goods by your 3PL team is a crucial part of the process. Thankfully, it’s done for you when you outsource your ecommerce fulfilment, so you won’t have to worry about it too much!

Woman pulling out a cardboard box in a fulfilment centre

The items are then ‘packed’. Fulfilment centre staff (in a method pre-arranged with your team) package the goods so that they look nice, are protected against the perils of a potentially bumpy journey, and arrive to the customer in perfect condition. The 3PL ships them off; you’re left with a happy customer, and a full bank account.

Did You Know?

3PL (third party logistics) providers are key to the success of the world’s biggest companies. 86% of all Fortune 500 companies (and 96% of the Fortune 100) already use 3PL companies to streamline their operations and cut costs.


What is a 3PL service? 

A third party logistics (3PL) service is a business to whom you’ll outsource vital responsibilities in your end-to-end supply chain. When it comes to the process of getting products from A (your supplier) to B (your customer), a 3PL is what makes the journey a smooth one, and does most of the work in-between. 

For ecommerce businesses, a 3PL handles the receipt of goods from the supplier, and is then responsible for their secure storage, packaging, and shipping to your customer. 

But how do you choose the right one?


How to choose a 3PL service

Take it from us – choosing the right 3PL service is the most important decision you’ll make this year. Important… but not easy. Read on for our four top things to consider when choosing an ecommerce fulfilment service.

Speed

How quickly can a 3PL provider fulfil your orders? Can they offer same-day delivery, or at least next-day turnaround? How soon will they log in any items that are returned, and get them ready for resale?

Stock

How adept is the 3PL provider at managing your stock, and keeping you updated about deliveries and inventory levels?

Shrinkage

Shrinkage is a diplomatic way of referring to lost, broken, or stolen items. There’ll be an ‘allowance’ for this in any contract you sign with a 3PL, usually between 2% and 10% of your inventory. You’ll want this figure to be as low as possible, so remember to negotiate!

Site

Location, location, location! Choose a fulfilment centre that’s located centrally, and will therefore have better access to the major cities.


Which ecommerce fulfilment provider is right for your business?

Probably the most well-known 3PL provider around the world is Amazon FBA (Fulfilment by Amazon). It’s convenient, and offers excellent return management. However, FBA is also one of the more expensive fulfilment options in the UK – and, though the Amazon branding across your packages offers additional credibility, it can also be detrimental to efforts to build your own, independent brand.

That’s why we’re endorsing several other 3PL providers we’d recommend for UK ecommerce businesses. These include:

  • Huboo
  • Sprint Logistics
  • Green Fulfilment
  • Core Fulfilment
  • Abstrakt

All of these companies feature in our separate article about the best alternatives to Amazon FBA. If you’re new to ecommerce fulfilment, it’s a must-read – so check it out here.

If you don’t have much time on your hands, though – and since you run an ecommerce business, we’re guessing that’s the case – why not cut straight to the chase and receive quotes tailored to your business? Here’s how:

  1. Start by providing us with a few details about your business. We’ll ask a couple of questions about how long you’ve been trading, where you currently sell your products, and the number of parcels you deliver daily
  2. Pop your postcode in too (we’ll only match you with suppliers that are in your area)
  3. You’ll receive quotes tailored to your business’ location, and the size and quantity of the parcels you’re shipping. It’s that easy.

Our form takes about 35 seconds to complete, and is 100% free to use. You just have to be based in the UK to be eligible. 


FAQs

What is fulfilment in ecommerce?

‘Fulfilment’ is the process of receiving, packaging, and shipping goods to a customer. In ecommerce, it refers to the logistics of the process that takes place after a customer orders their goods, and before they receive them. 

Online (ecommerce) businesses outsource fulfilment to save time, reduce the need for staff and storage space, and boost scalability and customer satisfaction.

Is ecommerce fulfilment the same as drop-shipping?

Nope! Drop-shipping involves selling items on your online store which, when ordered, are sent directly to the customer – you never actually own the stock you’re selling. With ecommerce fulfilment, you’ll buy the inventory, and then outsource its storage, handling, packaging, and shipping to a third party logistics supplier.

Drop-shipping comes with less risk, and less initial investment – though you’ll have no say over how the goods your selling are picked, packed, and shipped. Ecommerce fulfilment gives you control over the entire process, and comes with vastly better profit margins to boot.

Does an ecommerce fulfilment provider handle returns?

They do indeed – in fact, processing returns can actually be one of a 3PL provider’s central functions. Why? Well, the faster your stock is back on the shelves, the sooner you can sell it – and the sooner your customer will get their refund. Plus, the right 3PL provider may also handle customer service when a return happens, and handle discounted orders for returned or damaged items.

How much does ecommerce fulfilment cost?

What you'll pay depends not only on the 3PL provider you choose to outsource your fulfilment to, but on the size and weight of your products, and the rate you're selling them at.

For a closer look at ecommerce fulfilment fees, head to our complete pricing guide. Alternatively, hit the button below to grab quotes now.

Want to explore how outsourcing your ecommerce fulfilment can help your business scale? Yes, let's go!
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

How Much Does Video Production Really Cost?

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Published: 3 February 2020

From smartphone flicks to Hollywood hits, every video has its price – but how much will your company’s cost?


Corporate video production is recording new heights of popularity these days, with more and more marketers getting behind the camera to get their message across. But why is this the case?

Marketers love producing videos because consumers love watching them. According to Google, six out of ten people would rather watch online videos than television. 

However, it's hard to say how much your video will cost. If we had to put a price on it, we’d say you ought to spend around £1,000 per finalised minute of film (including crew, equipment, and location hire) if you want a high-quality end product.  But that's a very rough estimate.

Let's get this article started, shall we? Below you'll find more detail on the types of video production, crew and equipment hire costs, and our recommended supplier.

video production costs

Video production prices breakdown 

If you need a video production costs estimator, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve done our research, and found the average price you can expect to pay for the different areas and phases of corporate video production. These pricing guidelines range from the average cost of a small business project, to the price tag you can expect for an enterprise-sized production. The prices for each video depend on the type of gear you'd need, the video length, and the locations you'd pay for.

Video type costs

As you know, the cost of your video depends on the type you need. We’ve calculated the average cost of a television advert, product explainer, and business overview video, which are the most common types of corporate video.

Business overview (£3,000+)

According to wyzowl, 93% of businesses who use video believe it has increased user understanding of their service. In other words, using video to showcase your business will help to develop your brand perception, which should help you create fruitful marketing campaigns.

Product explainer (£3,000+)

90% of internet users say that product videos are helpful in the purchasing-decision process, while the wyzowl survey we mentioned earlier also found 36% of businesses receive less support queries as a result. As you can see, explainer videos are worth every penny – need we explain more?

TV advert (£10,000 – £500,000)

A medium sized business with a growing audience would normally pay around £10,000 for a professional television advert. On the other hand, the McDonalds, Nikes, and Netflixes of the world are likely to spend up to £500,000 for their large-scale TV adverts.

Crew hire costs

The cost of the production crew will depend on their location and experience, but also on the type of gear you need. While every video creative will have their own daily rates, we’ve calculated the average day rates charged by each of the crew members you might find on a shoot, which all contribute to the overall pricing estimates above.

Crew member

Day rate

What do they do?

Commercial DOP (Director of Photography)

£650 – £2,000

The head of the camera department, the DOP works with the director to shoot the action on set.

Documentary DOP

£400 – £1,200

Same as above, but on documentary shoots.

First Assistant Director

£200 – £400

Controls the set, making sure the shoot stays on schedule; acts as the go-between for all the departments.

Commercial Video Editor

£400 – £1,000

Watches, cuts, and places together all the footage from the shoot to create the final film.

Drone Operator

£500 – £1,400

Flies a drone with a camera attached, and in some cases will operate both at the same time.

Sound Technician

£300 – £700

Also known as Sound Recordists, Sound Technicians are responsible for recording and mixing all the sound on set.

Gaffer

£300 – £600

Head of the electrical department; responsible for all the lighting on the production.

Grip

£200 – £600

Builds and looks after the equipment supporting the cameras.

Don’t let the numerous day rates put you off; most corporate video shoots only require a few of the crew members mentioned in our table. That’s where requesting bespoke quotes from a video production team with clear pricing packages can really help – you know exactly what you’re going to pay at all times.

video production lights cost

Gaffers take care of all the lighting on set, ensuring your actors look even more marvellous on screen

Conceptual work (£500+ per day)

If your video contains any sort of narrative, you’ll need to start with some storyboards to help define each scene and develop the overall flow of the video. If you wanted to outsource the script-writing on top of the storyboards, you’ll need to pay a separate fee of approximately £400+ per day for a scriptwriter.

Equipment hire (£500 – £10,000)

The standard video starter pack for a small shoot usually includes things like cameras (shock horror), lights, microphones, audio cable, and memory cards, which are all usually paid for by the day. For the cooler gadgets required for high-budget shoots – like gimbal stabilizers, tripod dollies, drones, and 360-degree cameras – you’ll need to fork out considerably more.

While you can create videos yourself, it's best to hire experts to make sure it looks professional

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Location hire (£300 – £5,000)

For most corporate videos, you can simply film from within your office building. If you want to film externally, then you’ll likely need to pay a permission fee, or spend money on hiring facilities like toilets or specialist lighting.

Actors (£400+ per day)

Camera-shy colleagues? Then you’ll need to hire actors for your corporate video, with prices depending on their experience and reputation.

Post-production (£500 – £3,000)

The production process continues well after the shoot has wrapped. In fact, post-production is one of the most important phases, involving editing, colouring, sound mixing, and the addition of visual effects and soundtracks.

Travel expenses

Flights to your video shoot could cost as much the entire production itself (depending on where you’re going, of course). If you’re filming in the UK, you’ll need to think about trains, buses, and Ubers for the gear and crew.

Figuring out how much you’ll need to spend can be hard, especially if you don’t know much about the specs and gadgets. That said, the easiest way to pin down an exact price is by telling us what you need, and then comparing bespoke quotes from top UK video production teams that have been picked especially for you. It’s totally free to get started, and only takes a minute.

Our recommended video production supplier

With so many video production teams out there, we thought we’d make things easier for you by recommending a leading name in the corporate video business. 

Yell Business takes an all-hands-on-deck approach to filmmaking, providing expert crew (if you need them) for all phases of the production process, from scriptwriting to post-edits.

Why do we recommend Yell? Unlike other production services, Yell offers three pricing options to choose from, making it suitable for any sized business or budget. 

Read our Yell Video Marketing review

Key features

Dedicated digital specialist consultant

Drone footage

Mobile-friendly video footage

The option to have your own director

Animations

If you’d like to hear from video production teams like Yell, then it couldn’t be easier to get started. All you have to do is share some details using our webform, and you’ll receive quotes tailored exactly to your video requirements. Best of all, it’s free to try, and only takes a minute!

Types of corporate video production

Audiences spend 200% more time on websites if they contain a video, and videos are shared 1,200 times more than links and text. That’s what corporate video production can do for your business. But what is it, exactly?

In a nutshell, corporate video production involves the making of a video by a business or corporation. These videos are mainly used to generate brand awareness, or they can also be used for training staff, recording live business events, or simply communicating with your colleagues.

The most common types of corporate video include:

  • Company profile videos
  • Explainer videos
  • Promotional videos
  • Staff training videos
  • Video tours
  • Internal communication from the company’s head honchos

Whichever type of video you need for your business, it’s nearly always easiest to outsource the whole task to a video production team (unless you have the expertise in-house already). Sure, it might be cheaper to create your own quick video, but chances are it won’t look too sleek – which can be damaging to your brand.

If you’d like to hear from trusted video experts, then all you have to do is share some quick details with us about what your business needs. We’ll then match you with the video production teams that can best cater to your needs, and they’ll be in touch with quick, easy, free quotes.

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Video production money-saving tips

Keen to start your video venture? Great! But as you know, there are many aspects to think about when creating a video, so it’s important you know where and when to save time and money. 

That’s where our three Fs come in – we’ve got a f-f-few industry tips to help make your production process easier, and hopefully more affordable.

Failing to prepare is preparing to…overspend

The more you prepare in advance, the less time the production team will need to spend organising the shoot, and the less money you’ll need to spend on daily rates. Try to make your brief as detailed and precise as possible, allowing the experts to get cracking with minimal hold-ups.

Flexibility conquers all

Creating videos involves plenty of back-and-forth between the client (your business) and the production team. Certain shots may take longer than you first thought, or indeed cost a lot more than you anticipated, which means you might need to ditch some of your original (and expensive) ideas to ensure the video stays on schedule and budget. Remember: the crew has the expertise, and usually knows best!

Find the resources

There are many different costs to consider when producing a video, but you don’t need to splash the cash on every single aspect we’ve mentioned in this article. Do you really need an actor when Joe from Accounts could step in? Does your video necessarily need to be located in Hollywood, when your office building could suffice? You may have some hidden talents and resources right there within your business. Use them!

Next steps

Video production costs in the UK depend on many factors: it’s a cliché by now, but unfortunately true. You can skimp out and use your smartphone to create a budget flick for next to nothing, or you can spend a little more to produce a professional video that will enhance your brand.

But don’t forget our broad rule of thumb – you should aim to spend roughly £1,000 per finalised minute of footage. Of course, no two videos are truly the same, which means the easiest way to get an accurate price for your business video is by requesting tailored quotes from video production experts – which you can do by sharing some quick details with us using our web form.

With video production, you nearly always get what you pay for – you can spend a fiver and flop, or you can allocate a sizeable chunk of your marketing budget to guarantee a box-office hit. Why is that important? Because a poorly produced video will reflect badly on your brand. So, whatever you choose to spend, just remember that you can’t put a price on brand trust.

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Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

How Video Production Can Help Your Business

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 7 January 2021

Video marketing is the way forward – can your business afford to miss out?


Video is an important digital marketing tool for growing your business. When done professionally, it can bring more attention to your business and increase sales, with 87% of video marketers saying video had increased traffic to their website.

But, be warned. Sloppy videos end up with sloppy results. Unless you have the skills yourself, it’s worth finding the right video production team to avoid damaging your brand image.

If you'd like to know more about how video can vamp up your business, check out our very own below…

What is video marketing?

Video marketing is the process of promoting your products or services through a video format – that’s our short answer. 

Our longer response would say that video is one of the most persuasive ways to market your brand, allowing you to drive sales, raise awareness, and engage with customers. Video marketing involves collecting piles of customer data to ensure you send out the right message, and distributing your videos on a variety of channels including social media, emails, and landing pages.

The concept of video marketing is simple enough, but the execution is anything but. There are many steps to think about when creating a marketing video, including writing scripts, scouting locations, obtaining permits, casting talent, hiring lights, adding music, and carrying out post-production edits – the list goes on. 

There are lots of things to think about when it comes to video production, and it can be difficult to juggle an average shoot along with your other digital marketing efforts. This is why it’s best to use professional video production services to get the best results for your business.

Get free quotes and save money on your next business video Find me a video team

Why is video marketing so important for my business?

You already know that video marketing is an effective tool for promoting your business online, but what are the specific benefits? Video can help you in many areas – it can help bolster your brand’s image, improve your conversion rate, foster customer engagement with your business, and more…

Creates a clear brand perception

Brand perception is what customers think your business represents. Consumer perceptions of your brand come from the way you communicate your brand, values, products, or services to the wider world, so it’s important you get this right.

Corporate video production is the most effective avenue for doing just that. Video marketing offers more creative freedom than copywriting or plain imagery, allowing you to share your brand message in more original, memorable, and shareable ways. Remember, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand more!

According to a survey by HubSpot, 43% of people said that branded videos were the most memorable form of content – more so than branded photographic or written content. This proves that people not only enjoy videos, but also that they stick in people’s heads for longer, which is ideal for creating accurate, long-lasting perceptions of your brand.

The point we’re trying to make here is that video production for business isn’t all about generating sales (though it does play a big part). Video can get your brand out there, as long as you target the right platform. 

If you want to share your video to lots of users, for free, then you can’t look further than video’s best friend, YouTube. 

Did You Know?

In the US, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds in an average week than all the nation’s TV networks combined.

Improves conversion rate

Conversion rate (CR) is the number of conversions – which could be clicks, sign-ups, or sales, depending on your website – divided by the total number of visitors to your website. It’s an important metric: a high CR shows that your website is persuasive, and is encouraging users to click links or buy products. Implementing video can see your conversion rate skyrocket – remember when we said that including video on your landing pages can improve CR by 80%?

Video can improve the click-through-rate of your campaigns, too. Your click-through-rate (CTR) is the number of clicks on your link, divided by the total number of people who saw it. Research shows that adding a video to your marketing emails can boost their click-through-rate by a whopping 200-300%

Save money on your business video by comparing quotes Find Your Video Experts

Generates engagement with your website

You already know that video can help boost your conversion rate, while helping users to form accurate perceptions of your brand – but it can also generate a buzz around your business. A well-crafted video can get users talking about your brand, liking your posts, and – most importantly for growing a business – sharing your content.

The easiest way to generate engagement with your website through video is by posting on social media. However, before you start posting any old YouTube video to your Facebook business account, you should know that native videos work best on social media.

Native video is content that is shared directly from the social media channel, e.g. by using the ‘add video’ button on Facebook, rather than by sharing links from other video sites. Native video uploads to Facebook have 10 times higher reach compared to shared YouTube links.

video production for business

Expert Market recommends

With so many video production teams out there, it can be difficult to pick the right company to help market your brand. As always, we’re here to help – here’s our top pick.

Yell Business offers professional video marketing services, suitable for all budgets and advertising ambitions. Its video production team takes care of everything from script writing to post-production edits, allowing you to focus on other areas of your business. 

Yell also provides drone footage, the option to bring on your own director, and expert animation services – pretty much the whole video production package. Read our full Yell Review for more detail.

Pros:

  • Videos are mobile friendly and look great on all devices
  • You’ll be assigned a digital specialist to help you throughout the process

X Cons:

  • SEO services could be stronger

Yell Video Marketing pricing

Package

Price

What you’ll get

Video Motion

Free (plus £15 monthly hosting and syndication fee)

  • 60-second video
  • Editing
  • Production
  • Text narrative

Video Plus

£999 (plus £15 hosting and syndication fee)

  • 60-second video (plus 3x 45-second videos)
  • Professional shoot
  • Voiceover and scriptwriting

Video Premium

Bespoke pricing

  • Two-minute video (plus 3x 60-second videos)
  • Up to eight-hour shoot
  • Custom graphics and animations
  • Project director

Next steps

While we do recommend using Yell Business for your video production needs, it’s always a good idea to compare your options before committing. Creating a sleek video for your campaigns is vital for marketing success, so it’s equally important you pick the right video production team. That’s where we can help.

We can match your business with the right video production experts to suit your needs – whether you need a five-second Instagram post about cats, or an in-depth rocket science tutorial video. To get matched up, all you need to do is tell us your video requirements, and you’ll get quick, comparable, free quotes from a range of video pros.

Compare quotes and save money on your next business video I'd like a quote
Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.

How to start a business in the UK

By Rob Binns | Senior Writer | Updated: 5 March 2020

Everything you need to know about building a business from scratch in 2020 and beyond, in just 11 simple steps


So you want to start a business, eh? You’re in good company there are currently around 5.9 million SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) in the UK. That number is continuing to balloon, too as we enter an exciting new decade for our country’s commerce, about 70 new businesses are being formed here every hour.

Britain has always been a fertile land for budding, business-minded brains we’ve produced Branson, Bannatyne, and the Beckhams, and lay claim to BP, Burberry, and the brilliant Brompton Bicycle

You or I may not harbour ambitions of owning the next big multinational oil corporation (and it’s unlikely we’ll ever be trading on the same scale as Virgin Media) but most of us have, at some stage or other, considered the question:

“What if I started my own business?”

Starting a business is an exciting idea, filled with possibilities, potential, and (hopefully) profits. But the road towards setting up your business won’t be an easy one. It’ll be paved with late nights, peppered with pitfalls, and lined throughout with the red tape of government bureaucracy. 

Our goal is to help you navigate that road. In just 11 steps, we’ll take you through everything you need to build your business from the ground up from the delicate seed of a long-cherished idea to the sweet, blossoming fruits of your hard work and dedication. 

So, just how do you start a business? Let’s find out.


The four pillars of success: have you got what it takes?

Sadly, six out of ten businesses in the UK go bust within three years of establishment. So, if you’re entertaining the notion that entrepreneurship will be easy, abandon it now. 

To start a business (and make it successful), you’ll need to grit your teeth, dig deep, and ride the wave even if, at times, that same current is threatening to pull you under.

You can have the best idea in the world, and be the cleverest, most forward-thinking entrepreneur but without a healthy mixture of the following four elements, you won’t succeed. So, we’ll ask again have you got what it takes to start your own business?

COURAGE

Starting a business can be a lonely journey, and has the potential to severely test your personal relationships. You’re putting not only your career on the line, but your money, your livelihood, and your reputation, too. You’ll need courage to persevere, even when you don’t feel like it even when mustering that courage feels harder than it ever has before.

COMMITMENT

Unless you’ve already received big investment (or have friends in high places), then let’s face it – your business is unlikely to be an instant success. You’ll need to develop a strong plan and execute it professionally. And, above all, you’ll need to stay committed to your idea, and remain steadfast in its ability to change the world.

MONEY

Starting a business without a bit of capital behind you is like trying to climb a tree with one arm tied behind your back difficult, if not impossible. Like most people, you’ll need to spend some money before you can start making it. Jump to Chapter 8 of this guide to discover the right funding option for you.

LUCK

It’s a harsh, but true, fact of life – some businesses fail not because of a lack of drive, cash, or ingenuity, but simply because they were unlucky. Ride your luck when it comes, and have the courage, commitment, and frugality to weather the storm of the inevitable patches of bad luck you’ll encounter along the way.


Starting a business in the UK: is it right for you?

Regardless of whether you were born here or lured from overseas by the bright lights of London, the UK remains an excellent place to do business. Even away from the black cabs and beefeaters of the capital, cities such as Bristol, Leeds, and Oxford are emerging as other strong contenders in which to begin your business. 

That said, the last couple of years have seen a couple of notable spanners thrown into the works of the normally resolute British economy. So, let’s ask the question:

What challenges come with starting a business in the UK?

We’ll start with the obvious…

Brexit.

The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has just about made it’s slow, laboured process into actuality yet still, for the next year or so, the only certainty for UK businesses is, well… uncertainty.

What we do know, though, is that Brexit is likely to bring with it a few challenges for those looking to start a business in the UK:

Cost of preparation: So far, UK-based businesses have spent an average of around £2,000 preparing for Brexit. For small businesses that import and export, this has risen to sit closer to £3,000. Steep!

Recruitment: Though employees that have been UK residents for five or more years can apply for ‘settled status’, Brexit means that young companies may struggle to attract top European talent from abroad.

Tariffs: It comes as no surprise that those in the import/export business stand to suffer most in the event of a bad Brexit deal. Such companies could face delays at the border, additional customs paperwork, increased trade tariffs, and the need to prove that their products are locally sourced.

Access to finance: Decreased investor confidence, cash flow issues, and a yoyoing exchange rate have all combined to stymie British businesses’ access to finance since the 2016 referendum.

So, if you’re going to be heavily reliant on finance or if the business you have a burning desire to start is an import/export one then the current British climate may not be the most forgiving for you right now…

…but don’t write it off just yet. 

Why should you start a business in Britain?

Aside from PG Tips, Yorkie Bars, and good old-fashioned patriotism, there are plenty of excellent reasons to set up shop in the UK:

1. It’s easy to do business

The first? It’s just very easy to do business in the UK. The World Bank currently rates it as the 8th best country in the world to do business in overall, and the 18th best to start a company in.

2. Optimism is (mostly) still in the air

Though the shadow of a no-deal Brexit looms large over our entrepreneurial landscape, it’s actually not all doom and gloom. In fact, it’s the opposite in a recent survey, 57% of respondents indicated that they’re remaining optimistic about the UK’s economic performance in the coming year. 

3. Access to a skilled workforce

At 30 million people, the UK’s pool of skilled employees is the second largest workforce in the European Union (for now). On top of this, the UK’s overall cost of labour is lower than many of our neighbours’, including Ireland, France, and the Netherlands.

4. A forgiving taxation system

The UK has a relatively low corporate tax rate, and a taxation system that is, largely, quite straightforward. Better still, VAT is payable on the majority of goods and services supplied in the UK, adding another layer of incentive for businesses to hunker down, set out their stall, and ride out the uncertainty of Brexit.


How to start a business in the UK: our 11 steps to success

So, you’ve vowed to be courageous. You’re committed to seeing your idea through into a fully-fledged business, you’ve got some money to do it with, and you’re ready to embrace each opportunity to innovate that comes your way. 

Furthermore, you’ve thrown your lot in with the challenges posed by starting a business in the UK, as well as the unique plethora of possibilities it presents. 

In other words, you’re ready to start your business. Here’s how:

how to start a business in the uk

Chapter 1: Do your research

Look before you leap because first, you’ll need to plot out…

…the who, why, where, and when of your business. What do we mean? Read on…

WHO

So, you’ve got an idea for a business, you’ve shared it with your friends and family, and they’re full of vehement praise for it. That’s great… but are they really an impartial audience? Do they love your idea, or just you?

More importantly, do they constitute the demographic you’re planning to sell to?

Before you start, don’t just listen out for what you want to hear seek a wide range of opinions. Gather feedback from the age range you’re planning to target, and those who share interests with your ideal ‘lead’, or customer. 

You can do this by running focus group sessions, or conducting surveys online. You can set one up cheaply with Survey Monkey or Typeform, and then place an ad online or in the paper asking for participants. You may have to incentivise people to take part, sure but the data you’ll get will outweigh any initial monetary costs.

You’ll also want to take a look at other companies that are already in the space you’re keen to enter. Who’s doing it well, and who could be doing it far better? Where are the gaps in the market for a healthy dollop of innovation? Once you’re in business, these companies will be your competitors so it pays to know them inside out, even before you begin.

WHY

Studying your competitors also gives you a chance to think about the ‘why’ of your business. What consumer needs will it satisfy that other businesses don’t? And if they do, how will yours do it better? In other words, why does the world need the business you want to bring into it?

You’ll also need to look within what do you want your company to stand for? A company’s core values are crucial to how its audience perceives, relates to, and engages with the brand. 

75% of customers will start shopping with a company they believe shares their values so it’s important that the ethos you wish to embody is one that will resonate with your customers. 

Millennials, for instance, currently account for around 27% of the world’s population, and have already proven to be particularly discerning value-based buyers. To sell to them, first sell them your why but you’ll need to know what that ‘why’ is first.

WHERE

Are you a one-(wo)man band working from home or a cafe, or will you need something more permanent? If so, are you happy to rely on a coworking space, or would you prefer your own office? And do you have the funds (and the desire) to buy that space, or will renting suffice? 

Skip to Chapter 4 for our advice on selecting a location. Starting your own business (if it’s a limited company) will also require you to register a business address with the government.

WHEN

When it comes to starting a business, timing is everything. The untimely entrance of Brexit, for example, has already disrupted the best-laid plans of many a budding business. Conversely, though, launching a business at the right time can make all the difference. 

To do this, try to capitalise on the contemporary. Are there any topical gripes or trends floating around on social media that your business can tap into? Any big stories you could use in your advertising to grow awareness of your business’ purpose and brand?

On the other hand, are there any recent events that might have reduced the need for (or popularity of) your product or service? Sometimes it’s better to cool your heels and wait a few months, to ensure you’re launching your business at just the right time.

To demonstrate the importance of timing, we chatted to Tom Dewhurst, founder of Ordoo, a popular food mobile ordering app:

tom dewhurst ordoo founder“If you’re launching a new business with a vaguely innovative approach, then timing is everything. At Ordoo we arguably launched too early in 2016. Mobile ordering was still a very novel concept in the restaurant industry and customers weren’t looking for a solution.”

Since then, big corporates like Wetherspoons, Starbucks, and McDonald’s all released similar apps, meaning that the customer demand changed and Ordoo is best placed to take advantage of this. When it comes to timing, you need to research what’s going on in the industry thoroughly, and don’t forget to speak with potential customers to see if they want your solution. At the end of the day, it comes down to a gut feeling.”

To kickstart your market research, fill in our form with a few details about your business. We’ll ask a couple of questions about the methods and type of market research you want to conduct, and then provide you with tailored quotes from leading UK-based agencies. It takes less than a minute, and is completely free.


Chapter 2: Make a plan

Where good ideas become great plans

You’ve done the research, and you’re confident that your idea has the niche, the legs, and the timing to succeed. Now it’s time to make a business plan. 

A business plan is where you take that idea that’s been gestating in your head, and turn it into something concrete. It’s a document that lays out what you plan to achieve, and how you’re going to do it. So how do you make one?

Well, simply download a free business plan template, and… start filling it in! Here are some of the things your business plan should include:

1. Executive summary: this should go at the top of your business plan, and sometimes is all a potential investor will read before deciding to take another look, or toss it in the bin.

What is an executive summary?

This is an introduction to your business plan. It needs to include what your business is, what problem it solves, and what market you’re planning to target. It’s also a place for your ‘elevator’ pitch a super quick introduction to what makes your business special.

As well as this, your executive summary should contain key financial details. Here’s your chance to crunch the numbers, outlining your expected sales forecast goals and margins for the future (usually the next three years).

You’ll also need to provide other critical details do you or your co-founders boast USPs (unique selling points) that might lure in investors? Have you secured a prestigious scholarship or government grant? 

Your executive summary should also state its purpose. Are you using it to try and get a bank loan, or a round of investment?

2. Your background (qualifications and work experience)

3. A description of the products and/or services you intend to sell

4. Your typical customer: who are they?

5. Findings from any market research you conducted

6. Your marketing strategy: what are you going to do, and how much will it cost?

7. An analysis of your competitors

8. Operations and logistics: payment methods, deliveries, transport, equipment, and suppliers

9. Costs, pricing strategy, and financial forecasts

10. Your exit strategy: when it’s time to sell up and ship out, how will you do it? How will you eventually reduce your stake in the business, and make a profit while doing so?

It might take weeks to months to complete, but getting your plan done is crucial. Not only can it serve as a simple, shareable summary of your business with which you can wow investors, but it acts as your business’ central doctrine your rock, your lighthouse, your go-to in times of wavering willpower or stuttering self-doubt. 

All finished? Excellent. Now, it’s time to get registered.


Chapter 3: Choose a legal status for your business

When a great plan turns into a legally recognised entity

Here’s where you make things official, formally registering your business with the UK government. You have three options registering as a sole trader, as a limited company, or as a partnership. What’s it going to be?

Sole trader

Registering as a sole trader means you’ll be legally self-employed you’ll work for yourself, and keep all profits your business makes (after tax, of course). It’s also a popular choice 60% of UK small businesses are sole traders. However, you’ll also be personally responsible for any losses your business incurs.

Sole trader status is a legal requirement if you earned more than £1,000 from self-employment in the last financial year.

Limited company

Registering as a limited company is a bit more complicated there are a few more management and reporting requirements. Importantly, though, your limited company’s finances will remain separate from your own, and will be a different legal entity.

If you go down this route, you’ll need to register with Companies House, providing details about your business’ name, address, activity, key people, and share structure. Jump to Chapter 4 for more info.

Partnership

If your business is less of a sole venture and more of a double act, you have the option to register your business as a partnership. The British government describes it as “the simplest way for two or more people to run a business together”. You and your partner will personally share the responsibilities of the business, including its losses and any equipment costs incurred.


Chapter 4: Register your business’ name and premises

Limited company? Unlimited paperwork…

If you’ve decided to start your business as a limited company, you’ll need to register with a name and address, while also providing details about your company’s share structure and persons of significant interest.

Name to fame

If you’ve decided to start your business as a limited company, you’ll need a name. It’s a legal requirement, but common sense quickly tells us that the importance of a name goes far beyond the law businesses without names tend not to survive. 

So what’s in a name?

Well, it’s your customer’s first touchpoint with your services. It’s an integral part of your brand, your shop front. It’s how you communicate with your audience in that split-second window of opportunity in which they discover you. 

There’s no set formula for picking the perfect business name, but we do have a couple of quick do’s and don’ts:

DO:

  • Make your name catchy (fun to say, easy to remember, and simple to pronounce)
  • Use a name that conveys some meaning you don’t want people to have to work too hard to figure out what you do

DON’T

  • Include unusual spelling or strange punctuation
  • Give your business a name that could limit it as it grows (names of cities or specific products are out!)

But above all, what you name your company is entirely up to you. The only thing the government asks is that it’s original if it’s too close to the name of a business that already exists, you will be legally obliged to change it.

Check if your name is taken with Companies House’s free name eligibility checker.

Location, location, location

When registering a limited company, you’ll also need to record an official address. This is where any communications addressed to your business go. The only rules are that it has to be located in the same country your business is registered in, and be… well, a real address!

That said, if you’re an ecommerce business, you may not have a business premises. And, since your registered address will display publicly online, you probably don’t want to use your home address. In this case, you can register the address of the company that handles your tax and accounts, or hire a company to forward your mail from a desirable location. 

It’s here where you’ll also need to start thinking about where you’re going to be working from. Your front room might be fine when you’re just starting out, but is it really the headquarters of an ambitious business looking to scale?

Probably not. So, sooner rather than later, you’re going to want to look at renting a space to work in. Here’s a broad overview of your office space options:

Renting an office space

  • Coworking/flexible working space: Perfect for freelancers or sole traders, a desk in a flexible space, surrounded by like-minded individuals, could be exactly what you need to get inspired.
  • Virtual office space: A digital nomad’s dream, a virtual office space gives you access to meeting rooms, post collection, and call answering services. Oh, and it counts as your registered address, too!
  • Serviced office space: Great for small, multi-person businesses, these spaces come with everything you need to start working straight away, and can be rented for as little as a month at a time.
  • Managed office space: An ideal long-term solution for more established businesses, a managed office space provider works with you to build a place that feels your own.

Right now it’s likely you’ll just want a flexible or virtual office space. But, as you grow your business, you’ll want to explore what a managed office space can bring to the culture and aesthetics of your workplace. Here’s where we can help.

Simply provide a bit of information telling us what you want from your office space. We’ll do the rest, putting you in touch with the best office space management companies in your area. They’ll be able to provide you with bespoke quotes, and help you design your perfect flexible working experience.

Share-ing is caring

You’re nearly all done registering as a limited company nice! There are just a few more details you’ll need to provide to the UK government:

  • An SIC (standard industrial classification) code: a series of dropdown lists, where you’ll declare what your business does
  • The name(s) of the director(s): the people legally responsible for the business
  • Your company share structure: a statement of capital a detailed description of the number and value of the shares making up your company’s total worth
  • The name(s) of the shareholder(s): details about who owns shares in your business

All this will cost you a nominal fee it’s £12 to register a limited company online with Companies House. 


Chapter 5: Understand your tax obligations

As the old Benjamin Franklin quote goes…

…there are two certainties in life taxes and, well… more taxes! And, now you’re a registered business owner, it’s your responsibility to understand them. Let’s take a look at some of the business taxes applicable to UK enterprises:

VAT (Value Added Tax)

VAT is a charge of 20% that you’re required to apply to any goods or services that you’re selling. It’s applicable to businesses that have a VAT taxable turnover of more than £85,000 per year. You can register for VAT via the government’s website.

Corporation tax

If you’ve chosen to become a limited company, you’ll need to register for corporation tax within three months of beginning trading. It’s a flat rate tax, and what you’ll pay will depend on the value of your profits. 

Ready? Register for corporation tax here.

Business rates

Despite its slightly dubious-sounding moniker, ‘business rates’ is essentially a government tax levied on your business’ premises. It’s charged annually, and applies to offices, shops, bars, factories, and warehouses basically, anywhere business is done. You won’t pay business rates if you’re running your business from home.

Your tax obligations

Along with understanding, registering for (and, sadly, paying) the above taxes, you’ll also have a few other responsibilities to take care of in the eyes of the law: 

Keeping accurate records

It’s good practice to document all your business’ financial transactions. Outgoings, incomings, statements… by keeping up to date records, you’ll make things easier for yourself (and your accountant) when the end of the financial year rolls around.

Submitting annual accounts

Every year, you’ll need to submit an official record of your business’s financial state of affairs. This includes a summary of your revenue, expenses, and all other financial transactions you’ve made in the year. If you’re registered as a limited company, this is a mandatory requirement.

On top of this, you’ll need to file an annual confirmation assessment. This is the government’s way of confirming that the details they have on file about you and your business are all correct. You can do it here it’ll cost £13 to do online, or £40 via the post. 

Registering for self-assessment

Self-assessment is a set of basic accounts you’ll need to file every year, telling the government how much money you made. It’s how they’ll calculate your tax going forward, so set aside the time to get it just right.

Self-assessment is compulsory for profit-based enterprises, no matter whether you’re running a limited company or are registered as a sole trader. Not-for-profits are excused.


Chapter 6: Obtain the licences

In other words, it’s more paperwork…

…but when you’re done, you’ll be a fully fledged business. So, what do we mean by licences?

From driving a car to watching TV, licences are one of the bare, boring necessities of life. And, a little irritatingly, those looking to start a business aren’t excused.

If the business you’re starting is a pub, you’ll need a liquor licence, and permission to sell food. And if you rely on outside software to drive sales and marketing, you’ll need a licence for that, too. Oh, and if you thought you could carry a few bags of rubbish around without a licence, well, then… think again!

Whatever your business does, you’ll probably need a licence for it. And it makes sense to get it sorted sooner, rather than risking fines further down the line. 

Here’s a list of the licences you might come across doing business in the UK. Or, if you’re short on time, just head straight to the government’s licence finder and answer a few questions about what you do – it’ll tell you exactly which licences you need, and provide instructions for acquiring them, too.

Enjoying the read? You're over halfway there!

Here's what you've got to look forward to:

07 | Opening your accounts

08 | Securing your financing

09 | Designing your website

10 | Building your network

11 | Driving sales and marketing

Or, if you'd like to head back up to the top and revisit the first six chapters, just click here.

Chapter 7: Open your accounts

It’s almost time to start selling!

In the next chapter, we’ll take a look at a few ways your business can go about securing funding. But before obtaining the money you need to start your business, you’ll need somewhere to put it all. First, you’ll need to open a:

Business bank account

When it comes to receiving funding, making deposits, and paying suppliers, a business bank account is an absolute necessity. Much like your personal bank account, you can make withdrawals and deposits, use a debit card, and benefit from an overdraft to help maintain cash flow. 

Unlike with your personal account, though, most banks will charge you for business transactions, such as setting up direct debits, depositing cash, and making a transfer. It’s likely you’ll also have to pay a monthly or yearly fee to maintain the account.

You can set up a business account with a traditional high street bank, or with a challenger bank, such as Tide or Revolut. Fees will vary based on the provider you choose, so do your research first. Many banks tend to waive account fees for new businesses for as long as the first 24 months, so ask carefully about what deal your chosen provider is offering.

Merchant account

If you plan to take card payments from customers whether online, over the phone, or face-to-face you’ll need to open a merchant account

Merchant accounts enable you to accept credit, debit, and contactless cards, plus mobile wallets such as Apple Pay and Android Pay. A merchant account acts as a kind of holding pen, where your customer’s funds go to be authenticated and settled by the bank, before being deposited into your business bank account (see above). 

Merchant accounts also come with the hardware and software you’ll need for taking payments from your customers. If you’re a retailer planning to take payments at the point of sale (i.e. from a physical store), your merchant account provider will supply you with a card machine. If you want to take payments over the phone, you’ll receive a virtual terminal, while ecommerce businesses will need a payment gateway.

Merchant accounts are provided either by banks (such as Barclays or Santander), or by a range of third party companies (such as takepayments or Handepay). It’s easy to apply for one, and there are multiple options for those with bad credit

To begin comparing merchant accounts and receive tailored quotes for your new business, complete our form with some information about the solution you’re looking for. We’ll get you started with everything you need to take card payments, and put you in touch with providers handpicked for your business.

Chapter 8: Secure your financing

Time to strap on your boots, meet your guardian angel, and find your X factor

Phew! You’ve done your research, nailed your business plan, registered your company, chosen your name, opened your accounts, and have all the licences you need to start trading. Congratulations you’re an official business owner. 

Guess you’re all done, right?

Wrong! There’s no rest for the wicked, and you’re just getting started. Plus, whether it comes from your own savings, the government, or a halo-topped investor, you’re not getting anywhere without a little cash in your pocket.

So, where’s it going to come from? Let’s take a look.

Bootstrapping

First and foremost, you could consider bootstrapping your business. This approach involves no finance whatsoever just your hard-earned personal savings, and probably a hefty dose of luck, too.

Bootstrapping has its obvious benefits: you won’t have to pay anything back, don’t have to risk your credit score applying for loans, and get to keep your company’s future where it belongs in your own hands.

Yet bootstrapping doesn’t work quite as well as a long-term solution. You’ll have to re-invest all of your profits back into your business to help it grow, meaning payouts for you, initially at least, will be few and far between. Relying solely on your own savings may also mean you’re not able to scale as quickly as a business with financial backing.

Bootstrapping is tough, sure. But remember it’s eminently possible.

Start Up Loan

As a first port of call, we recommend taking a look at what a government-backed Start Up Loan might offer. As well as a loan of between £500 and £25,000, you’ll also receive assistance with writing your business plan, and up to a year’s worth of free mentoring.

You can apply for it here.

Bank loan

When it comes to securing affordable, transparent, and understandable business loans, high street banks are still king. With predictable monthly payments, fixed interest rates, and the chance to build up good business credit, bank loans are a wise option for UK businesses. 

However, getting accepted isn’t a given you’ll need a strong credit score, and will potentially have to put some of your assets on the line to get accepted. You may also have to provide a personal guarantee accepting responsibility for the loan if you’re unable to pay. For that reason, bank loans are not always the best choice for those starting a business.

If you are set on a loan from a bank, we have you covered. We’ve reviewed a wide range of the UK’s biggest high street bank loans, to help your business decide. 

Click into the list below to find out more.

Business grant scheme

At this stage of your business’ journey, it’s also worth applying for a government grant scheme. Funding from a government grant is usually a direct grant (a lump sum to help grow your business), a ‘soft’ loan, or equity finance, but can also take the form of free equipment, or reduced costs. 

Business grants are most commonly offered within specific local authorities, for certain sectors, or for particular business types and functions (for instance supporting the environment, or creating jobs). These schemes are also generally available only to businesses with fewer than 250 employees, or with a turnover of less than £45,000.

Grants are the jackpot of small business finance in many cases, you won’t be charged interest, be required to give away equity, or even have to pay it back at all. But, like most jackpots, business grants are highly competitive, and can be very difficult to attain.

That said, you have to be ‘in it to win it’, so why not give it a go? Head to the government’s business finance support page to browse a range of official grant schemes. Simply select ‘Grant’ in the ‘Type of support’ field at the left hand side of the page to begin hunting for your business’ ideal grant scheme.

When there, you’ll also be able to filter results by your business’ stage (not yet trading, startup, or established), industry, number of employees, and region.

Alternative finance providers

Banks, grants, and government-backed loans aren’t the only way to secure funding for the business you’re starting, though far from it.

Actually, it’s an increasingly large and diverse plethora of alternative finance providers that look set to define how businesses borrow money in 2020. Here are a few examples of alternative finance: 

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending

Peer-to-peer lending is the largest alternative finance model in the UK and the fastest-growing, too.

P2P lending platforms aim to connect investors with small businesses that are seeking finance. If you choose this route, your funding won’t come from a single person or company, but rather a collection of individual investors, each of whom will provide a portion of the amount your business needs. 

P2P lending’s benefits include low interest rates and flexibility. As P2P platforms go, we recommend Funding Circle it’s globally-recognised, trusted by more than 52,000 UK businesses, and comes with lengthy repayment terms, too. 

Angel investors

If you’ve ever tuned into an episode of Dragons’ Den, you’ll have seen first-hand the electrifying effect one or two wealthy individuals can have on the growth of a small business. And, though high-profile angel investors like James Caan and Deborah Meaden can be intimidating characters, there are plenty of benefits to this approach.

Firstly, it’s lucrative £1.5 billion is invested by angels every year. Secondly, the money you’ll receive isn’t a loan an angel investor provides you with the lump sum your business needs to grow, but in exchange for a part of your company. If things don’t work out for your business, you won’t be expected to pay back the investment.

While not having to pay back the funds you receive is handy, you’ll still need to be careful you’re signing away partial ownership of your company, after all. Accepting a relatively small amount of investment now might mean you won’t be able to claim much larger amounts of your net profits in the future. 

Plus, angel investors can be demanding, and may expect up to ten times their initial investment back after a certain time period.

All that said, angel investors can be an excellent finance lifeline if you’re starting a business from scratch. They usually come with experience and unparalleled business acumen, and can help you steer your business in the direction of success. 

To register to seek angel investment online, head to the UK’s Angel Investment Network

Invoice factoring

When you’re starting out in business, there’s arguably no bigger obstacle to staying afloat than a lack of cash flow. In fact, cash flow woes are responsible for 90% of business failures in the UK alone. So, how do you keep the cash flow, ah… flowing?

With invoice factoring, that’s how. This form of alternative, asset-based finance essentially involves selling your unpaid invoices to a third-party company, commonly known as the ‘factor’. They’ll release around 85 to 90% of your invoice’s value upfront, usually straight away. The factor then assumes responsibility for chasing your customer for payment.

When the invoice is paid, you’ll receive the remaining value of it, minus the factor’s fees. Simple! 

Invoice factoring is a highly effective way of mitigating the damaging effects of those long waits for payment. Using an invoice factoring company can also fuel your business’ growth, while improving that all-important cash flow.

For more information about what an invoice factoring facility can do for you, complete our brief webform with some details about your plans. We’ll then put you in touch with a range of UK invoice finance providers, who’ll be able to offer you bespoke quotes.

Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is another great way of securing finance for your new business. You’ll post details of how much you’re looking to raise along with some information about you and your business on a crowdfunding website, like Kickstarter, or the aptly-named Crowdfunder.

People can view your business, cause, or project on the site, and then choose to invest in it. In return, you can offer them shares in the company, or a reward based on the goods or services you provide. You could also just ask for a donation, but this might be a tough sell for potential investors particularly if you’re not a charitable cause.

Crowdfunding is typically most effective for financing creative projects or businesses. For example, a budding filmmaker might crowdfund to raise cash for their next big picture. Without any shares on offer, investors might be promised a small role in the film as an extra, a mention in the credits, or some memorabilia from the film’s set.

For more information about which funding option is right for your small business, visit our comprehensive guide to UK business loans. We put the best traditional and alternative finance providers under the microscope, along with interest rates, repayment terms, and a jargon buster to boot.

And, if you’re ready to receive business loan quotes from the UK’s leading finance providers, look no further. Simply provide us with a few details about your business, and we’ll match you with the loan providers that best suit your needs. They’ll provide you with tailored quotes, and you can take it from there.


Chapter 9: Design your website

It’s your virtual shop window…

…so don’t skimp on making it look beautiful! It’s 2020, and that means that your business needs a website. But if coding and programming isn’t your language, don’t fret there are plenty of easier ways to craft a simple, good-looking website, in the time it takes to cook a meal.

Let’s find out how.

Use a website builder 

Website builders such as Wix and Squarespace are the quickest, simplest, and most effective ways to create your own website. With mouth-watering templates and an intuitive drag-and-drop builder, you can (quite literally) create an amazing website in just a few clicks.

Better still, a website builder puts everything in one place. From a single dashboard, you can connect a domain name, optimise for the best rankings in search engines, and link a Google Analytics account to measure site performance. And, for a few extra pounds, you can establish an email address linked to your site’s domain name, for that added layer of professionalism.

Website builders usually include web hosting as well so that’s one less thing to worry about when starting a business. Oh, and if we haven’t mentioned costs yet, that’s because there doesn’t have to be any website builders are completely free. 

There is, however, a catch.

Creating a website on a free plan will leave it branded with ugly advertising, which marrs your site’s aesthetics, and looks unprofessional. You’ll also be left with a domain name tarnished with that of the website builder. It’s… not good. 

That’s why paid plans are your friend.

Paid plans are available for between £3 and £18 per month, and many also include a custom domain name connected to your site. You’ll also be eligible for help with your website’s SEO (search engine optimisation), and unlock more functionality.

All told, website builders represent the easiest, most direct way to create a beautiful website in moments but you’ll need a paid plan to get the get the most out of them.

Code it yourself

Your other option for creating a website is more of a DIY job you can code it all yourself.

Coding your own website affords you ultimate creative control over the whole process and end result. You can cut some costs by choosing the cheapest web hosting provider, and selecting a shopping cart integration that best serves the needs of your ecommerce site. Put simply, it’s the most customisable, dynamic, unique, and functional website you could build and it’s all yours.

The only thing is, you’ll need to know how to do it. At the very least, you’ll require knowledge of HTML and CSS to give your website its structure and design, and probably a decent dose of patience, too not to mention time, precious time.

Hire an expert

If you don’t have that time and just want your website done quickly and expertly, you can bring in a professional to do it for you. Hiring a web development agency is the quickest, most direct route to getting your website made for you

Employing web design experts will also make sure you’re covered when it comes to the acronyms. They’ll ensure your web pages are all SEO-friendly, and that the site’s UX (user experience) is on point. They’ll also help you implement stunning visual CTAs (calls to action), which will coax your website’s users into wanting to know more about your services, or making a purchase.

A web design agency can also assist you in developing your brand, and hammering out a killer content and advertising strategy going forward.

Oh, and the best part? It’s probably more affordable than you’d think.

To compare quotes, and explore which web design agencies are the best fit for your business, take a moment to complete our 30-second webform. We’ll ask about your website’s goals, and the timeframe you need it completed in. Then, you’ll receive bespoke offers for web design services, from leading UK web design agencies.

Chapter 10: Build your network

It’s not about what you know…

…it is, of course, about who you know. Forgive us the use of an old cliché, but it’s true if you don’t put in the work to build up a wide network of contacts and clients, you’re missing out on a whole world of opportunities. So, what can you do about it?

Attend networking events

Going to a relevant networking event is the most important thing you can do for your business this year. A simple Google search should turn up a few results for events suitable for your industry. 

It could be some kind of expo, where you can learn about new products or services your business could benefit from. It could also be something like an awards ceremony, or a meal where people who are looking to start a business can sit down together and share their experiences.

Whether you’re just starting out in business or have been in the game for a while, The Business Show in London is a great place to start. It’s free to attend, and happens every November at the ExCel building. 

Use LinkedIn!

If you don’t already know about LinkedIn, you need to. And, if you haven’t already done so, register for an account and start making connections! You’ll be in good company the popular business-oriented social media platform already has 575 million users, with 40% of these using it on a daily basis. 

On LinkedIn, you can find the most influential people in your industry, and reach out to start up a conversation. If you’ve been to a networking event, but didn’t get a chance to chat with the person that inspires you, LinkedIn provides a second bite at the cherry:

rob binns linked in quote

LinkedIn is also an excellent place for viewing and sharing relevant business-related content. Do you have a win you’d like to share with your connections, or an update on a recent project you’re proud of? LinkedIn is the perfect platform for it.

And, like most social media content, LinkedIn posts have the opportunity to go viral. Through shares, likes, and comments, your update could attain a reach further than you’d ever dreamt of, and attract the eyes of potential partners, customers, and investors.

Participate in online forums

While LinkedIn is ideal for content and connections, it’s also excellent in that it facilitates a number of ‘groups’. These are essentially communities of people with shared business interests or endeavours, where you can post comments and discuss topics relevant to you with like-minded people. 

London Startups, for instance, is a LinkedIn group for those starting a business in the big city, and has well over 6,000 members. On Startups The Community for Entrepreneurs has more than 630,000 participants to network with and learn from.

That doesn’t mean you just need to observe from the sidelines, though get involved! Start a conversation by posting a link to an interesting article, or bring up a topic that’s been on your mind recently. It can be a great way to get your name out there, without having to resort to too much shameless self-promotion. 

Start your LinkedIn odyssey today by joining a group that excites you. You’ll have to request to join, but the group administrators are usually quick to accept.


Chapter 11: Drive sales and marketing

Also known as: promote, promote, promote!

So, you’ve made it to the final stage. You constructed a plan and executed it to the letter, all while navigating the red tape of registration and licencing. You’ve secured finance, assembled an incredible website, found yourself some space to work in, and are already flexing your networking muscles online.

Now what? 

Well, now it’s time to get some customers. Sadly, new business doesn’t just fall out of the sky you’ve got to work to build up a client base you can depend on, and keep working to ensure they remain satisfied. But… how? What do you need to do to boss your sales and marketing efforts, and hit the startup scene with a bang?

Here are our top three tips. 

1) Digitise your marketing 

These days, marketing has got to be digital. Postpone any grandiose dreams of your brand on big, inner-city billboards, or gracing the front page of the newspaper. Print is basically dead plus, you’re just starting out, so you’ve got to work with the budget you’ve got. And that’s where digital marketing comes in. 

PPC advertising

PPC (pay-per-click) is NTK (need-to-know) information. It’s a form of marketing where you ‘bid’ on keywords your potential customers are searching for on Google. You place an ad, and every time someone searches for your target keywords, that ad will appear at the top (or near the top) of the Google search results.

You’ll then pay an agreed amount for every ‘click’ essentially, every time someone clicks through to your ad. The amount you’ll pay per click varies, and will depend on how much competition there is for the keywords you’re interested in. PPC is expensive, but it’s an excellent, direct way of reaching customers who are already searching for your services.

Display

Also known as banner advertising, this marketing strategy involves placing ads online (popular websites and content such as articles, how-to guides, and blogs all work well) that encourage users to visit your website and make a purchase. It’s a passable way of getting your brand name out there, but be warned if you don’t have expert help in the form of a digital marketing agency, your clickthrough rate will be low (as in, lower than 1%). 

Know your SEO

SEO (search engine optimisation) refers to the tactics and techniques involved in making sure your website ranks highly in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages). SEO is the process of ensuring your website is accessible, informative, and easy to understand for Google’s algorithms (and, by proxy, your users).

A big part of SEO is researching keywords you’d like your business to be ‘ranking’ for in Google’s search results. By cleverly incorporating these keywords into your website and content, you’re helping Google elevate your business to the apex of its results pages for the exact terms your audience is searching for.

Why is it important? Well, think back to the last time you searched for something on Google. We’re guessing that you didn’t scroll any further down than the top three search results… right?

Right. And the data backs it up, too. The top spot in Google’s search results gets a click-through rate of almost 30%; the third position gets about 10%. Oh, and the ninth and tenth? Just 2%. Huh.

Get wise, localise

Now, think back to the last time you were out walking the streets of an area you weren’t overly familiar with. Feeling peckish. You took out your phone, and Googled ‘restaurants near me’… right? Maybe you were just at a loose end in West London, so you typed in ‘things to do in Notting Hill’. Remember?

If not, you’re in the minority. Because, according to Google, a huge 46% of searches have a ‘local intent’, meaning the customer is searching for a particular product or service in the area they’re currently in. These searches are invariably backed by some kind of ‘commercial intent’. Whether it’s a haircut or a Chinese takeaway, that means that the person making the search is looking to buy, buy, buy usually immediately, too!

Local SEO, then, is making sure your business is one of those appearing in the SERPS when a relevant enquiry comes along. Consider the following, probably pretty familiar, sight from a basic Google search:

local business screenshot

Let’s say you’re a restaurant owner in Camden, London. Google’s just provided me, your potential customer, with the names, type of cuisine, and basic price range for several of the restaurants I could be spending my hard-earned pocket money at, right now. 

There’s also a featured picture to help lure me in, and a menu to set my taste buds tingling. Best of all? It’s easy to click through to each and every one of these eateries’ websites, in an instant.

In other words, you want your business to be here. So, what’s the trick?

Well, first you need to register for Google My Business. It’s free, and lets you display your business’ name, type, and location online, while showcasing a few photos of your beautiful products, services, or building’s exterior. If a listing already exists for your business, you can claim it, and begin personalising it to your liking.

There are a whole bunch of other cool features available from your Google My Business dashboard, too. You can message potential customers in real time, manage appointments and take bookings, and post regular updates relevant to your business and industry. 

Then, you’ll need to work at it. One of the ways in which Google will prioritise your business over your competitors’ is in the strength of your reviews. See above – none of the restaurants that made the cut registered any less than a solid four stars out of five. 

So, you’ll need not only to make sure you’re dishing out four star plus service, but also that you’re incentivising your customers to leave a glowing review when they walk out of your door. Because it’ll be crucial in ensuring that they walk back through that door the next time they’re in your neck of the woods.

Plus, what’s great about SEO is that it’s largely completely free to do. Why not start now? To get the ball rolling, check out our top 8 tips for promoting your business online, and start growing your business on the web.

However, we understand that not all business owners are going to have the time to do all this themselves (especially when, hopefully, they’re busy with the other ten steps in this list). That’s why we recommend hiring a digital marketing agency to do it all for you.

These agencies, such as Yell, can help you expand your online reach, while managing your business’ online reputation through gathering good reviews… and dealing tactfully with the bad ones.

And for the easiest way to begin learning about what an agency like Yell could do for you, simply complete our 30-second webform. We’ll ask about five questions, and use the info you give us to put you in touch with world-class, UK-based digital marketing agencies, who’ll send you tailored quotes.

2) Get to grips with CRM software

CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It’s a type of software that does exactly what it says on the tin it helps you manage your relationships with your customers. But it also does so much more, and can provide a huge boost to how you manage deals, engage leads, and construct targeted email marketing campaigns.

Build your customer database

CRM software acts as a central hub for all your client information. Name, company, contact details… the lot. It also stores information about your communication with those prospects or leads, collating any details of telephone calls, emails, or their engagement with you on social media.

All this data is stored in the cloud, so there’s no need to waste time downloading information from a server, or juggling details of complex customer interactions from a spreadsheet or notebook. You (along with any staff you employ) will have access to everything you need, wherever there’s an internet connection all from your phone, laptop, or tablet. 

That’s great, we hear you say buy how will all this help you with your sales and marketing efforts?

Boss your email marketing

Well, you can use all that customer data to inform targeted, more cost-effective marketing campaigns. CRM software comes with clever lead segmentation features, allowing you to separate out customers with an active interest in your product. That way, you won’t spend precious time and money marketing to the wrong people.

On top of this, a CRM system can store the purchase histories of your customers, giving you a better idea of what they like. Through this, you can market to them with deals and discounts tailored to their specific interests. The result? A customer that stays engaged with your brand and services, and who keeps coming back for more.

3) Supercharge your social media

87% of respondents to a recent survey said that social media has increased their exposure to businesses. It stands to reason, then, that the effectiveness of your social media strategy will go a long way in determining your business’ overall success. 

Curate and create content

Content is king. What better way to invite your online audience to connect with your brand than publishing informative, interesting, and engaging content on social media?

Writing articles relevant to your business’ audience is a great way to build trust, while developing your brand’s viewpoints on important issues. By establishing a consistent tone of voice through your communications with the public, you’re capitalising on a valuable chance to align yourself with the thoughts, feelings, and values of your customers. 

Facebook is still an excellent platform for sharing original or curated social content, while LinkedIn is the best emerging option for business-related articles and ideas. If you’re a creative enterprise, Instagram should be your first port of call, while Twitter is the go-to for publishing short, staccato snippets of content.

Spread the word on social media

Social media is the perfect platform for posting content that can be seen and read by a wide audience, all for free. But to expand that audience, you’ll want to have a think about splashing the cash on a social media advertising campaign.

Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all provide tools for targeting specific demographics of its users, allowing you to reach your products and services out to the groups you’re most interested in. Each social media site offers unique features to help you smash your marketing goals:

Facebook has a live chat feature (‘Messenger’), allowing you to start a dialogue with customers as soon as they inquire about your services.

Instagram is the perfect place to engage ‘influencers’ well-known bloggers and models with lots of followers, who can plug your brand and services for cash.

Twitter allows you to solve any customer issues in the public eye, as soon as they arise helping you build trust, and develop your brand’s personality while you’re at it.

For a complete rundown of the do’s and don’ts of social media advertising, check out our cracking guide to using social media for business, with top tips and tricks for using the big platforms.

Get your ear to the ground

You’ve set up an advertising campaign, and have got to grips with how to talk to your audience on social media. Now, it’s time to start listening. 

Social listening (also known as social media monitoring) is a way of tapping into conversations on social media to glean insights into what people are saying about your business. With the right social listening tool, you can set up alerts for any mentions of your industry and brand, or simply for any keywords that mean something to you.

Social listening is about more than just understanding your customers and industry it’s about leveraging these insights to stay on top of the competition, and identifying the emerging trends your business can capitalise on. Knowing what your audience is saying about your business also allows you to instantly respond to customer complaints, and defuse potential customer service crises in real-time.


2020 and beyond

Congratulations you made it! 9,000 words and eleven steps later, you’re entering a new decade with all the knowledge you need to start a successful business. Let’s recap the journey we’ve been on together:

How to start a business in the UK: our 11 key takeaways

1) Do your research: Nail the who, why, where, and when of your business. Ask yourself the tough questions is now the right time, do I have access to the right resources, and am I the person to make this idea a success? Conduct market research, and gather a wide range of opinions to shape your approach.

2) Make a plan: Write a detailed business plan demonstrating to yourself (and to any potential investors) just how you’re going to make your idea a reality. Include expected financial returns and forecasts, competitor analysis, and a breakdown of your marketing strategy.

3) Choose a legal status for your business: Register your fledgling business with the government; either as a limited company, a partnership, or (if it’s just you) as a sole trader.

4) Register your business’ name and premises: If you need to, rent or purchase an office space as your base of operations. You’ll then have to choose and register your business’ name (and location), and provide key details, such as stakeholders, company share structure, and industrial classification (what your business does).

5) Understand your tax obligations: Register for VAT and corporation tax, and brush up on what business rates mean for your premises. You’ll also need to register for self-assessment, keep accurate records, and submit annual reports about your business’ dealings.

6) Obtain the licences: Find out if you’re required to have any licences to operate, and take steps to acquire them if so.

7) Open your accounts: Select the right business bank account for you, and if you’re planning to take payments online, or from your physical store obtain a merchant account, too.

8) Secure your financing: Here’s where you can begin to consider which funding option is best for your new business.

9) Design your website: Use a website builder to quickly create a professional and visually compelling website, or engage a web development agency to do it for you.

10) Build your network: Use LinkedIn to make connections in your industry, and make your voice heard via participation in online groups and forums related to your field. Attend networking events to put faces to names, and to learn from idols and competitors alike.

11) Drive sales and marketing: Use a combination of social media, CRM software, and digital marketing to turbo-boost sales, and scale quickly.

That’s it from us, then the rest is up to you. It’s time to finally take that idea you’ve nursed for so long and turn it into a business. It’s time to negotiate Brexit, to prove the doubters wrong, and to brush aside the competition. And, most importantly, it’s time to start making some money. 

Good luck!

Rob Binns Expert Market
Rob Binns Senior Writer

Rob writes mainly about the payments industry, but also brings to the table industry-specific knowledge of CRM software, business loans, fulfilment, and invoice finance. When not exasperating his editor with bad puns, he can be found relaxing in a sunny (socially-distanced) corner, with a beer and a battered copy of Dostoevsky.