Setting up e-commerce via a website

Q: I have built a website that shows details of products that I would like to be available for sale. How do I go about setting the site up as a transactional site, and what key elements do I need to add?

Answered by Sara Williams, CEO, Vitesse Media

There are two considerations to take into account when looking at making a site transactional: how are clients going to place orders and how are you going to receive payments?

The most basic way for customers to order is to send an email to you with the details of what they’d like to buy. Although this works, it complicates the ordering process for internet users, so I would suggest simply using one of the many services that are available from Internet Service Providers and Web companies. These allow you to build transactional capabilities into your site for as little as £25 per month. They allow you to set up an online catalogue, as well as collect the information you need from customers, but are easy to use and don’t require high levels of IT skills.

On the payment front, the easiest option is to use an online payment service like Worldpay or PayPal, which will collect and process online card payments on your behalf. The major drawbacks of using a payment service are higher commission rates or fee per transaction, and some may hold your cash for 30 days or more. However, they generally have low setup costs and it would give you a first step onto the ladder. Many Internet Service Providers also offer payment processing as an option on website services, such as BT’s Internet Trader Pack, for a small monthly charge,

If you already have offline card processing facilities, it is worth asking you provider for further information about taking payments online.

Sara Williams is CEO of AIM-listed Vitesse Media, the publishing company she started in 1997. A former investment analyst with Kleinwort Benson, Sara is the author of The FT Guide to Business Start-up (over one million copies sold). She has written for several national newspapers and appears regularly in broadcasts on TV and radio.

See also: Can your website keep up with your business growth? – Fabio Torlini, MD EMEA of WP Engine, outlines how to ensure your web presence can scale with your growth

Sara Williams

Dedric Spinka

Sara Williams was executive chairman of AIM-listed Vitesse Media (the original publisher of, the company she started in 1997. A former investment analyst with Kleinwortt Benson, Sara...

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