Thursday, 21 February 2013

What should you know before taking your business online? Part 1

Setting up an e-commerce business or taking your existing business online is a must for growing businesses seeking to attract new customers. However with a whole host of information and different suppliers out there to choose from, it can seem a daunting task. But fear not – we have created a two part blog that will share some top tips and common pitfalls to help you navigate the sometimes tricky task of taking your business online.
Here are our top tips to E-business success…
  • Plan – ensure you research who you will be using for e-commerce services such as: website hosting, payment gateway and merchant account provider, which you will need to process payments from your website. Being able to select one provider for all services should not only save you costs but also minimise the hassle involved.
  • Look after your customers – when you aren't face to face with your customers, the customer experience is even more crucial. You need to ensure you use clear and concise language on your website, be realistic about delivery timescales and ensure your site is a true reflection of your business and products and services.
  • Ensure your website is seen – lots of new online businesses don't think about how potential customers are going to locate their website. Online advertising using banner ads and PPC adverts on search engines are the quickest way to get visitors to your site, however they are costly and require full time management. Also you need to make sure you are up to date with the latest website SEO trends that can help customers find your website easier.
  • Website usability and content – it is important that potential customers can find what they are looking for on your website as if they can’t they won't stay on your site or re-visit. To do this, ensure you plan your websites navigation and layout and ask potential users to test it in advance to make sure it is easy and appealing. Keeping your content fresh and accurate will also encourage customers to return.
  • Tackle fraud – if your customer’s details are used fraudulently on your website you will be responsible for refunding them. So it is very important to protect your business and your customers from fraud. There are many steps you can take including extra security measures on your website, strict fraud and delivery policies and close monitoring of the transactions and orders placed on your site.

Look out for part 2 next week which will cover the common pitfalls and how to avoid them.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Guide to Transfering Money Abroad: Part 2

Following on from last week’s blog, this time around we will be looking at the options to send money abroad from a business perspective.
If you think more choices for businesses make things easier, think again! There are so many options out there that offer varying services and rates that making the right choice can be quite tricky.
Most businesses will turn to their bank first, as the obvious choice of partner. However there are substantial savings to be made if they spend some time researching other providers and selecting the one that offers the best possible deal.
The costs largely depend on how much you want to send, where you are sending (whether inside or outside the EU), how often and how quickly you want the funds to reach your chosen destination.
Most banks offer international payments platforms as well as options to send money abroad. Here again is where the cost will vary tremendously, and sometimes will even double depending on how you wish to send the payment (online, by telephone or in a branch) or if you choose to send an international draft or open an international bank account (also known as an offshore account).
The elements you want to compare when looking at providers are the following:
  • Cost of Single Euro Payment Area payments (within the EU)
  • Cost of international payments (falling outside of the EU)
  • Monthly payments or maintenance fees for business accounts
  • Exchange rates (this changes at a regular basis so you want to keep track)
Before transferring money abroad, always remember that both you and the beneficiary (the person receiving payments) may have to pay some transfer fees, so you need to establish this up front and agree who pays with the receiver. If fees are paid from both sides, you will need to choose the option that will be most cost-effective for both parties.
Companies can also use business credit or debit cards to pay suppliers when traveling abroad. In most cases, you can use your card abroad as you would do at home and this can be cheaper than sending money overseas.  Prepaid cards with special deals on foreign exchange that I talked about last week are also a good option for businesses, as well as consumers, traveling overseas.
If you cannot get a competitive service through a high street bank, you still have the option to use a foreign currency specialist.  Most of the advice given last week pertinent to consumers is also applicable to businesses: compare the different providers out there to ensure you uncover any commission costs, as well as comparing the actual foreign exchange rates used.
This leads us to our top tips for businesses sending money abroad:
  1. Do you research and make sure you get the best exchange rate, lower transfer fees and uncover any other fees that aren’t immediately obvious
  2. When possible check if the company you are using is regulated by the FSA or not. This means that for large transfers, should the company handling your payments suddenly go bust, you will be able to get your money back.
  3. Ensure you are clear on which party (you or the recipient) is responsible for the payment of fees and charges.
  4. Compare! Compare! Compare!