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Online shopping channels – the pros and cons

  • By Alexis Kaliszewski
  • 03 Mar, 2017

Online shopping has seen a huge growth in recent years – up 16% on 2015 figures to £133bn in 2016*. And it is showing no signs of slowing down. The growth is largely due to more consumers than ever shopping on their smartphones – with sales via smartphone jumping by a massive 47% in December 2016.

Here at Cotswold Web, we can create a brilliant e-commerce website for your online sales. But these days, it’s about more than that. If you really want to benefit from the online sales boom, you’ve got to look to other channels to support your website.

You know your business, your products and your customers, you just need to find which online shopping channel or channels will work best for you.

So here’s our pros and cons of some of the main online shopping channels to help you make that decision.

Search engines

Search engines like Google and Bing allow you to reach customers who are actively searching for a product.

As a retailer, you upload data feeds and whenever a user is searching for a specific product, such as garden furniture, handbags or children’s bikes, the search engine matches the search with advertised products, so a potential customer can see the ads. And the good news for retailers is that many customers buy from the adverts and don’t search any further.

Businesses pay for the advertising per click and there is a limited number of advertising slots available. Google, Bing and other search engines use their own criteria to determine which adverts have the highest quality score and will be displayed.

This is a great tool for higher priced or niche items and we can easily upload your data feeds to the search engines for you, without messing around with your website’s coding.

Amazon and eBay

Amazon and eBay are the two biggest marketplaces online. They allow shoppers to browse products from a huge number of sellers at the same time, comparing prices and finding the best offers.

Transactions are carried out through Amazon or eBay, rather than your site. Amazon will usually organise the shipping too. Both of these factors can be a real bonus for a small business which doesn’t have the staff or the time to spend on packing and sending out items.

But shopping through marketplaces means a customer is never directed to your website, so they are less likely to remember your company name and go back to you in the future.

Retailers pay a commission to use a marketplace, which is usually between 5 and 15%. This could prove to be more cost-effective for businesses than the pay-per-click model, where you are paying for clicks that don’t always lead to sales.

Social networks

Facebook is the biggest social network in the world, with over 31 million users in the UK alone, 76% of whom visit the site every day. Over 2 million businesses use Facebook for advertising.**

Social networks reach people who aren’t searching for a particular product, but advertising can be carefully targeted to meet your exact customer profile, for example: female; aged 30-35; living in the South East; and interested in cycling.

Potential customers will see your adverts when they are communicating and sharing with friends. While they may not buy immediately, the advert will create brand awareness, which may encourage them to go back and shop with you at a later date. With targeted advertising charged on a pay-per-click basis, social network advertising can prove to be very cost-effective for some retailers.

Re-targeting networks

Re-targeting networks are pretty similar to advertising on social media. They reach people who have visited your site to search for a product, but then left without buying.

Re-targeting networks allow businesses to advertise the product consumers were interested in on a later date, when they are visiting a different website. As an additional incentive to buy, re-targeting network ads may offer customers a discount on the product they originally searched.

There are a number of re-targeting networks out there and costs vary depending on the network, so it’s best to do your research to find out what works for you and your business.

So that’s our whistle-stop tour of some of the best ways of reaching customers online. If we can help you use any of these channels more effectively, please get in touch.

*Source IMRG

**Source Think Digital First

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By Alexis Kaliszewski 27 Oct, 2017

It’s just six months until the biggest piece of European data protection legislation in 20 years is introduced in the UK. And it will affect us all. We know that lots of our customers are already preparing for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and as a web design agency we are too.

But are you ready for GDPR?

What is GDPR?

In the wake of breaches of personal data, affecting companies of all sizes, and the rise in online crime, GDPR will place greater restrictions on what personal data companies can hold.

It gives people more control over their own data held by companies. They will have the right to access, correct or delete any personal information a company has stored. People need to give their explicit consent for their data to be used and companies will then need to save this consent.

Will it affect my business?

If you are a company operating within the EU (this applies in the UK regardless of Brexit) which handles or stores any personal information, these new rules will apply to you. It doesn’t matter what sector you work in or if you are a multi-national or a one-man band, you need to comply.

So if you email customers or potential customers as part of your marketing, they now need to agree to your emails before you send them. This is likely to mean you have a smaller email list to work from and may have to work harder or differently to generate sales leads.

As web designers, we have responsibilities not just to our own company, but to our customers. We have to make sure your website meets the requirements of GDPR before you sign it off and it goes live. That’s why, if you have any concerns, it makes sense to work with a responsible and forward-thinking company like Cotswold Web to make sure your website is compliant with GDPR.

What if we don’t comply?

The penalties for non-compliance are severe – up to 4% of a company’s annual turnover, or 20 million euros, whichever is higher. You don’t need us to tell you that that sort of figure could be enough to wipe some businesses out altogether.

What do we need to do now?

With around six months until the implementation date of 25th May 2018, now is the time to take steps to ensure you have everything in order ready for GDPR.

The first step is to understand exactly what data you hold, where you hold it and who has access to it. Employees at all levels who use customers’ personal data need to understand the new rules and exactly what they mean for the company. Ignorance is no defence.

Once you know what data you do hold, the next step is to update your data protection policies in the light of the new regulations. This should include a system on dealing with any breaches, which must be reported within 72 hours under the new legislation. Companies should have a data protection officer, who has an understanding of data across the business.


GDPR may seem like a huge task right now, but non-compliance is not an option. You need to ensure the long-term safety of not only your business, but your clients’ personal information.

You’ve still got time to get your systems in order and the sooner you get to work on it, the sooner you will be protected.


If you need any support with GDPR compliance, please talk to us about how we can help.

By Alexis Kaliszewski 17 Oct, 2017
You may have noticed an increasing number of websites recently with an addressstarting with ‘https’. What is it for? And should you have it too?

The answer is yes for two big reasons – it’s more secure and Google loves it!

The addition of the s onto http simply stands for ‘secure’. When a website is securedby an SSL certificate – meaning the connection is secure and sensitive data isprotected – HTTPS appears in the website’s URL.

When a visitor to your HTTPS site looks at your web address, they will see apadlock, giving them the reassurance that their information is safe.
Using HTTPS means your website is authenticated and visitors can feel confidentthat their data and privacy are being protected. It provides encryption when sendingor receiving data, such as credit card details. This protects against theft of personalinformation, eavesdropping by less reputable organisations or tampering with thecontents of the communication.

A visitor or customer to an HTTPS website can feel pretty confident that they arecommunicating with the site they want to communicate with, rather than an impostortrying to steal their personal information or bank details.

Once upon a time HTTPS was used mainly by companies taking secure paymentsover the internet, but it is increasingly becoming the norm for all websites.

The websites we design at Cotswold Web come with SSL as standard. So whether you’re going for a small brochure site or a large ecommerce site, you can be sure that security is at the top of our agenda.

And if security isn’t enough to make you want to switch to HTTPS, maybe Google will?
We all know that our websites are worth next to nothing without Google. If your site doesn’t rank highly on Google searches, nobody is ever going to find your business or your products.

Google wants to protect its own integrity, as well as the safety of the internet and its users. So when users connect to a site through its search engine, Google wants to know that the site is going to be secure. And the best way to ensure security is through a HTTPS site. The knock-on effect of this is that HTTPS sites will rank higher in searches than plain old http.

Ultimately, Google would like to see everyone on the web using HTTPS as standard to keep us all safe on the internet. Making the switch really is a no-brainer.

If you haven’t done it yet, what are you waiting for?
By Alexis Kaliszewski 07 Jun, 2017

Helping businesses create a strong online presence is something we think we’re rather good at, and this was recognised by Kirsty Muir, one of the founders of Business & Innovation Magazine at NK Media Ltd in Cirencester.

Business & Innovation Magazine is a print and online resource for businesses in the South-West region, covering Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, North Wiltshire, Warwickshire and Worcestershire. Its aim is to get businesses networking to make best use of local resources and expertise while also supporting the region’s economy.

Kirsty approached us to create and maintain their new website . The brief was to present Business & Innovation Magazine as the best business magazine online, as well as in print.

We were inspired by both Kirsty's and Nicky's enthusiasm for getting local businesses working better together and we created a website that looks professional but also has a fresh and fun edge. We love creating new websites for all our clients, but there’s something about working for a new start-up that is just so exciting.

The magazine has lots going on to interest all kinds of businesses. Why not take a look at the website, or even sign up for the print magazine, which at just £28 a year is fantastic value for money?


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