By Daniel Hunter

Nearly (48%) half of sole-traders trading online say they spent less than £300 on their website during the start-up stage, according to research from payments experts Worldpay.

The study of small business owners found three-quarters (76%) of sole-traders take a DIY approach to setting up their ecommerce platform in order to keep costs as low as possible, seeking out online guides and getting advice from friendly web developers.

Thirty-eight per cent of sole-traders said they used a shopping cart or website builder to set up their ecommerce site, while a tech-savvy 22% used their own coding expertise, saying this was the most cost-efficient approach. Just a quarter said they turned to a web-developer to design their website, compared to 41% of businesses with one to nine employees and 48% of business with 10 employees or more.

According to Worldpay, web development costs among UK ecommerce businesses tend only to exceed £1,000 once the business is turning over more than £50,000 in annual revenues.

Small business owners said adding an ecommerce platform to an existing bricks and mortar retail presence adds an average of 19% to total revenues. Across the board, businesses who had added an ecommerce capability saw a return on investment within eight months, with virtually all businesses saying they felt the cost, time and effort required to establish an online presence had been worthwhile.

Georgina Abbott, owner of Atelier Millinery said: “Setting up the website really took me out of my comfort zone. Like many business owners, I knew nothing about online sales so the first website was an important starting point. I launched a starter site in 2012 which was easy to get off the ground and helped to build brand awareness. Then as the business grew, I realised that I needed to expand the website and offer ecommerce too. Now our customers can buy our hats, headpieces and fascinators online — or book a course to learn how to make their own bespoke creation.”

Dave Hobday, UK Managing Director, Worldpay, said: “Advances in technology are taking away some of the fear factor for small businesses wanting to get online, while tumbling costs are enabling a generation of innovative and tech-savvy start-up businesses to experiment and thrive without the crippling fear of failure.

“Small businesses with a strong web presence grow more than twice as quickly as those without, so it’s crazy that nearly half of all UK small businesses are not online. We’re doing a lot of work to demystify the process of trading online for small business, stripping away technical language and talking to them in language they understand.”