Moving your business online during the Covid-19 outbreak

What do you need to think about when moving your business online – quickly?

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With the Covid-19 outbreak reducing restaurants and cafes to a delivery-only service and shops closing their doors to walk-in customers, trading is limited for businesses that want to remain active through the tough times ahead.  

Thankfully, moving your business operations online is still a viable option. And delivery companies are even helping to assist this by bolstering their workforce and offering a contact-free delivery service.

Of course, how you move your business online will largely depend on the kind of business you own and where you operate. For example, restaurants and cafes located in towns and cities can sign up to delivery companies like Deliveroo and UberEats, while rural businesses may need to set up their own website and delivery service. 

Whether you own a shop or a restaurant in the city or the countryside, if you’re looking to move your business online, Startups is here to provide you with some useful tips to get you on your way.

Moving your restaurant online using a food delivery service

Restaurants and cafe owners that operate in cities and towns can very quickly get their business online, thanks to delivery companies including Deliveroo, Just Eat, and UberEats.

While these delivery companies do take a small percentage of each order you receive, some like Just Eat are waiving their sign up fees and reducing the amount of commission they take to support small businesses in light of Covid-19.

Typically, the sign up process takes a week, and your chosen delivery company will provide you with all the equipment you need to get going, including a tablet, software, and a printer.

Startups spoke to Jen from the Funky Chickpeas, who told us how easy it was for her to get online with Deliveroo

“The process to sign up with Deliveroo was pretty simple through its website. I was assigned a business partner to guide me through the process and given continual support. The set up fee was approximately £500, which included a photography session, a tablet, and receipt printer – all of which was only repayable once my restaurant started making money.”

What to consider when choosing a delivery company:

  • deliveroo vs ubereatsTake a look at its customer reviews to ensure it operates in line with your customer service values
  • Check the commission percentage it charges and any delivery costs it may add to the customer order
  • Make sure the delivery company software integrates with your EPOS system to ensure smooth accounting
  • Ensure the delivery company software allows you to adequately analyse sales data

Already using a Square EPOS system? Find out how Square Online can help you sell, accept payments, and do business completely online.

Moving your retail business online using an online marketplace

One retail giant that isn’t going anywhere in the Covid-19 outbreak is Amazon. And it’s actually pretty easy to start selling on its platform. You can read our full guide on how to start an Amazon marketplace business for all the information you need. Or, take a look at our quick breakdown below.

Using Amazon to host your online store

  • Choose whether you’re a casual seller or a professional seller – a casual seller is a business that sells less than 35 products per month
  • Use Amazon’s easy to use interface to upload your products – make sure you name the product, the price and how many you have available
  • Add images to each of your listings image regulations apply 
  • Choose whether you want to process deliveries or have Amazon do it for you – check out our guide for more information on Amazon’s Fulfillment by Amazon service 
  • If you choose to look after your own deliveries, you’ll receive an email each time someone orders a product – you’ll then have two days to dispatch the order
  • You’ll receive funds into your bank account every 14 days

If Amazon isn’t quite the right marketplace for your products, you could look at selling on Etsy. Etsy is a great platform for those looking to sell unique or handmade products. Why not read the Startups guide to starting an Etsy shop for all the information you need, or take a look at our quick roundup below?

Using Etsy to host your online store:

  • Create an account for free – make sure you fill in profile, including linking to any social media accounts
  • Add your products – Etsy charges £0.15p per listing. Label your products correctly to ensure they come up when people search for a particular item
  • Start making money – Etsy offers its own merchant services and charges a 4% + £0.20 payment processing fee
  • It’s up to you to deliver your products – add postage prices to products to save time

Creating an ecommerce website using a website builder

A website builder allows businesses to easily and intuitively create their own professional website. Businesses can simply choose a template and fill it with their business content, including images, menus, and product pages.

Alternatively, website builder ADIs (artificial design intelligence) can provide an even easier way for shops to quickly create a website. 

An ADI generates a website based on the answers business owners give to a number of questions. For example, what type of business do you own? 

Once you have a basic homepage set up, you can click into the cart section of your website and start adding products. 

And the great part? Most website builders have their own payment gateway. This means you can start accepting payments immediately – no fuss. 

Website builder prices

Typically, website builders allow you to create your website for free. However, in order to take payments, you’ll need to upgrade to a premium account. 

You’ll also need to consider the payment processing charges website builders apply each time someone makes a purchase. 

Compare ecommerce website builder premium account costs 

WixSquare OnlineShopify
Business Basic £15/month


-Take payments

- Free domain for one year

- 20GB storage

Free £0/month


- Sell unlimited products

- Automatic inventory, order and item sync with Square POS

- Social media integration

- Online shopping cart
Basic Shopify $29/month


- Unlimited products

- Two staff accounts

- 24/7 support
Business Unlimited £20/month


- Take payments

- Free domain for one year

- 35GB storage

- Professional logo

- Social media logo files

Professional £9/month


- All Free features plus

- Custom domain (free for 1 year)

- No Square branding
Shopify $79/month


- Unlimited products

- Five staff accounts

- 24/7 support

- Gift cards

- Analytics
Business VIP £27/month


- Take payments

- Free domain for one year

- 50GB storage

- Priority support response

Performance £19/month


- All Professional features plus

- Post customer reviews on your site

- Recover lost sales (abandoned cart email functions)
Advanced Shopify $299/month


- Unlimited products

- 15 staff accounts

- 24/7 support

- Third party calculated shipping rates

- Cheapest payment purchasing fees

Premium £54/month


- All Performance features plus

- Lowest transaction/processing fees
Read Wix Review


Try Wix Premium free for 14 days

Try Square Online's Free plan to get started
Find out more about selling online with Shopify


Try Shopify Premium free for 14 days

Take a look at our best ecommerce platforms for small businesses article for even more options

Compare website builder credit card processing fees

WixSquare OnlineShopify
Uses own payment processor and charges 1.9% + 20p per transactionUses own payment processor and charges 2.5% per transactionUses own payment processor and charges:

Basic Shopify - 2.2% + 20p per transaction

Shopify - 1.9% + 20p per transaction

Advanced Shopify - 1.6% + 20p per transaction

If you would like more information on some of the credit card processing providers featured in the table, head over to our page on the best payment gateways.

Choosing the best website builder for your business

  • Compare prices and packages – do you want to include marketing in your package? Or perhaps you’d like access to 24/7 customer service?
  • Check which plug-ins it’s compatible with – does it integrate with your accounting software, email marketing platform, or delivery apps? 
  • Make sure the platform is search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly – can you add a blog? Use your own website address? Enable reviews?
  • Ensure your site is mobile friendly – mobiles typically account for 31% of your website traffic

Choosing the best courier service to deliver your products

So far during the Covid-19 outbreak, delivery companies have been running as normal and have even increased their capacity to deal with additional demand. But using delivery companies isn’t the only option. 

Self delivery and using Royal Mail

Smaller retail and restaurant businesses may not need the services of a specialist delivery company. 

For example, some businesses, such as La Jupe wine bar in Scotland, are delivering items for free themselves – to customers within a local radius. 

And while Post Office branches remain open, businesses can still make essential journeys to drop parcels off to be delivered. 

It’s up to individual businesses to add or swallow the costs that may come with getting out and about in the car, or sending parcels with Royal Mail

Use a parcel broker

Parcel brokers put businesses in touch with the cheapest parcel company for their needs. ParcelBroker is one of the UK’s top options, and claims to make sending parcels 40-60% cheaper for businesses that are sending multiple parcels in a day. 

Once a parcel broker has paired you with the cheapest delivery options for your needs, it’ll be up to you to take your parcels to the nearest depot of the delivery company selected. 

Third party or own website – which is best?

For restaurant and retail business owners looking to move their business online during this tough time, selling through a third party and building your own ecommerce website are both viable options. 

At the end of the day, choosing the best option for your business comes down to two things – costs and convenience. To help you make the right choice, we’ve listed the pros and cons of using a third party or having your own ecommerce store. 

Pros and cons of using a third party to sell products

Pros of using a third party to sell productsCons of using a third party to sell products
- Easy to set up

- Easy to start taking payments

- Instant exposure

- SEO often included
- Attached to a brand name that isn’t yours

- Customer service somewhat out of your hands

- Sometimes high commission charges

- Payments can take up to two weeks to reach your bank account

Pros and cons of selling through your own website

Pros of selling through your own websiteCons of selling through your own website
- No commission or listing fees charged

- Can integrate with your in-store POS system

- Don’t lose sales to competitors

- Build a loyal customer base

- Payments can reach your account in as little as two days
- The initial website building takes time and effort

- Payment gateway providers take a small percentage of each transaction

- You’re in charge of promoting your website on the web

- Support isn’t always available

- It’s often cheaper to commit to a yearly premium account and pay it all upfront

What’s next for my business?

No matter how you choose to get your business online, it’s reassuring to know that there are still ways to continue trading. 

However, if neither of these options seem viable to you, it’s worth delving into the latest financial support that the government is offering to support businesses through the Covid-19 outbreak. 

Startups has created a number of pages to give businesses the information they need: 

  1. Coronavirus employment and wage subsidy package
  2. How to apply for a coronavirus statutory sick pay refund
  3. How to apply for a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan

Written by:
Aimee is Startups' resident expert in business tech, products, and services. She loves a great story and enjoys chatting to the startups and small business community. Starting her own egg delivery business from the age of 12, she has a healthy respect for self-starters and local services.
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