Strato's online shop of shops open for business

Strato launches online web shop service where you can start a business for as little as £1.

Strato is hoping Napoleon was right to describe us Brits as a nation of shopkeepers.

It has launched its web shop service into the UK, with the basic shop available for just 1 for the first six months.

The service is designed for small businesses to give them the same tool kit as much larger rivals. Strato claims 100 per cent availability, for example, through the service being hosted on data centres with TUV ISO 27001 certified hardware.

"Online shopping is a lucrative business," said Damian Schmidt, chief executive of Strato.

"The British spend more money online per-capita sales than any other European country and European e-commerce turnover is expected to double within the next five years. Such positive trends in online spending signalled an ideal time for a UK launch of the Strato web shop and our user-friendly product offers instantly recognisable features and tools, making the experience straightforward for both shop owners and customers."

The company already runs some 20,000 web shops across Europe, but is looking expectantly to the UK, as Forrester Research names us as the big spenders in Europe.

Rather than buying software to build a web shop on your computer, Strato has taken a completely online approach. Web shop owners can use Strato's wizard- and web-based system, now in its fifth iteration, and choose from more than 50 templates that can be customised with company livery and branding.

The premium version supports seven European languages - although product descriptions have to be manually translated - and up to 20,000 products in 2,000 categories.

Adding product descriptions is through a straightforward WYSIWYG editor and multiple pictures can be uploaded and displayed as a slideshow, with automatic resizing built-in. Product data can also be directly imported instead.

At all levels the shops support SSL encryption and are supplied with an SSL certificate from a VeriSign company called thawte.

At the premium end, there are tools for inventory tracking, integration with eBay and Kelkoo, newsletters and gift certificates, as well as 'other customers who bought this product also bought...' recommendation systems. There are also options for product comparisons, bundled goods and product attachments, and price lists. Promotions can be set up for returning customers, or special offers created to stimulate new business.

The service supports PayPal, Paynova, HSBC and WorldPay as payment methods. UPS is baked in as the delivery provider, although alternative providers can be integrated manually, and the system can automatically produce invoices and delivery slips. With the UPS system, customers can log in and track the progress of their order or the system can automatically send them an e-mail to keep them informed.

Strato has also helped ensure the web shops are indexed by search engines, with a tool for registering the shop with Google. Additionally, the system automatically generates a small HTML page of each product in the database so that it is available to Google, Yahoo and so on.

Backups can be retrieved from any of 10 stages, from a few seconds back to two months ago.

Aside from the 1 introductory offer, the normal pricing for Strato's web shops are 9.90 a month for BasicShop, 19.90 a month for AdvancedShop, and 39.90 a month for PremiumShop. Prices do not include VAT.

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