The Cheapest Possible Way to Launch an Ecommerce Store

You've seen (or maybe heard about) the entrepreneurs on Shark Tank. Half of them walk in front of the sharks talking about the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars they have spent on their startup, only to be in a situation where they need more money from the billionaire investors to keep their dreams alive.

It may give you a sinking sensation in your stomach, knowing that you would never be able to gather together that type of money or have the collateral to backup that sort of loan from an investor or bank.

But do you even need all of that in order to start a business?

I mean, can it perhaps be possible to launch a successful online business – e.g. an eCommerce store – without any (or very little of) starting capital?

Although your expenses are likely to increase as your sales increase, I want to remind you that many of these entrepreneurs started off with nothing more than a simple eCommerce website, spending small amounts of money to gradually expand and make money to pay for upgrades.

But right now, you need the cheapest possible way to launch an eCommerce site. You have either a little money in your pocket, or even zero money to start selling, so we want to show you a few methods that will keep cash in your pocket for investing in other facets of your business. Keep reading to start saving!

Method 1: WordPress

wordpress

WordPress has been the go-to solution for 27% of all website owners on the web. Or, to say this another way, more than one in four websites run on the WordPress platform.

And luckily for all of us, WordPress is also perfectly capable of running an eCommerce website. More than that, actually more than 42% of all eCommerce websites (latest 2016 data indicates) run on WordPress.

The benefits of going that route and launching your store on WordPress are really enticing:

  • WordPress in itself is a free and open source platform. This means that you can not only get it for free, but even tweak its inner workings to suit your needs 100%.
  • The best eCommerce tool for WordPress – an eCommerce plugin called WooCommerce – is also free and open source.
  • You can get a great and reliable hosting plan that's been WordPress-optimized for as little as $4/month. (Later on, as your site grows, you might want to switch to a higher-tier plan at $12/month.)

Sticking with that last thing for a minute – the hosting – yes, using WordPress as the core of your eCommerce store requires you getting a hosting account on your own. This might sound complicated, but it's actually a fairly straightforward thing. All you need to do is sign up with one of the popular hosting providers and give them some basic contact/business information about your website.

When it comes to specific hosting providers that we could recommend, SiteGround is one of the top-rated and optimized solutions for WordPress on the market. Their high quality has been confirmed by multiple customer reviews and hosting survey results.

And the best news, like I mentioned above, is that you can get a WordPress-ready hosting plan for as little as $4 a month. Just click here.

During sign-up, you can tell SiteGround to create a blank WordPress website for you. They will take care of that for free, so you won't have to get your hands dirty with the technical setup. They will also throw in a free domain name (so you don't need to go looking for it with a third-party registrar … makes the setup even quicker).

Another element of your eCommerce setup is WooCommerce – the free WordPress plugin that will give you all the online store functionality that you need. It can be installed just like any other WordPress plugin, and there are no costs associated with getting it.

The last element of our WordPress+eCommmerce puzzle is your WordPress theme – the website design that you will show to your customers.

Try-Shopify

There's a load of options available online – there really is – but if you don't want to get flooded with all the possibilities, you can check out this short-list over here. All of the themes showcased on that page have been pre-selected due to their structure and optimization for eCommerce websites (and WooCommerce in particular).

(Let me just emphasize that it's really crucial to work with a WordPress theme that has been optimized for eCommerce websites. Otherwise, you're risking your products not displaying properly, and thus costing you sales.)

Now, everything I'm saying here might seem like a lot of work at first, but it really isn't so. Once you start going through the steps, you'll quickly realize that all of them can be done in under one hour, and that everything is pretty easy to grasp as you go along.

That's the whole power of WordPress … you can launch basically any type of website with it (including eCommerce or other online business), and do so at a really low cost and with small time investment.

Summing it all up, setting up your eCommerce store on WordPress will cost you:

Method 2: BigCartel (For Stores with Not Many Products)

bigcartel

If you plan on selling up to five products, the BigCartel system offers a plan that's completely free, forever. The only problem with this is that you're limited to five products, and the features are rather limited. Not to mention, if you start upgrading to other plans, you'd be better off going with a solution like Shopify, since the feature base is better.

However, the BigCartel Gold plan looks like this:

  • Free for up to five products
  • Order management
  • Five images per product
  • Inventory tracking
  • Digital products
  • Sell on Facebook
  • Discount codes

If you'd like to upgrade your account in BigCartel, here are the plans to choose from:

  • Titanium – $29.99 for 300 products
  • Diamond – $19.99 for 100 products
  • Platinum – $9.99 for 25 products

Method 3: Shopify (Quickest Method with Simple and Powerful Tools)

shopify

The final method for building a cheap store is to go with Shopify. It's by far the easiest and quickest method out of the three, and I highly recommend it for beginner developers.

You start with a 14 day free trial for testing things out, and the Lite Plan is only $9 per month. This is a wonderful price considering you also receive a domain name and hosting, and you can choose a free theme.

This plan doesn't have an online store, but you receive unlimited products and a Shopify Buy button to start selling.

Even when you start upgrading the prices are pretty reasonable:

  • Basic Shopify Plan – $29
  • Shopify Plan – $79
  • Advanced Shopify Plan – $299

Over to You…

Now that you've had a chance to check out the cheapest possible ways to launch an eCommerce store, let us know in the comments if you've had a chance to work with any of these platforms. Were you able to keep costs low throughout the process?

Feature image curtsey of Katya Prokofyeva

Catalin Zorzini

I'm a web design blogger and started this project after spending a few weeks struggling to find out which is the best ecommerce platform for myself. Check out my current top 10 ecommerce site builders.

15 Responses

  1. This article is much valued. Same for the comments and replies to those persons. I am not tech savvy at all and find the whole process of online store development/ e-commerce — including the options that are out there, and the plans and pricing — complicated to the point it causes me to be indecisive and not at all confident as to what I am doing/ why and the pros and cons of x option. I have simple questions and ask that the responses be “dumbed down” to the level of a novice.

    I’m an artist, writer and photographer, with 6 to 10 product categories (original artwork, and their reproductions as prints or posters, photo art, books and other items), and also operate a members-based club, thus sell memberships. As regards Shopify, I assume it’s a store I need/ would benefit from. What confuses me is the sentence (RE: their Lite Plan) “the plan doesn’t have an online store, but you receive a Shopify Buy button to start selling” — what is the difference between this and an online store (hence, the higher cost monthly fee)? May I ask if you can provide sample links to two existing Shopify accounts? One merchant with the Lite Plan, thus just a Shopify Buy button on the page they have; and a sample for what an online store consists of. Being able to visualize what the differences are may help me and others who find this stuff overwhelming. As for Big Cartel, some pages are super classy, appearing just like a .com site and offering a lot of items for sale. Based on what I’ve said above as for my situation/ needs, may I ask if you think that is the better choice? A Word Press site is out of the question; way too complex for me! Much regards.

    1. Hi Brian,

      The Lite plan allows you to add a buy now button on your existing website. So, in order t use this plan you already have to own a website. The other Shopify plans will allow you to create a website also. You can find some examples here.

      Cheers!

      Bogdan – Editor at Ecommerce-Platforms.com

  2. I just started shopify but now I feel very rushed to get my website up and running as the free trial is running out (14 days) and the cheapest monthly plan is $29, not $9, like this article suggested :/

    1. Hi Nicole,

      Sorry about that, but the article states about the Lite Plan the following: “This plan doesn’t have an online store, but you receive unlimited products and a Shopify Buy button to start selling.”

      The next three plans available, Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify will allow you to have an actual online store. Each plan allows for an unlimited number of products, unlimited file storage, shipping label discounts and a retail package if needed.

      Hope this helps,

      Bogdan – Editor at Ecommerce-Platforms.com

    1. Hi Maja, we will have an OpenCart review soon. We haven’t added the platform on this list because of its complexity. It requires in most cases hiring a developer and this will increase the costs for a new eCommerce website.

  3. I have one product, a book I wrote about how to get into aircraft maintenance. It covers what an “A&P license” is (actually a certificate), how you get one and what you do with it. It’s one specialized product on Amazon. I want to also sell them myself directly to provide a more streamlined sale without people having to go thru Amazon’s account’s sales pitch. The website builders I’ve looked and communicated with e.g. Wix, Go Daddy, Volusion, all have features I don’t need nor do they explain things very well. They all go straight to selling a package. I just need a page and an eCommerce ability to the handle the money transfers with debit and credit cards. I don’t care about Pay-Pal. I’m not tech savvy enough to know what half the stuff is in the packages. I’m not know how to get a domain with Hover, I know I need a hosting service and the ability to get my page up higher in the food chain. I’ve explained this so many times with the web service providers that I wonder if I’m speaking English to them. I know it’ can get complicated, but what I want is simple to me.Any help?

    1. Hi Rick,

      If you so not want to use one of the ecommerce platforms with a subscription based pricing like Shopify, Volusion, Wix etc., you will have to hire a developer to help you build a website from scratch and especially integrating a payment processor for accepting payments with debit and credit cards (this required some coding skills).

      Building a small website from scratch might be more cost efficient on the long term if you are planning to sell just one item as the ecommerce platforms mentioned above will cost you around $15/month.

      Best,

      Bogdan – Editor at Ecommerce-Platforms.com

    1. Natalie GoDaddy was a horrible option for me. Caps you at like a hundred products. Needless to say wont work for me with 18k products. I am currently using Shopping Cart Elite but at $250 a month its pretty pricey

  4. I did the woocommerce thing with the help of a developer. She was pretty fairly priced so I got lucky but I am paying for hosting and a sales tax calculator (monthly -taxjar $49.99) and a shipping extension which is also a monthly fee. So even though woocommerce is free the extensions get pricey fast. I’m actually thinking of converting to shopify or another ecommerce option with less developer work and a more streamlined feel. The upkeep of woocommerce is too much without lots of WordPress knowledge or a dedicated developer. It’s def not the cheap option.

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