While some brands already have a strong online presence, others are picking up steam or looking into creating an ecommerce website for the first time.
As a smaller outfit, there may be one question burning a hole in your mind: how much does an ecommerce website cost?
In this post, I’m going to discuss the many costs associated with launching an e-commerce website.
Let’s dive right into all things related to the total cost of an ecommerce website.
Ecommerce Website Price: Two Driving Forces
- Design and functionality: This is what people see when they visit your site, interact with your content, and make a purchase. For example, the layout of your website will impact how long people stay on your site and your conversion rate.
- Infrastructure: These are the many necessary expenses for building and powering your ecommerce store, but things that your audience doesn’t necessarily notice. We’ll dive into the details below but think about things such as buying a domain, setting up hosting, and search engine optimization.
Your success starts well before your website is live. It begins when you create a plan for building your site, which includes a list of expenses and a budget.
As I break down the question of ecommerce website cost, you’ll notice that the following expenses come into play for almost everyone:
- Domain name
- Custom design
- Web development
- Setup expert
- Marketing and SEO
- Payment processing
- Apps and plug-ins
Along with the above, there are many software programs and platforms you can use to create an ecommerce website. While I urge you to consider all your options, for the sake of this article I’m going to focus on the following:
- Shopify (full Shopify reviews)
- BigCommerce (full BigCommerce reviews)
- Square Online Store (full Square Online Store review)
- WooCommerce (full WooCommerce review)
With all the basics out of the way, let’s take a closer look at the costs of building an ecommerce website.
1. Domain Name
You can’t have a website without a domain name. This is the permanent address of your online store, so it’s important to choose wisely.
How much you pay for a domain name depends on a variety of factors, including:
- The registrar you buy from
- The TLD of your domain name (.com is most common)
- If you’re buying a domain that’s for sale on the secondary market
Generally speaking, you can expect to pay $10 to $20 for a domain name at a registrar such as GoDaddy or Namecheap.
Tip: some web hosting providers give you a domain name free of cost when you sign up for a new plan.
2. Hosting Costs
Hosting is the engine behind your online store. It’s necessary to make your website accessible to outsiders.
You have two basic options:
- Self-host your ecommerce website
- Use an ecommerce platform (more on these below) that includes hosting (SaaS)
If you decide to self-host your store, which is the case if you use a platform such as WooCommerce, you’re responsible for buying your own hosting.
From budget hosting packages to those for more advanced and robust stores, there’s no shortage of options. Some of our recommended hosting companies include:
- Bluehost (full Bluehost review)
- Dreamhost (full Dreamhost review)
- SiteGround (full SiteGround review)
Prices vary from company to company and plan to plan, but you should budget for between $5 and $20/month.
Tip: you’ll save money when you pay for hosting six or 12 months in advance.
If you choose to build your store through a popular ecommerce platform, such as Shopify, your hosting is included along with a variety of other features. Shopify has three options:
There are pros and cons of both methods of hosting, as well as the potential that you may need to upgrade your plan as your e-commerce website grows.
In today’s day and age, you don’t have to spend much – if anything – to secure an attractive design for your ecommerce store. Sure, you can pay thousands of dollars if you want and/or need to (more on this below), but it’s not a prerequisite of getting started.
Take for example an online store powered by WooCommerce. You can choose from hundreds of free WordPress themes, as well as premium options that will only set you back a handful of dollars.
If you’re on a budget, start with a free WordPress theme you can customize on your own. But if you have some money to spend, Astra, Divi, and Flatsome are worth your consideration. if you need more, check this roundup featuring 20 of the best ecommerce WordPress themes.
For those using an ecommerce platform, such as Shopify, expect to pay a little bit more if you want a premium theme.
We suggest starting your search on the Shopify Theme Store, as it lays out all your choices, both free and paid. A quick search shows that a budget of $160 to $200 will give you plenty of options.
So, when it comes to the cost of a theme for your online store, it ranges from free to roughly $200.
4. Custom Website Design Cost
You’ve done your research into free and paid themes and realize that you can’t get exactly what you want “out of the box.” This leaves you with two options:
- Customize a theme on your own
- Hire a professional to customize a pre-existing theme
- Opt for a custom design from the ground up
If a unique look and feel are what you’re going for, a custom design is the best option. It’s built specifically for your business, industry, store, and requirements, so the end result should check all your boxes.
The only thing potentially holding you back is the cost of a custom design. Cost varies based on the size and scope of the project, but expect to spend a minimum of $1,500 to $5,000. And if you’re more interested in an enterprise-level design, complete with a countless number of internal pages – such as for products and categories – your cost will easily reach $10,000 to $50,000.
5. Ecommerce Website Development Cost
There’s a difference between design and development. Sometimes these things come as a package, but sometimes they don’t.
Design is exactly what it sounds like (and outlined above). It’s the actual design of your website. It’s what people see when they visit your online home.
Development, however, encompasses many other services, some of which power your website behind the scenes.
Some of the things you may hire a developer or a web development company for include:
- Populating your online store with product descriptions and images
- Implementing and/or customizing the checkout system
- Creating a custom plug-in or app
- Customizing website code
The platforms we’ve discussed thus far are all “out of the box” solutions. You don’t have to do any additional development, but you may want to for a more custom experience.
If you want to hire a web developer or a web development company, make sure you find someone experienced in ecommerce websites. Furthermore, double-check their experience with your platform of choice.
Rates vary based on experience, platform, project scope, and location. On the low end, expect to pay somewhere in the $15 to $30/hour range. But for more advanced projects, such as custom coding, $150+ is not out of the question.
Tip: you may be able to save some money by negotiating a set price for the project, as opposed to paying hourly.
6. Setup Expert
This person isn’t necessarily a designer or developer. Instead, they’re an expert in setting up ecommerce websites from scratch. They know the many platforms inside and out, which allows them to provide guidance or complete the entire task on your behalf.
Your chosen platform has a lot to say about how you choose a setup expert for your ecommerce website. This is one of the biggest benefits of using Shopify, as they have a large directory of setup experts who are on call to assist you.
Expert assistance starts at $500 but it goes all the way up to $15,000+. You can search by budget, country/region, and languages spoken to narrow down your options.
Also, each provider has a profile that outlines their experience, services offered, number of jobs completed, and reviews. You can also request a custom quote for your project.
For a basic setup on Shopify, budget for $500 to $1,000. If your needs are more complex, it’ll likely take $1,000 or more to get everything you want.
If you’re using a different platform or don’t want to use the Shopify marketplace, you can hire an independent setup expert, such as through Upwork or another freelancing platform. In this case, you can find someone for a similar cost as a developer, with a starting price of $15/hour.
Tip: don’t hire a setup expert until you first see if your developer can assist you. This person may be able to complete all the tasks of a setup expert, thus saving you money and the hassle of managing two individuals.
7. Marketing and SEO
You can create the greatest ecommerce website in your space, but it does you no good without traffic. You need people visiting your site, engaging with your brand, and sharing their positive experience with their network.
This is where marketing and SEO come into play. If you’re launching an online store or want to generate better results with the one you currently have, a marketing strategy is a must. This includes but is not necessarily limited to:
- Content marketing
- Social media
- Email marketing
- Word of mouth
- Pay per click (PPC)
The more you experiment with each of these ideas, the more you’ll understand what does and doesn’t work for your store. For example, there will always be people who shy away from PPC, because they’re scared of their costs quickly escalating. However, if you find out how to do it right, you can generate a positive return on investment.
This is one of those categories that’s impossible to attach a price to. You could spend tens of thousands of dollars hiring a world-class social media agency to do everything on your behalf. Or you could do everything yourself, from taking photos to producing video content to managing your profiles.
As you get started, search for tools that can help you achieve results without breaking the bank. For example, if you have a large email marketing list, check out Constant Contact. In addition to a free trial, there are two monthly plans to choose from:
When it comes to marketing and SEO, your results are tied more to your efforts and less to how much you spend. Here are some questions to help you decide what to do next:
- What areas of marketing and SEO have the best chance of a positive ROI?
- Can you or your team handle any aspects of marketing in-house?
- Are you okay with the idea of hiring a contractor or agency to help with some or all of your marketing?
Along with the above, you must set a budget. It doesn’t matter if it’s $100/month or $10,000/month, knowing what you can afford to spend will help you plan accordingly.
8. Payment Processing
If you’re selling online, payment processing fees can’t be ignored. This is an expense that eats into your profits, so it’s critical to plan in advance.
The manner in which you process payments depends largely on the platform you choose. Let’s examine how things align with a couple of the most popular platforms, starting with WooCommerce.
If you’re running a self-hosted store on WooCommerce, you can use any payment processor you want. So, if you want access to the largest selection – with hopes of securing the best deal – WooCommerce is the way to go.
Out of the box, WooCommerce provides support for both Stripe and PayPal, both of which allow you to easily accept credit card payments. However, there are plenty of other extensions available, granting you access to a larger selection.
As a brief overview, here’s what you can expect in terms of costs:
PayPal and Stripe have almost the same arrangement, with the only difference being that PayPal charges more for purchases under $10.
If you opt for Shopify as your platform, you gain access to a unique payment processing solution known as Shopify Payments. It’s the easiest to implement, but you’re not roped into using it. You can still choose from one of many other payment gateways.
Here’s the way the costs breakdown:
- Shopify Payments: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- Third-party payment services: The payment gateway fees plus a two percent additional fee per transaction
So, if you choose Shopify Payments, it’s the same cost as using PayPal or Stripe through WooCommerce. However, if you use Shopify and opt for a third-party service, an additional two percent fee comes into play.
When choosing a platform, consider your payment processing options. From a budgeting perspective, you can expect, on average, to pay 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction.
9. Apps, Plug-ins, and Extensions
It doesn’t matter if you call them apps, plug-ins, or extensions, there’s a good chance you’ll need a handful of these as you build out your ecommerce store. And the more of these you need, the more it factors into the overall ecommerce website cost.
You need apps, plug-ins, or extensions because the platform you choose probably won’t give you everything you need. It can get you close, but from there it’s time to customize your store with these solutions.
On the plus side, all of the most popular platforms have a library you can search for the perfect solution to almost any problem.
WooCommerce is a leader in this space, thanks to thousands of extensions on top of the tens of thousands of plug-ins available for WordPress.
In general – with exception of free extensions – you can expect to pay anywhere between $10 and $300.
As for Shopify, it’s a bit more complicated, however, it does offer APIs for developers so you can customize your store via third-party apps. You’ll want to start your search
However, they do offer APIs for developers to integrate their own services and solutions into Shopify. These addons are available as third-party apps on the Shopify app store.
Some apps are free, with others costing $100 or more or charging a monthly fee.
Also, you can use Shopify to find a professional developer for a custom app, with prices typically $1,000 or more based on project scope and expertise.
BigCommerce is similar to Shopify with access to a large selection of apps.
There are hundreds of apps to choose from, ranging from free to paid to a monthly subscription.
You can also find a developer in the BigCommerce partner directory if you require a custom-built app, with fees starting at $1,000 and quickly climbing.
There are a countless number of ecommerce platforms to consider, with each one having its own set of pros and cons.
For the sake of this guide, we’re going to provide an overview of the cost associated with four of the most popular platforms for building an ecommerce website. Of course, you’ll want to compare more than pricing, with a focus on all the details previously discussed.
When it comes to building an ecommerce store, Shopify is the preferred platform of tens of thousands of companies.
Upon signing up for an account, you can set up your store for free and test out the platform for 14 days. Best yet, no credit card is required for the free trial. It’s a fast and efficient way to get up and running.
In regards to pricing, Shopify has three options:
For $29/month, you get all the basics for starting a new online store. If you’re interested in more features for growing and scaling your business, the $79/month and $299/month packages are better suited.
If there’s one thing you’ll notice about the Shopify pricing structure, it’s that you get a lot of bang for your buck.
Even though BigCommerce doesn’t have quite as large a following as Shopify, it’s still an industry-leading platform.
It’s pricing structure is in line with Shopify, with three tiers also available (along with an enterprise option with custom pricing):
As you can see, each pricing level is only $.95/month more expensive than Shopify. However, if you want to save, you can do so by paying annually. This knocks 10 percent off the total.
BigCommerce also has a long feature list for each tier, so you’re not missing out on anything when you choose this platform.
3. Square Online Store
Square Online Store is on the up and up, with this platform becoming more popular among those seeking simplicity at a more competitive price.
With its free plan, here’s what you get:
For those in need of more features, Square Online Store has three paid plans to choose from:
With it’s “premium” plan topping out at $72/month, Square Online Store is much cheaper than both Shopify and BigCommerce on the top end.
As you compare the features of Square Online Store to its primary competitors, keep its lower price in mind. It may be the deciding factor.
If free is what you want, free is what you’ll get with this open source ecommerce platform built for WordPress.
With more than 87,000,000 downloads, WooCommerce is by far the most popular ecommerce platform for building an online store. A lot of this has to do with the fact that it’s free, but that’s not the only reason.
WooCommerce is easy to use, packed full of features, and provides access to a robust extensions store to help you customize your store. On top of this, since WooCommerce runs on WordPress, you have access to thousands upon thousands of third-party plug-ins.
Here are a few of the many reasons why WooCommerce is trusted by millions:
- The 60+ Best Ecommerce Websites – Top ecommerce website designs.
- Magento Review – Read this review to learn about its features, pricing, and more.
- Squarespace review – 11 Pros and cons of using Squarespace.
- An In-depth Guide on Creating an Ecommerce Business Plan
- Best Inventory Management Software – Find out which are the best options for your specific needs.
Ecommerce Site Cost: Conclusion
By now, you should at least have a general idea of what an ecommerce website costs.
The key points to remember include:
- There are platforms, such as the four detailed above, that make it easy for anyone to build out an e-commerce website.
- The price varies based on a seemingly endless number of factors.
- To get started, create a scope for your project and set a budget.
If you’re tight on money, it’s possible to design and start your online store for less than $500. On the other hand, if you’re willing to spend big to get everything just right, it’s not out of the question for your costs to reach well into the five figures.