Understanding how much an eCommerce website costs to build and run is a crucial part of selling online.
If you’re thinking of moving your traditional store online, taking your first steps into the world of eCommerce, or just checking that you’re not currently overspending, examining the cost of an eCommerce website will help you get to grips with your most important overhead.
What to consider when assessing the cost of an eCommerce website
There are so many different parts to a website, and each piece will impact the overall cost. Knowing how much you want to spend ahead of time can help you decide which platform is the best choice for you, and what additions you’ll be able to afford. Without a clear budget, you can easily end up overspending.
We’ll answer the question right away:
The total cost for an eCommerce website in 2021 is between $50 and $3000/month, plus $20 – $10000 in setup fees.
Why such a big range?
Without knowing the size of your catalog, the customization required, your annual sales, and your overall needs, it’s impossible to create a precise quote.
Small eCommerce stores might be able to get by with using free Shopify themes and minimal plugins. Larger eCommerce stores will need customization and additional hosting features like security and redundancy.
But don’t worry. Below we’ll break down the options for each expense you’ll face and show you where you can save a few bucks – and where you’ll probably want to spend more.
Your time is a cost!
Time is money, as they say! The biggest cost of your eCommerce website can, in some cases, be the time spent setting it up.
Using purpose-built eCommerce software. like Shopify, will save you time. Instead of spending time connecting different programs, designing checkout carts from scratch, and customizing every product page, you can spend your valuable time filling out a pre-designed theme.
Dedicated eCommerce platforms will also include support and ongoing maintenance to keep your store up and running.
We estimate that a basic eCommerce website can take a minimum of 100 hours to set up from scratch. This doesn’t include adding individual product listings. An enterprise-level website can take upwards of 200 hours.
Webhosting costs for your eCommerce site
You’ll need to invest in some behind the scenes architecture for your website. This includes a domain name (the web address where your store lives), web hosting (where your data is stored), and an SSL certificate (security for your website).
Depending on which eCommerce platform you decide to use, some of this architecture may be included in your cost. For example, SaaS solutions (like Shopify or BigCommerce) include hosting and you can purchase your domain name through them.
Self-hosted solutions (like WooCommerce self-hosted) will require investing in a separate hosting solution. Self-hosted solutions will also require more technical expertise to deploy as you’ll need to install the eCommerce software on your server.
Small to medium-sized businesses
- Domain name: $10 – $20 per year
- Web hosting (SaaS solution): $29 – $250/month
- Web hosting (Self-hosted): $2.99 – $200/month
For a busy site with thousands of daily visitors, your system requirements increase. You’ll need increased redundancy, the ability to host a lot of traffic without decreasing your page load time, and tighter security.
Hosting costs can vary but expect to pay upwards of $1000/month.
Related article: The Best Shopping Cart Software in 2020!
Software costs for your eCommerce website
Every eCommerce website has similar components: product pages, inventory management, carts, and checkout pages. Building this functionality takes a lot of time, skill, and effort, so most eCommerce businesses rely on a SaaS solution purpose-built for eCommerce.
Small to medium-sized businesses
At the low end, some eCommerce SaaS offerings start at about $20-$30/month and offer different plans based on your volume of sales and the functionality you need. Here’s a quick comparison of some of the more popular eCommerce software:
- Cost of a Wix eCommerce site: to run an eCommerce site on Wix, you’ll need their Business Basic plan, at a minimum, which runs you $23/month when paid annually. This includes hosting and a free SSL certificate.
- Cost of a Shopify eCommerce site: basic Shopify, their lowest pricing tier, is $29/month when paid annually. This includes hosting and a free SSL certificate.
- Cost of a BigCommerce eCommerce site: a standard BigCommerce website is $29.95/month, paid monthly or annually. This includes hosting and a free SSL certificate. For stores with sales over $50k annually, you’ll need their Plus plan at $79.95/month.
The more customizable your eCommerce site, the pricier the set-up cost. However, big businesses that have a big, diverse product catalog, or unique shopping journeys such as wholesale orders will need to invest in a more configurable platform.
These platforms (such as Magento) are not designed to be set up by the average business owner, as they require coding and development skills. There will be an additional setup cost associated with the development of your eCommerce site, as well as an ongoing cost for maintaining and updating the site.
- Setup cost = $5000 and up
- Monthly cost = approx $2000/month
Related article: The Top B2B eCommerce Platforms in the World
Cost of eCommerce Website Design
Now that you have an eCommerce site hosted on a domain, you’ll need to make it look nice. That includes choosing a layout, updating the branding, uploading glamour shots of your products, and designing the overall flow of your website.
You can either choose to work from an existing template or theme, or custom design a website that is unique to your shop.
Lower cost designs
Most SaaS platforms have theme and template stores that you can easily apply to your site yourself. They offer pre-designed product pages and easy-to-update page layouts.
You might even be able to find a few free themes for more popular software like Shopify and BigCommerce. However, these templates may not be a perfect fit for your business, and using one of the popular templates may not be enough to make your shop stand out. Consider investing in additional customization to make sure you get exactly what you (and your customers!) need.
- Website Design = $0 – $250
- Customization Costs = $1000 -$2000
Related article: The 11 Best Free Shopify Themes in 2020
Higher cost designs
To give your site a competitive edge, you may opt for a custom design, complete with custom functionality. It certainly comes with a cost, but it can be a game-changer for bigger businesses that have additional requirements and a large enough audience to support them.
- Custom Website Design = $5000 and higher
Payment processing software costs for your eCommerce websites
While not a start-up cost, payment processing is an expense that you should include in your planning. Different platforms offer different processing options, each with their own cost.
Here are a few of the most popular eCommerce sites’ payment processing options:
- PayPal or Stripe for WooCommerce: 2.9% + $0.30 for transaction
- Shopify Payments for Shopify: – between 2.4% – 2.9% + $0.30, depending on your Shopify plan, plus an additional 2% per transaction for third-party payment gateways.
- PayPal or Stripe for BigCommerce:– between 2.4% – 2.9%, depending on your BigCommerce plan + $0.30 per transaction
Related article: The Best Shopping Cart Software for your Business in 2020
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) costs for your eCommerce website
If you build the most beautiful website, but no one can find it, your business will not succeed. That’s why it’s important to build your eCommerce website with SEO in mind. It’s much easier to start with a site that’s optimized and build on it, rather than trying to organize your content after it’s already built. Having SEO features built right into your design can save you money down the road.
Most SEO agencies will charge a monthly retainer fee.
- SEO agency cost: $300 – $1500 per month.
Additional software and plugins
There is any number of other tools and services you can take advantage of to make your eCommerce site stand out. Here are just a few ideas of additional tools you may want to include in your budget:
- CRM: Customer Relationship Management software (CRM) is a database that organizes and stores all of your customer information. It can help improve your marketing efforts through personalization.
- Search functionality: adding additional search functionality to your store may require a plug-in, but your customers will be able to find products much more easily.
- Abandoned Cart Saver: other extensions, like an abandoned cart saver, can add to your total monthly cost, but they also can increase your conversion rate by pulling potential customers back to complete their order.
Related article: Shopping Cart Abandonment: How to Reduce It
Content costs for your eCommerce website
You could write the copy and make images for your website yourself. But as we mentioned at the beginning of the article, time is money! Your content comes at a cost whether you spend time on it, or you outsource.
If you’re outsourcing content creation, your costs will include:
- Copywriter for website text including product descriptions and blog posts
- Professionally taken product images
- Creation of multimedia and videos
The cost of hiring creative varies hugely, but you should expect to pay a couple of hundred dollars per day, at least. Make sure your briefs are extensive and detailed to ensure a positive outcome.
So, how much does an eCommerce website cost overall?
Your total cost for a new eCommerce website will be between $50 to $3000/month plus setup fees. But we can break that down a little further.
|Time||>100 hours||>200 hours|
|Web hosting||$29 – $250/month||$1000/month|
|eCommerce software||$20 – $100/month||$2000/month + $5000 setup|
|Creative||$0 – $1000 setup||>$5000 setup|
|Payment Processing||2.9% + $0.30/transaction||2.4% + $0.30/transaction|
|Total Setup||$0 – $1000 + your time||>$10000 + your time|
|Total Monthly costs||$50 – $350/month + transaction fees||$3000/month + transaction fees|
When you first start an eCommerce website, you’re likely only to need the basics. But that changes over time. As your sales grow, invest in better infrastructure and design to make sure your site beats the competition. Hey, after all – it takes money to make money!