Looking to build an e-commerce site? While e-commerce can be a highly profitable venture for your business, the costs of building and maintaining a website can add up.
How Much Does an E-commerce Site Cost?
The short answer: it depends. Much of what you end up spending will depend on things like:
- The size of your business;
- The types of products or services you’re looking to sell;
- Your tech knowledge;
- How much you want to do yourself vs. hiring a professional or using an off-the-shelf service;
- Your business and customers’ needs; and
- What you’re willing to spend.
If you’re a small business, you could get away with spending only a few hundred dollars a year on an e-commerce site. However, if you’re a medium-sized or large business, you’ll see the most benefit from spending more.
After all, like all marketing and business tactics, E-commerce design and development is an investment in your company's future. If you skimp on the investment, you could be cheating your company of a brighter future.
In order to provide an in-depth analysis of how much an e-commerce site costs to design, develop, launch, and maintain, we've outlined the average pricing for the following key areas of E-commerce:
- Maintenance; and
For some of the costs, we've estimated based on the size of your business. For the purposes of trying to divide businesses appropriately, we've defined three key groups - small (> $1M in revenue a year), medium ($1 to 2M a year) and large (< $2M a year) businesses. And you should also note that all cost estimates are listed in US Dollars.
That's one of the great benefits of using a Canadian E-commerce design company, as the exchange rates heavily favor Canadian providers these days.
So, let's get started reviewing all of the things that make up the total cost for an E-commerce website.
Infrastructure Pricing for an E-commerce Site
Your e-commerce site starts with the infrastructure to get it up and running.
Infrastructure costs are often fixed either monthly or annually, but can range greatly based on the size and needs of your business.
Here is some pricing you can expect for the infrastructure of an e-commerce site.
If the domain name is available, it will normally cost between $10 and $20 a year.
However, specialty top level domains can be more expense. And, if your business has a generic brand name, getting your domain name to match your business name can be tricky. You may have to use an auction service like Sedo and shell out hundreds (if not thousands) for the domain you want.
The costs of hosting your e-commerce site on a server can vary greatly.
This depends on whether you choose to self-host your website or use a Saas (Software as a Service) platform.
If you choose to host your site yourself, the cost will depend on your site’s traffic.
It will also depend on what kind of hosting you choose, such as shared hosting vs. cloud hosting.
|$2.50 to 15 / month
|$20 to 85 / month
|$80 to 300 / month
Are you uncomfortable managing your server yourself? Would you prefer an all-in-one service? If so, SaaS hosting may be best for you.
SaaS platforms, such as Shopify, offer easy-to-use and scalable software to help you build your e-commerce site. These platforms host your website for you and can start as low as $29 / month.
However, large businesses with high-volume traffic may need a solution like Shopify Plus to accommodate their traffic, which can cost over $2,000 / month.
Although the features in Shopify don't always align to the business size, it quote often works out that the smaller the business, the lower level of Shopify services they require (or can afford).
Therefore, the breakdown for Shopify SaaS hosting would be as follows:
|$29 / month
|$79 to $299 / month
|Starting at $2,000 / month
An SSL certificate provides a layer of security for personal and payment information.
The SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) certificate is the encryption that adds the ‘s’ after the ‘http’ of your site’s URL.
For the safety of your customers, your site shouldn’t operate without one.
However, depending on your business’s requirements, pricing can range significantly.
It doesn’t necessarily depend on the size of your business. It depends more on the level of security you need (e.g. collecting payment information vs. personal information only).
If you choose a SaaS platform or a hosting service, an SSL certificate is almost always included in your fees. However, paid SSL certificates - which you may require to cover unique website or server configurations - can cost anywhere from $25 to $450 a year.
Payment processing fees are charged for every transaction on your e-commerce site.
For most payment gateways, the fee is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. However, some variations for popular gateways include:
- PayPal: $0.30 is only charged for transactions over $10;
- Authorize.net: Additional $25 monthly fee; or
- Shopify: Proprietary payment software with fees as low as 2.4% based on your plan, but you will be charged an extra 2% fee to Shopify if you choose to use a third-party payment gateway.
The Cost of E-commerce Site Design
Once you’ve established your site’s infrastructure, design costs involve the look and feel of your website. This can be relatively inexpensive or a huge upfront investment based on your business’s needs & the quality of the design work you are looking for.
Below you’ll find types of design pricing for an e-commerce site.
Themes are predesigned templates that can be relatively inexpensive.
Many SaaS platforms offer ready-made and user-friendly themes. You can therefore customize your e-commerce site design yourself without needing web design or development experience.
For example, Shopify has a themes library with several templates to choose from. There are many themes available for free with paid themes available for an annual cost of $160 to 300. You can also search for third-party themes that may be available for less, such as Marketplace Solution’s Shopify theme library.
The cost of the theme usually depends on the complexity of the design. Simpler themes will cost less and more comprehensive themes will cost more.
However, choosing a predesigned theme may not be ideal for medium or larger businesses who want something unique. If you’re looking to separate yourself from the competition, the customization and branding potential of a predesigned theme may be limited.
This is when you may need to start looking at customized themes, which can range in price. We talk more about pricing around customization below.
Apps & plugins
User-friendly apps & plugins extend the basic functionality of the website.
To develop an e-commerce site that meets all your needs, add-ons will mostly likely be required.
While some extensions, plugins and apps are available for free, many of them are paid. This can be reflected in a monthly cost that can start for only a few dollars a month but go up to hundreds of dollars.
You can also have a custom Shopify app developed for your site, which could cost you anywhere between Marketplace solutions price range depending on your needs.
For your cost estimates, consider Shopify’s app store. Take a look at some of the categories and types of apps offered. Then, see which apps seem like a necessity to you, like inventory management apps or shopping cart customization. Are the apps free or do they require monthly payments?
However, keep in mind that the use of too many plugins and apps can negatively impact the speed of your e-commerce website which can end up costing you more in sales than it would have to have the functionality custom coded for your website.
Maintenance and ongoing costs
Nobody likes the dreaded error 404 page. But we often think of setup costs when building an e-commerce site and forget about the hidden costs of maintaining your site.
Keeping your site fresh and functional is an important part of setting your business up for success online.
Here are some ongoing costs to factor into your budget.
Additional measures to protect your customer data.
On top of an SSL certificate, you may want to take additional precautions, particularly if you are storing sensitive customer information. This is especially important for businesses with large databases of customer accounts and personally identifiable information including names, addresses, emails, and more.
Consider software that detects automated attacks from bots and that removes malware. While many SaaS platforms offer bot protection, you may need to shell out some extra money for premium security extensions.
You may also wish to pay for data backups to keep your site data retrievable in case of disaster.
Costs for this software often range in price based on:
- The number of orders you receive each month;
- The type of payment plan you have for your SaaS platform; and
- The number of visitors to your site each month.
|$10 to 70 / month
|$70 to 300 / month
|$300 to 5,000 / month
To drive traffic to your new e-commerce website.
Basic email marketing software is provided on most SaaS platforms. However, you may need to invest extra costs in online marketing services for your e-commerce site, such as:
- Robust email marketing with a service like Klaviyo or MailChimp;
- Content marketing to keep your site relevant and fresh
- Search engine or social media marketing;
- Payments to influencers to promote your site; or
- Hiring a marketing agency.
These costs can come in at less than $100 if you’re looking to start small. If you’re looking to truly invest in marketing, though, you’re looking at hundreds, if not thousands, a month.
Custom E-commerce development costs
Everything we’ve talked about so far has mostly been for off-the-shelf products. If your budget hasn’t been busted yet, consider whether you want to hire professionals to custom design your website.
One of the risks of building your website yourself is that you don’t know what you don’t know. If you want your website to work for all your needs and don’t have the experts on-staff, consulting with a professional is often the best good option.
Some examples of possible e-commerce experts to consult with may be:
- Web design (front or back end);
- Mobile app developers; or
- Web content, marketing or branding professionals.
It’s hard to estimate the costs of hiring an agency, since it depends highly on the services that you’re looking for. They will likely consult with you and provide you with a free estimate for their services.
This could possibly start at $2,500 and escalate to the tens of thousands - or even hundreds of thousands - for enterprise-level customizations.
Although there are a lot of variables that go into the cost, the following is a rough guide to how much you can expect to pay for a fully designed e-commerce website based on the amount of work that is required.
|Small business with a small catalog, and a limited number of content pages.
|Medium business with a limited catalogue but requiring some custom functionality.
|Large business with a significant catalogue and requiring a wide range of custom functionality.
|$2,500 to $5,000
|$5,000 to $15,000
|$15,000 to $50,000
Of course, enterprise-level e-commerce design with a massive catalogue and significant backend integrations can cost a LOT more, depending on the needs of the company.
Plus, the totals listed above do not usually include include some of the other key factors to E-commerce success such as marketing, SEO optimization, and content creation.
Start Building your E-commerce Site
Depending on the size of your business, you could be looking at only hundreds of dollars a year for the cost of your e-commerce website. Or, you could be looking at hundreds of thousands of dollars a year if you’re looking for a hugely custom yet scalable e-commerce solution.
Hopefully from the cost estimates provided above, you have a better idea of what building your e-commerce site will cost your business.
If you ultimately decide to build a Shopify website and need Shopify experts to help you every step along the way, Marketplace Solutions can help. We provide a host of solutions ranging from setup to marketing and development.
Contact Marketplace Solutions today to discuss how we can help build your e-commerce business!
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