How much does it cost to build an eCommerce website in 2024?
💡 Quick Answer: The exact amount varies depending on the nature and scale of your business. At a minimum, you can start your own eCommerce website for less than $100 or hire a professional agency for around $10,000.
It’s 2023. You can’t run a successful business without an eCommerce website.
The pandemic has forever changed people’s shopping and purchasing habits. Since we were all forced to stay home, we had to buy everything online.
We all quickly got used to the immediacy and convenience, so it’s no surprise these habits stuck! After all, it’s so much easier to shop while on the couch and wait for everything to arrive at our doorstep.
Websites were important long before the pandemic. But with the global eCommerce boom expected to continue for years, it’s now a necessity.
Unfortunately, this necessity also costs money. It’s a critical investment that will make brands more competitive and—when done right—will generate tons of income.
How do you build an eCommerce site? There are many moving parts, and each step has a corresponding eCommerce website cost.
We will go through each expense, and by the end of this article, you will know how much it costs to develop a website in 2023.
What is an eCommerce site?
Regular websites have informational content about the organization and its products or services. They primarily exist to promote brands.
An eCommerce site is different because it is more of a shopping outlet. Customers can browse products, put them in their cart, and purchase them using online payment systems.
The site's main objective is to convert, which is transforming web users into buyers.
eCommerce sites are significantly more complex, and therefore their development will have a higher eCommerce website cost.
What are the benefits of having an eCommerce site?
An eCommerce site has many benefits for businesses and their customers.
For customers, the benefits include the following:
- Easy price comparison
- Multiple payment methods
For businesses, these are the biggest benefits of starting an online store:
1. Wider reach
Without an eCommerce site, your revenue largely relies on those who already know about your business. Sales come from those who purposely visit your brick-and-mortar store to purchase products or those who happen to pass by.
An online store has a much wider audience reach. Access is a breeze for people far beyond your usual demographics, including persons with disabilities, seniors, and those from around the globe.
2. Lower operational cost
While the initial investment for an eCommerce website can be quite high, operating a physical store can be more so. A brick-and-mortar requires a lease, unlike an online store, where inventory can be stored by a dropshipping partner. Plus, more employees are needed to run a physical store.
3. Affordable marketing
Online marketing is more affordable than traditional strategies. On social media, you can promote your brand without spending money at all.
For better online visibility, you can use pay-per-click methods where you are only billed for ads that people click on. You can also leverage various eCommerce marketing tools to draw a larger audience.
Yes, website development can be expensive. However, a business without an eCommerce site loses out on the opportunity to serve billions around the globe.
In no time, the benefits of having an online store will far outweigh the eCommerce website cost.
Factors affecting eCommerce website cost
eCommerce website cost isn’t the same for every company. Some businesses need a simple site, while larger organizations need more complex features.
The final cost will depend on several factors:
Website complexity and features
The best websites are created by a team of experts who have been in the business of web design and development for years.
The best websites that convert have the following features:
- Easy to use
- Mobile-friendly design
- Dynamic search functionality
- Versatile payment options
- Top-notch privacy and security
- Easy checkout system
- Web and mobile app
The better the features on the site, the more complicated it is to build, affecting the price.
Design and user experience
Nobody wants to shop at an ugly website.
But more than that, a well-designed website is easy to navigate. An excellent interface and smooth user experience will increase conversions and enhance brand reputation.
Development platform and technology
Development platform refers to the operating system, computer hardware, and technology developers use to create a website and all its features. An online store needs to process financial transactions, so an efficient development platform is necessary to create a fast website that can also support the creation of applications.
Technologies included in web development are the languages, libraries, and frameworks needed to structure the eCommerce site.
Content management system
An eCommerce site must be updated regularly with new products and prices. A content management system (CMS) is an essential application for managing all website content, from creation to publishing and editing.
More than 58% of global web traffic comes from mobile devices. To cater to audiences of all types, you must have a responsive website whose web pages are optimized according to the device it is viewed on.
Most websites are created for the desktop, so they won’t look great on smaller smartphone screens. Because a mobile-responsive website is more complex, it is also more expensive to develop.
Integrations and third-party tools
Third-party tools and integrations improve website and business operations. For example, a messaging app provides streamlined customer service. For this, an application program interface (API) is needed.
Cost breakdown of an eCommerce website
How much does it cost to build an eCommerce website? There really is no set amount because every business needs different things. You can start a website for as low as $100, although you may need to spend more if you expect more from your eCommerce site.
The following eCommerce website cost estimates will give you an idea of how much you need to launch your online store. These expenses are important considerations when writing your eCommerce business plan.
Here are the critical expenses to create a reliable and efficient site:
Domain and hosting expenses - $1 to $740 a month
Domain and hosting services are often billed on a subscription basis each month. You can get discounts for longer subscriptions.
There are three basic web hosting services:
Shared web hosting
As the name implies, one server is shared by multiple sites. This is ideal for new businesses and startups that don’t have a lot of customers yet.
A shared hosting plan is affordable at just $1 to $110 monthly. However, it is difficult to scale if the business unexpectedly grows fast—resources are quite limited.
Virtual private server (VPS) hosting
Larger businesses with heavier traffic need a dedicated server to cater to their needs and considerable activities. The service costs between $20 and $100 monthly, depending on specific components, such as a central processing unit, random access memory, and solid-state drive storage.
Businesses that are growing quickly need a dedicated hosting service. With a dedicated server, you can cater to a vast audience and include more features on your site. The cost of dedicated hosting ranges from $90 to $740 per month.
These companies are some of the top providers of domain and hosting services:
- InMotion Hosting
Website design and development - $10,000 to $300,000
The possibility of a website costing $300,000 to design and develop may be intimidating to most small businesses. But you must remember that multinational companies serve millions of people around the globe. Their websites are always busy, with thousands of transactions every day. Small businesses don’t need that much to start.
What affects website design and development costs? A website designer and developer can be one person, a team of experts, or an agency. One person could make a simple eCommerce site for $10,000. However, it will not be nearly as complex as a website created by a team of experts, which would include a project manager, product manager, solution architect, quality assurance engineer, and UX/UI designer, among others.
The specific type of website and the number of pages also affect the eCommerce website cost: the more pages, the more expensive the design and development. eCommerce sites need plenty of pages for their products or services.
But if you don’t have $10,000 to start, that’s okay, too. You can create your own eCommerce website on the following affordable platforms:
- Square Online
Square Online is free, and you only start paying when you make a sale. Shopify and Squarespace offer free trials, while WooCommerce and Magento are free to install. It is free to build a website on Wix. You pay when you want to connect to a domain or start selling.
Payment gateway setup - depends on transactions
An eCommerce site will not succeed without a robust payment gateway, which must support the most popular payment systems like credit cards, debit cards, online banking, and other mobile wallets.
Many payment gateways are available today, each with its own billing system.
Some of the fees collected by payment gateways include:
- Setup fees
- Transaction fees
- Monthly fees
- Batch fees
Fees depend on the bulk of transactions, the currency used, and the payment method used by the customer.
The top payment gateways are:
- Amazon Pay
- WooCommerce Payments
When you set up Shopify eCommerce, you can leverage its payment gateway system.
You can also install extensions and customizations to make payment easier for clients. These cost around $50 to $8,000, depending on the features and platform.
Security and SSL certificates - $20 to $70 per year (or $0 with some eCommerce builders)
A Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate creates an encrypted link between a web server and a user’s browser to keep transactions secure. The certificate authenticates the company or website’s identity so that an encrypted connection will be instigated.
Website security is critical for eCommerce businesses and should not be taken for granted. However, platforms like Shopify already include these for all its online stores by default with no additional cost.
Product catalog setup - depends on individual professional fees
The product catalog is a vital part of an eCommerce website. Each product must have multiple high-quality images from various angles, a detailed product description, and a set product price. These will help a customer make purchase decisions as they browse the site.
Product images and product descriptions are usually done by professional photographers and content writers. Many web design and development agencies include the complete product catalog setup in their packages. But if not, professional photographs range from $30 to $50 per photo, while content writers are paid between $15 and $40 per hour.
Shopping cart and checkout functionality - free to $399/month ++
A digital cart is a type of software that customers use to select, store, and manage items before checking out and paying for them.
There are two types of shopping cart software:
Hosted shopping cart
It is provided by a third party and is integrated into the website. It is best for businesses with limited technical resources.
Licensed shopping cart
It is a customized cart that you can design and develop based on your needs. However, it needs a lot of maintenance and requires robust technical support. It is ideal for large eCommerce businesses.
Again, the price depends on the company’s needs. Some of the fees involved are:
- Monthly fees
- Payment processing fees
- Transfer fees
- Cancellation or early termination fees
Here are some of the best shopping cart providers and their monthly plans:
Basic - $39/month
Advanced - $399/month
Premium - $99/month
Personal - $13/month
Professional - $16/month
Performance - $29/month
Shipping and tax configurations - $49 to $99
eCommerce companies, whether they have dropshipping stores or not, handle the shipping of products, and the configurations are part of the eCommerce website cost.
Calculating shipping and tax is head-scratching and complicated. But platforms like WooCommerce have simplified it with a plugin costing between $49 and $99.
SEO and marketing features - $2,500 to $7,500 per month
What’s the point of having a website that people don’t visit?
Search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing are essential elements of the eCommerce website cost. The total expense is on a case-to-case basis and depends on the scope of the marketing strategies.
A business may hire an internal SEO and marketing specialist or sign a contract with an agency for such a service. On average, eCommerce businesses spend between $2,500 and $7,500 monthly on SEO and marketing.
Ongoing maintenance and support - $100 to $5,000 a year
The work doesn’t stop even after your eCommerce site is launched. You must regularly update your product catalog, upgrade software and security, and pay for maintenance and support.
Maintenance will be needed for as long as your eCommerce site is up. Smaller sites can spend as low as $100 a year for maintenance, while larger businesses may spend thousands.
Average cost ranges for eCommerce sites
Every eCommerce business has different needs, so no two sites will cost the same. But based on the above estimates, we can project the following average costs for eCommerce sites based on size:
Basic eCommerce website
You can DIY an eCommerce site and spend $100 or less. This would include creating the site on a free platform and paying for a domain and hosting expense ($10-$15 a year), and plugin for shipping and tax configuration ($49).
But you will spend more once you start selling—you have to set up the payment gateways for at least $50 and cover transaction fees.
Those who prefer convenience and the expertise of professionals may need to spend a one-time fee of around $10,000 for the web design and development. Starting with eCommerce platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce will make things easier for your business and even more affordable since many features are already in place.
Mid-range eCommerce website
For a mid-range eCommerce site, you may need around $150,000 for the design and development and $70,000 annually for maintenance and other expenses. The academic definition of a mid-size company brings in $10 million to $1 billion per year.
High-end eCommerce website
For a large-scale and high-end eCommerce site, the design and development may cost as much as $300,000. Another $100,000 annually is needed for maintenance and to ensure customer transactions remain quick and efficient.
The amounts mentioned above are average estimates. The numbers are fluid and will change drastically depending on your needs.
If you only have a limited budget, you can still create a functioning eCommerce site that you can scale in the future. However, it’s best not to scrimp on such an investment since excellent websites lead to higher conversions and faster growth.
Additional considerations for eCommerce websites
Creating an eCommerce site involves making a lot of choices. Domain name, hosting server, eCommerce platform—there are critical decisions aplenty.
Here are even more things to consider before starting an eCommerce site:
Customization vs. pre-built themes
WordPress is the world’s most popular platform for creating a website. It is simple and easy, even for those with little to no coding knowledge.
On WordPress, you can choose between custom or pre-built themes. A custom theme is unique to your business, which is an advantage in attracting customers. You can also customize overall functionality.
But a pre-built theme has one massive advantage: affordability. If your budget is tight, you can start an eCommerce site using a theme that costs less than $100.
Hiring a professional web development agency vs. DIY
Again, there is a clear winner: hiring an agency to create an eCommerce website is always the better option. Agencies employ web design and development experts who can handle different designs and functionalities of an eCommerce site.
However, an agency is not always the practical choice for small businesses because of the cost.
Meanwhile, platforms like WordPress and Shopify make building a basic site easier for small businesses. And once the business starts to grow, it becomes possible to hire an agency to scale the website or launch a bigger and better one becomes possible.
Potential hidden costs
Building an eCommerce site involves a lot of steps that tap different platforms. You may be surprised at the final billing if you don’t read the terms and conditions when signing up for a particular service.
Always read product descriptions of servers, hosts, and website platforms. The credible ones make their calculations clear.
Look out for fees that are charged based on the percentage of total sales, which will affect your bottom line.
Scalability and future expansion
Nobody starts a business and expects it to fail. Success is always the goal, so scalability and expansion must be on your mind from the beginning.
The good thing about this type of eCommerce cost is that you can only scale and expand when you have the money to do so. Take note of crucial eCommerce metrics to track your success to know if it's the right time to expand.
Case studies: Examples of excellent eCommerce websites
Let’s look at some of the best eCommerce sites for small, medium, and large businesses and what makes them great.
Low-cost eCommerce website: Madsen
Madsen sells bucket bikes and their parts and accessories. With such a specialized item, there is no need for dozens of pages for its product catalog.
The site contains information about the brand and an online store with several payment options for versatility. It has a shopping cart feature and chat support. The website for this family-owned business looks very professionally made.
Medium-cost eCommerce website: LARQ
LARQ manufactures self-cleaning, reusable water bottles and pitchers. The brand was featured on the show Shark Tank for its innovative product and received a $1 million investment. Today, the brand has grown exponentially, with 15 retailers carrying the products in their stores.
Like any successful business, LARQ maintains its own robust online store even when bigger retailers like Amazon and Nordstrom already carry their items.
High-cost eCommerce website: Nike
Nike is one of the biggest and most recognizable brands in the world. It spends billions of dollars in advertising and marketing, millions of which are invested in maintaining its website, which carries hundreds of products. The website is designed well, and every image looks like a product poster. There are integrated ads, with celebrities like Giannis Antetokounmpo posing for the site.
Tips for cost-effective eCommerce website development
Not all businesses have the Nike capital. Most companies have to be more practical when it comes to spending money on their website.
Here are some tips to help you create a cost-effective eCommerce site:
Prioritizing must-have features
All of these are must-haves: design and development, domain and web hosting, payment gateway, security and SSL certificate, product catalog, shopping cart and checkout, shipping and tax configuration, SEO and marketing, and maintenance. It’s just a matter of being practical and minimalist with each.
You can create the simplest eCommerce site just to start. Upgrade the features once you can afford more.
Utilizing open-source platforms and plugins
There is nothing wrong with a DIY eCommerce site. It may not be as good as those developed by professional agencies, but it is a start.
Open-source platforms and plugins will help you create a functional and efficient starter website that you can improve in the future.
Comparing quotes from multiple developers/agencies
If you have the budget to hire an agency, look for one that can provide the best value for money. The most expensive firms aren’t necessarily the best. Find the best partner in creating an eCommerce website without financially crippling your business.
Planning for future upgrades
Scalability and expansion must be at the back of your mind even when your business is just starting. Only sign up for services that will be easy to scale in the future, and don’t lock yourself into very limited plans.
The bottom line
The best businesses you can think of have user-friendly and responsive eCommerce sites. Consumers are spending more and more time online, so it only makes sense for brands to meet them where they are. This means spending a lot of time and effort ensuring their online stores cater to customers’ needs and preferences.
A great website also comes at a great cost, as it must have all the elements to ensure the best possible user experience. And because not all businesses have the capital to go all out in web design and development, budgeting will play a key role in getting all necessary features into the site at a sensible eCommerce website cost.
But for startups and small businesses that don’t have significant capital, it is easy to set up a website for less than $100 and just scale once they start making profits.
If you’re looking to optimize your eCommerce business even further, you’ll definitely want to explore the benefits of SaleHoo Dropship – a hassle-free way to streamline inventory management and reduce upfront costs. Additionally, the SaleHoo Directory offers a wealth of reliable suppliers, empowering you to curate a high-quality product range for your store. As always, if you have any questions related to eCommerce or starting an eCommerce website, feel free to reach out to our 24/7 support staff. Embrace these opportunities to enhance your e-commerce journey and pave the way for a profitable online business. Start your success story with SaleHoo today.