How much does it cost to start an eCommerce website?

Ask a question about small business. We'll answer by email & post our answers here to help others.

I'm thinking of starting an online store and would like to know how much I can expect to spend on shopping cart software, Web hosting, domains, Web design, development, and anything else I need in order to start an eCommerce store.

I have a bit of Web experience and am prepared to spend some time developing my own site if necessary. But, when it comes to deciding on how to implement an online store, there are so many options it is impossible to tell which one is the best.

What is a good estimate for the costs involved in starting an online store?

Good eCommerce platforms are relatively inexpensive

The good news is that, depending on your precise requirements, getting a high quality eCommerce store up and running will cost in the region of tens to hundreds of dollars - a really small amount compared to what it would have cost only a few years ago.

When developing a new eCommerce website (or any blog or website for that matter), you can select any two of the following three options:

  1. time
  2. cost
  3. quality

In other words, if you want a high quality eCommerce site quickly, you should be prepared to pay. If you want a high quality site without paying, you need to be prepared to put in plenty of time and effort.

It's up to you to balance this equation based on the needs of your store.

Online eCommerce website builders (shopping cart software)

With that said, online shopping cart builders have skewed the equation in the sense that for relatively low cost, you are able to have a high quality online store almost instantly.

In addition, online store builders take care of all the back-end server stuff so you don't need to find a Web host or register a domain separately.

For that reason, I strongly recommend that eCommerce startups that don't have plenty of Web skills (PHP, HTML, CSS3, SEO, etc) consider using a high quality eCommerce site builder:

Rank Software Pricing (per month)
1 Shopify $30 - $180
2 BigCommerce $25 - $300
3 Volusion $20 - $150
4 Magento $15 - $125
5 Pinnacle Cart $30 - $150

Free eCommerce platforms vs. online store builders

It is possible to build an eCommerce platform for free. Many CMS systems offer eCommerce extensions (like ubercart for Drupal), and there are open source eCommerce projects like osCommerce (not recommended - poor underlying code).

However, it will take far longer to learn how to design an online store using these free options than it would using an online eCommerce site builder. That time could be better spent creating content, attracting new clients, and making sales.

#1 secret to eCommerce success: Generate a revenue stream as quickly as possible

Other eCommerce options

There are a couple of other ways to create an eCommerce store. Drop shipping services offer entire packages including websites. To learn more about drop shipping eCommerce, read How to start a drop-shipping eCommerce site.

You might also want to check out PayPal. PayPal is a payments gateway service that also offers plenty of features that can be used to create a basic eCommerce store.

Using PayPal, it is possible to turn a basic blog into a site that can accept payments via embeddable payment buttons provided by PayPal.

This option will work if you know that you will never need anything more complex than a buy this button. The second you start receiving a substantial amount of orders, chances are you will want stock control, fulfillment, and plenty of other features that get a bit harder to manage using PayPal alone.