How Much Does an Ecommerce Website Cost in 2023?
Of course, companies that want a slice of this action need a well-functioning website to ensure customers can easily find and buy their products.
This raises the question:how much does developing and maintaining an ecommerce website cost?
Does it take a dedicated web designer to get your online store operational? Are there options for starting an ecommerce website on your own? Or do you have to pay for an expensive team to make your ecommerce goals a reality?
To answer these questions and more, we’ll break down the various factors that determine the cost of building and maintaining an ecommerce website. So whether you’re dipping your toes into the world of ecommerce for the first time or looking for ways to reduce the costs of running your existing online store, this post has something for you.
Let’s dive in.
What you pay for an ecommerce site all depends on your specific business needs and whether you opt for a custom build or a third-party ecommerce solution.
Set-up fees for ecommerce websites can range anywhere from $5,000 to well over $100,000. A small website with a core feature set will sit at the lower end of the spectrum, while a larger site with intricate design and advanced infrastructure needs will command a significantly higher price tag.
And then there’s the question of maintaining an ecommerce website once it’s built. Again, monthly expenses vary widely from one site to the next. A small business with minimal design and functionality requirements could spend as little as $100 per month, while the cost of running an enterprise-grade ecommerce store can easily exceed $10,000 per month.
Since there’s no standard price for an ecommerce website, you should greet any low-cost, “one-size-fits-all” offerings with a healthy degree of skepticism. It indicates that the agency or contractor in question is cutting corners somewhere. As with most things, if it seems too good to be true, you’re probably right.
There are several things to consider when calculating the likely cost of building and maintaining an ecommerce website.
For example, how many product lines do you have? What are your sales targets? And what are your traffic goals?
Other factors include the level of functionality you need, the cost of add-ons and integrations, and whether you use an ecommerce platform provider or opt for a custom-built solution.
Naturally, you’ll want a website that fits comfortably within your budget and sets you on course to a healthy ROI. So let’s take a closer look at some of the biggest cost factors below.
The first thing to consider is who will be responsible for designing and developing your website.
Whether you outsource the work to a professional design agency, a freelancer, or use an in-house team will all influence how much you pay.
Of course, the rates associated with each option are determined by factors like the vendor’s experience, location, and service level. If you go for an in-house designer, you’ll need to account for their salary, benefits, and resource requirements.
On average, ecommerce web development will cost between $35 and $120 per hour.
Big or complex websites are more expensive.
The size of your product catalog, your inventory management needs, the number of pages you have, and the intricacies of your user interface each have an impact on the cost.
What specialized functionality do you need from your website?
For example, do you need a content management system (CMS) to organize your customer information? Do you want to allow shoppers to create their own user accounts? Do you need on-site search functionality? An abandoned cart saver? And what about payment processing?
Developing a custom application for your ecommerce site could set you back as much as $5,000 or more. The alternative is to invest in a dedicated ecommerce platform like Shopify, which gives you access to an app store of free and paid tools.
How quickly do you want this done? Rush projects always cost more.
There’s an old saying that you have to choose between fast, functional, and cheap, and you can only pick two.
Keep in mind that it can take at least 100 hours to build a basic ecommerce website from scratch. So the quicker you need the job done, the more expensive it will be.
Another thing to factor into your budget is web hosting and security.
Web hosting is typically a monthly expenditure, but some hosting companies will offer a discount if you pay for the whole year upfront. The price you pay also depends on the level of hosting you need. Hosting your site on a virtual private server (VPS) can cost up to $1,200 per year while using a dedicated server can cost up to $24,000 per year.
You’ll also need to ensure your site is equipped with robust security features to protect your business and company data.
One essential security feature is a Transport Layer Security (TLS) certificate. This protects data transfers to and from your site. Annual costs range from $60 to $1,500, depending on your security needs.
There’s no use building an ecommerce website if customers can’t find it.
Search engine optimization (SEO) involves a series of back-end changes, content tweaks, and link-building initiatives that make your site more visible in search results. This is important since organic search accounts for 41% of ecommerce traffic, on average.
Keep in mind that optimizing a site for organic search visibility during the development phase is much easier than leaving it until after the site has launched.
So, when calculating the cost of your online store, be sure to factor in ecommerce SEO and any other promotional strategies you plan to use.
Your site needs to be easy to use on both desktop and mobile devices.
This is crucial since mobile now accounts for 63% of all organic visits in the US, and more than 40% of online purchases occur on mobile devices. Implementing a responsive design may cost more, but it ensures your site automatically adapts to the user’s device.
Equally important is page speed. Ecommerce conversions drop by 0.3% for every additional second it takes your site to load.
The more materials you can provide the designer, the less they have to do.
For example, you can save on costs by writing your own copy and creating your own graphics.
Why, then, do so many businesses prefer to opt for custom-built ecommerce sites?
One of the primary reasons is that custom-built solutions give businesses more flexibility to develop a shopping interface that caters to their specific audience. They have complete control over the site’s user experience, design, and layout and can add new features and functionalities whenever they need them without the constraints of pre-made solutions.
On top of that, custom ecommerce websites often let you generate more revenue in the long run. A third-party ecommerce solution like Shopify takes a cut of every sale, with transaction fees ranging from 2.4% to 2.9% (+$0.30) depending on your plan. This excludes subscription costs and additional fees for using third-party payment gateways.
Basic ecommerce web design is simple but effective, incorporating your unique brand identity while supporting your business goals.
A basic ecommerce site is the best option for startups and smaller businesses and typically takes between three and five months to develop.
The average cost for a basic ecommerce site is around $10,000. Keep in mind that most of this cost goes to web design. There won’t be many advanced features on offer at this price point.
A project like this usually starts with a discovery phase lasting two to four weeks, costing roughly $2,500. During this time, the designer will work with you to conduct market and competitor research to identify what your site needs to stand out and attract your target customers. This is also when you’ll decide how the user interface should work.
The design team will then review its findings, set up a project management framework, and start planning for the website build.
Next comes the development phase of your website’s front and back ends. This typically takes three to five months and costs around $5,000.
After that, the team runs tests and quality assurance checks to ensure the site adequately meets your audience’s needs. This costs around $2,500.
Once you’ve approved the finished product, it’s time to launch!
An intermediate ecommerce site is best suited for medium-sized businesses with more complex design and functionality requirements. Development costs more and takes longer than a basic ecommerce site.
Typical features of an intermediate custom ecommerce site include:
- Email authorization (So users can register and log into the site)
- Social authorization (So users can use their social media accounts to register)
- Categories and products
- Product search
- Simple product pages
- Product reviews
- Simple cart management
- Credit card processing
- Order history
Also, a project like this usually includes a custom CMS for product and order management, category management, and admin authorization/management.
So how does all this break down price-wise?
The overall price for this type of website sits in the neighborhood of $50,000.
The initial business analysis, including functional specification and project scope, costs around $2,500.
The UX/UI design costs are usually around $5,000 of the final bill.
Custom development of the website’s front and back ends typically makes up most of the cost, reaching $30,000 in some cases.
Quality assurance costs around $5,000, while project management can reach $7,500.
Enterprise-grade ecommerce sites with thousands of product pages, multi-level website design, and customer support features usually take at least nine months to complete.
$100,000 is a reasonable benchmark for a project of this size.
You can expect to pay around $5,000 for the initial business analysis and a further $10,000 for UX/UI design.
The bulk of the work goes into custom website development. For something really big, you’re looking at around $60,000 for this leg of the journey.
Quality assurance also takes longer for a site of this size, costing upwards of $10,000, while project management often tops $15,000.
The work doesn’t stop after you’ve launched your ecommerce store.
You’ll need an ongoing maintenance program to ensure your site continues to run smoothly, delivering a consistent user experience for your customers.
Remember, what’s cutting-edge today will be outdated in just a few years.
Some of the biggest costs factors associated with website maintenance include the following:
- Web hosting
- Annual domain name renewal
- Marketing and advertising
- Ongoing development and feature upgrades
- Payment processing
- CMS subscription
- Security measures
- Analytics and reporting
- Administrative costs
So what can you expect to pay for ongoing website maintenance?
Anywhere between $100 and $10,000, depending on the size of your site, your technical infrastructure, and the vendor you choose.
Experts believe that ecommerce will account for 95% of all shopping by 2040. So if you don’t have an ecommerce website yet, it’s time to get one!
We’ve seen that the cost of building and maintaining an ecommerce website depends on various factors, from the level of functionality you need, whether you opt for a pre-built or custom solution, and how soon you want your site to be up and running.
When you decide to find a web development agency to help bring your ecommerce goals to life, make sure you’re shopping around. Use the benchmark figures and cost breakdowns in this post to help you evaluate different quotes and proposals.
And for more information on website costs, take a look at our guide to web design pricing.