If you’re thinking about opening up an online store, whether as an active business or a passive source of income, choosing the right platform or web partner is an essential first step. In this blog, we’ll discuss the true cost of eCommerce and comparing different solutions so you can make an informed decision for your business.
Before we get started, here’s a list of relevant resources that you might find useful:
If you’re thinking about doing-it-yourself, we recommend doing proper research about which platform you want to use by weighing up their pros and cons. We’ve also included some more information about this and links to more extensive articles below.
Other considerations would include hosting, SSL certificates and domain names, all of which you may need to individually source, depending on which content management system (CMS) you choose. All of these elements will impact the cost of your website, and you’ll also need to cover an annual fee for each one (maintenance costs).
The last thing for you to contemplate is how much time and knowledge you’re going to require to achieve what you’re looking for. eCommerce sites are often complex and need regular updates. Be sure you’re ready for the commitment that comes with building your website. Otherwise, it can be costly trying to fix it at a later date.
If you’re looking to upgrade your existing website to something a little more complex (and outside of your skillset) or you want to outsource your project to an agency, there are three ways you can achieve this. We explore each of these below, as well as a summary of how much they tend to cost.
Hiring an agency is the most expensive out of the three options, and you want to be sure they’re not outsourcing your project themselves (see option two) before you commit to any costs. However, this option does come with the most benefits. You’ll have a team of experts working on your website (not just one person), the opportunity to meet and work alongside them and if all goes well a best-in-class solution.
If the agency you choose outsources their projects, this can come with its own set of pros and cons. Make sure you ask this question before you commission your website, so you know what to expect. Outsourced development is often cheaper, but you may never meet or speak to the team working on your website in person, and often things get lost in communication between you, the agency, and the company doing the work.
Using a freelancer gives you the benefits of flexibility and affordability, and they’ll also be your sole point of contact. However, there are several downsides: a freelancer isn’t an extension of your team, which means they might not always be available when you need them. Additionally, they need to survive, which means they may work with competitors in your industry or on other projects as well as yours. And lastly, you only have access to one resource, and it’s unlikely they’ll be an expert in all areas of website design and development. This means they’ll be limited to what they can achieve too.
Based on the current market here are some rough hourly rates for each:
Each company or individual will also price differently. Some will pluck costs from the air, and others will use timesheets (previous project data) to give you an estimate. In contrast, others will use value-based pricing (X% of your business profit based on their perceived value).
Multiple factors can impact the cost of your website; the platform, the agency, and the complexity of your brief.
Whether you’re doing-it-yourself or hiring outside help, the most critical part of your journey to eCommerce is selecting the right platform. The top three CMSs include Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. We’ve compared these extensively here: Magento vs WooCommerce and Shopify vs WooCommerce.
As a self-hosted eCommerce platform, Shopify supports popular eCommerce brands and is the second most used platform on the market with a 19% share of the Top 1 million eCommerce websites. Shopify also offers different tiers ranging from $29 to $299 a month, all including various additional benefits. It’s important to note that Shopify does charge a transaction fee for eCommerce sites, you can find out more about this here.
Primed for the bigger eCommerce brands with development resources, Magento has a 9% market share of the Top 1 million eCommerce websites and is the third most used platform. Magento offers extensive customisation and scalability options with its Magento Commerce offering. However, Magento is better for enterprise corporations that can afford licensing fees, which range from $22,000 to $190,000, not including ongoing development costs.
The most popular of all three, WooCommerce has a 27% share in the eCommerce market and offers a range of extensive customisation features and functionality. WooCommerce itself is an eCommerce plugin for WordPress. It’s an easy-to-use solution that can be scaled up using further plugins, while also being the ideal solution for brands with content-heavy sites.
Before you make your choice, we recommend reading our more extensive comparisons as linked above. However, we have made our recommendations based on whether or not you’re outsourcing your project.
If you’re doing it yourself, we strongly recommend Shopify. It’s the simplest of the bunch, and because it’s self-hosted, you won’t have to worry about backups, updates and server maintenance. You’ll also find it easy to build pages, and their support feature is second-to-none.
If you’re hiring outside help, we recommend finding an agency that specialises in WooCommerce. It’s a sophisticated platform if you’re looking to do it yourself, but, an agency will have more room to achieve extensive customisation and functionality. It’s also easy to manage, which means once you’ve got admin-access, you’ll find it easy to update and add content.
We haven’t recommended Magento as it’s a platform that is losing support each year, it’s also overly complicated and expensive for what it is.
To give you a better insight into what you could get for your money if you were looking to hire an agency; we’ve listed our eCommerce offerings below and the features of both. As a small agency, we charge £75 per hour and base all of our project costs from previous builds.
At Supersonic Playground, we use WooCommerce as our platform of choice for eCommerce. Our custom website offering is precisely that; a fully tailored design that is unique to the individual client. This option is best suited to businesses that are looking to replace an existing eCommerce website with a more premium version, or those that already see the value in eCommerce and have a specific set of needs for their new website.
During these builds, our experts get to know your business and the needs of your consumers so that we can design a fit-for-purpose website. Examples include Hopes Grove Nurseries and Catchpole and Rye. With a custom website, we start with a blank canvas and design them from the ground up with the end-user in mind, helping our clients achieve a return on investment in the first year.
Our package eCommerce offering is a step-down from our custom-builds, but gives businesses with a lower budget the opportunity to achieve similar results but at a lower cost. Using the findings from our Custom builds and insights from well-known eCommerce brands such as Sports Direct, we developed a template website that would serve smaller online shop needs for a more general target audience.
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