How much does an eCommerce website cost to build and host? You probably guessed there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. In fact, the costs could range from $5 thousand to more than $5 million, depending on the platform and requirements. Also consider you should continue to invest money to improve the function and experience of your online store when the initial development is completed (And don’t forget marketing spend, of course.). Waiting until everything is outdated and then tackling it all at once isn’t a successful or proactive eCommerce strategy.
So the range of costs could be anywhere from about $5,000.00 to millions of dollars, but let’s just use $350,000.00 as a theoretical first phase upper limit. Our firm generally recommends breaking work down into manageable chunks no matter what the scope is, and $350k is a manageable chunk even if the full project is much larger.
To narrow the costs down a bit based on your needs, read through the key areas that influence cost below and then check out the cost summary tables at the bottom of this article.
Depending upon how simple or complex the eCommerce platform is and what the licensing costs might be, the costs may vary quite dramatically for similar functionality. There are industry-specific solutions, integrated solutions based on ERP systems, and software as a service (SaaS) offerings designed to be comfortable for business owners to setup and configure themselves. If you would like more detail about eCommerce platforms, we have written a helpful guide to selecting an eCommerce platform as well as an eCommerce requirements worksheet. At the lowest cost, if you don’t need any outside help, some SaaS offerings start at $20-$30 a month (My colleague John Proctor gave an excellent interview about these platforms and how to get started). More configurable and customizable offerings like Magento and Magento Enterprise are not designed to be setup by a business owner (without expertise), so at a minimum you are likely to spend $5,000.00 with a good domestic vendor just to set up your store and do basic configuration and training.
eCommerce Web Design
Many platforms, and especially SaaS offerings, have design galleries, themes, or templates you can apply to your site yourself. While these may not be a perfect fit for your business or dramatically set you apart from other businesses who may use the same designs, these templates are a quick and cheap option. Expect to spend from $0 to $250 to purchase a theme and another $1,000 to $2,000 making minor changes and customizations (more than just a logo change, but not a custom design either).
When you get into custom design, the sky is the limit on possible expenses. Similarly, a custom theme may cost $10,000 to $100,000 depending on the specifics, requirements, and depth of the process.
Custom eCommerce Programming and Functionality
Many platforms (especially good ones) provide for module or extension support where functionality was developed by someone else can be added to your site (for a much lower cost than you could develop it yourself). Check first to see what extensions are available before writing custom code. Be prepared, however, for some of the extensions to be poorly written or implemented. Our firm always audits/evaluates extensions for quality, security, features, and support before recommending them to clients.
Outside of known extensions, custom development can get expensive quickly. A good team/firm will develop code that is thoroughly tested, secure, and reliable. While this is more costly than just tossing it together as quickly as possible, your custom code will hold up better over the long term. Extensions can break when you upgrade the core system, so poor code can cost you more money even if it works at first.
For a primer in how to consider these questions on a Magento platform, here are 5 questions to ask before starting a Magento online store.
eCommerce Web Hosting
Hosting is more predictable than other variables. SaaS offerings will typically include some level of hosting in their packages. You will want to check the included limits for things such as storage, traffic, products, customers, and orders. These solutions start out cheap and grow in cost as your sales and needs grow. You can plan on at least $20 – $250 in hosting costs before growing out of a typical SaaS solution.
Hosting for a custom eCommerce system will probably start around $300 a month for decent service and support, but probably won’t provide true PCI (credit card security) compliance. We have written a helpful primer on eCommerce payment security that will help you understand what you need to know. For a successful and busy site (with average requirements for redundancy, speed, scale, and security) hosted in a cloud or grid environment, hosting could cost upwards of $1,000 – $2,000 a month.
Cost of an eCommerce Website
Considering all the aforementioned variables, there is no quick answer to the cost of developing an eCommerce site. However, this chart will give you an idea of the combined costs that might apply to your situation:
Software as a Service eCommerce
(small catalog, light traffic)
|Setup/Config||<$250||$0 – $1,000||$0 – $2,000|
|Training||$0-$500||$0 – $500||$0 – $500|
|Total Setup*||< $2,000||< $6,500||< $10,000|
|Total Annual*||< $1,000||< $1,800||$2,000 +|
* Totals do not include other items important to the success of your site such as marketing and content creation including product descriptions and product photos.
(small catalog, no custom programming, off-the-shelf theme, light traffic)
(small catalog, light custom programming, customized theme, medium traffic)
(systems integration, large catalog, custom programming, custom design, high traffic)
|Licensing||< $500||< $5,000||$5,000 – $100,000|
|Design||< $3,000||$5,000 – $10,000||$10,000-$150,000+|
|Custom Development||< $500||$2,000 – $5,000||$10,000 – $150,000+|
|Setup/Config||<$3,000||$2,000 – $5,000||$2,000 – $10,000+|
|Training||$500 – $1,000||$500 – $2,000||$500 – $5,000+|
|Maintenance (monthly)||$500+||$1,000 – $2,000||$2,000 – $5,000+|
|Total Setup*||< $11,000||$15,500 – $29,000||$30,500 – $422,000+|
|Total Annual*||< $12,000||$18,000 – $30,000||$36,000 – $84,000|
* Totals do not include other items important to the success of your site such as marketing and content creation, including product descriptions and product photos.