Your website is the heart of an eCommerce business. Your website is the engine of sales and marketing. It establishes a 24-hour representation of your brand.
Online stores are based on how much money you invest. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs make the error of expecting high returns but investing too little in their websites. You’re much more likely to succeed if you have realistic expectations about the cost of launching a successful eCommerce shop.
These tips will help you plan your eCommerce website and budget for startup costs.
Budgeting for the first website build
eCommerce websites generally require more investment than informational websites, as they have more complex systems. For example, it is essential to plan the design and construction of product pages, set up shipping and payment processing, and implement security protocols to protect customers’ data. This work is more time-consuming and requires more resources, regardless of whether the site is built by you or a web agency.
Choosing an eCommerce platform
The platform you choose will affect the initial investment. For example, WooCommerce is currently the most popular eCommerce platform, followed by Shopify.
WooCommerce can be seamlessly integrated into WordPress. However, it’s challenging to do this yourself, so you will need to hire a developer to help with the more complicated steps. You will also need to purchase 2-3 WooCommerce extensions plugins. These plugins can run anywhere from $50-$100 each year. WooCommerce’s primary advantage is its open-source nature. It means that there are many thousands of specialists in this technology.
Shopify is an exclusive eCommerce platform. To build your online shop, you will need to purchase a Shopify account. Shopify’s advantage is the ability to see a breakdown of monthly costs based on the features you require. However, different WooCommerce features might require different levels of development. In addition, Shopify’s code is proprietary, so Shopify and their support team limit customization options.
Comparing WooCommerce and Shopify has its pros and cons. Remember that moving from one eCommerce platform can often mean rebuilding your website. Take your time and make sure to understand your goals before you decide on the right platform.
Template vs. custom design
Once you have chosen your eCommerce platform, it is time to select a design and development approach. Again, you have two choices: either using a pre-designed template or a custom design approach.
Which one should you choose? These are some things to keep in mind:
- How competitive is the market for your products?
- Time to market and timeline of the website project
- Your products’ complexity and customization
Use a web template
Shopify and WooCommerce offer templates that can be used as a starting point to build your online store. A template can be customized to save money and reduce the work of your website team. In addition, if you have to get products on the market quickly, it can reduce the time required to build the website.
A custom design is possible
On the other hand, a custom design approach means that a web developer creates mockups from scratch. If you want to distinguish your business from the rest, this option might be worth the higher investment and longer timeline. You may also want to be able to update your website on a regular schedule.
If you sell products that require complex development, a customized approach may be necessary for your products and store. For example, selling a product with a few variations, like t-shirts in different sizes, is more accessible than selling a subscription service with unique tee-shirts every month.
Subscription services and products that are constantly changing require more design and development. It means that the custom option is more practical.
Selecting a merchant processor
A payment gateway allows you to accept credit cards online. The choice of a payment gateway can also affect your ongoing costs.
You should set up a payment process so that visitors can make purchases directly from your website if your eCommerce website is a crucial pillar of your company. Avoid having visitors redirected to third-party sites to make payments. It can discourage purchases.
These are the top 3 payment gateways that you can use to narrow down your choices.
All these payment gateways can be integrated with WooCommerce or Shopify. Stripe, Paypal, and Authorize.net currently charge 2.9% each, plus $0.30 per transaction. Depending on the payment gateway you choose, there may be additional setup fees.
There is, for example, a WooCommerce Stripe plugin that can be used to set up WooCommerce sites. The WooCommerce Authorize.net extension, however, is a paid add-on. Therefore, you should consult an expert developer before you choose a payment gateway.
PayPal, for example, does not provide the best options when it comes to paid subscription services that are recurring. Therefore, if you are a subscription-based company, PayPal is not an option. Instead, consider Stripe and Authorize.net.
Plan for the long-term
Although the initial website build will require the most investment, long-term costs are necessary to maintain the site’s functionality.
These costs usually include:
- Hosting and SSL certificates
- Security monitoring
- Regular maintenance & development support
The choice of an eCommerce platform can also impact your monthly payments. For example, Shopify is a platform that only allows you to set up monthly plans. These plans are based on the traffic, security, support, and other requirements of your website. WooCommerce websites share similar conditions, but you have the option to choose which security protocols you want to set up and which hosting service to use. You can shop around to find the best hosting solution, but Shopify only offers one option: Shopify’s servers.
It can be tempting to host a WooCommerce website on a cheap platform to save money. However, once the site is live, it often becomes a costly mistake. WooCommerce sites perform poorly on shared servers with limited resources, especially when the site’s traffic increases.
You should budget for a WooCommerce developer or team to update your plugins regularly. This WooCommerce security update includes critical security patches. Failure to update your site can expose customers’ and their data.
Get your eCommerce business started
Many eCommerce businesses fail due to poor sales. However, you can make the right decisions at the beginning to ensure long-term success. Refer to your financial forecasts and business plan to make sure you are making the right decision.
Your budget will influence your choice of platform and site design. However, it is essential to take into account all aspects of your business when making decisions. For example, you can use a coming soon landing page if funding is a problem to validate your product or service. These results will make it easier to pitch investors.
You can still take small steps to establish a strong foundation for growth, even if you don’t want to apply for a loan. Be sure to review all options for your eCommerce website and plan for where your business will be in six months, one year, five years, etc. It will help you understand the risks and benefits of investing in an eCommerce website. You won’t be surprised at any problems or difficulties as your business grows.
Disclaimer. The opinions and views expressed in this article are the authors Shalom Lamm.