This article is part of a larger series on Retail Management.
If you are looking for ways to expand your retail business, an online store is a great option. Starting an online store often requires less investment than opening a retail shop, but surprise costs do pop up. You can spend anywhere from a few hundred to thousands of dollars starting an ecommerce website, depending on the software you use, the design of your website, and any additional services you may want like search engine optimization (SEO).
Let’s look at the main ecommerce website costs and how much you can expect to invest.
Primary Costs Overview
What You Need
Free to $100/month
Free to $500+/month
Add-ons, apps, and plug-ins
Free to $50+/month
Templates free–$500; freelance design services $500–$5,000+
2%–4% + 30 cents per transaction; monthly fees free–$50/month
One of the first steps is choosing a place for your website to “live”—essentially securing a domain name. Your domain name is the URL people visit when they go to your ecommerce website. Usually, you’ll simply use your business name as the domain (YourBusiness.com), but this may not be available. In that case, you’ll need to choose a different domain name. You could use a variant (YourBusinessShop.com) or a different extension (YourBusiness.co or YourBusiness.info).
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While it’s possible to get a free domain name, domain names typically cost $5–$20 per year. More popular domain name choices might cost more—for example, if you want the domain to be something like Food.com or ShopNow.com.
Often included with your ecommerce site builder; shared hosting services range $5–$50/month; dedicated or virtual private hosting services typically $20–$100/month
Your web host stores your website files (such as your product images, descriptions, and more) and content management system (CMS). Typically this is on a server at a dedicated web hosting company like Bluehost or HostGator, or on the servers of an all-in-one website builder like Shopify or Wix. Many ecommerce website builders include shared web hosting in their paid packages, so you don’t have to worry about the added cost for website hosting.
Most small businesses can operate using shared hosting services. But if you want upgraded web hosting, look into virtual private servers (VPS) or dedicated hosting, which will cost more.
One thing to note, though, is that if you decide to go with a web hosting provider instead of an ecommerce platform’s shared hosting services, choose a host that can support ecommerce features such as secured payment processing (we will discuss this feature in detail below).
- What Web Hosting Is & How to Choose a Provider (+ Free Checklist)
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Free to $500+/month
Your ecommerce software is the most important tool and would take up a significant portion of your ecommerce website costs. Most ecommerce website builders come with a price tag, though you can get started for free on many platforms—bearing in mind this will significantly limit features and functionality.
You’ll likely find pricing tiers with ecommerce site builders. Shopify pricing, for example, ranges from $39/month for its Basic plan to $399/month for its Advanced plan. You can also get started selling on social media without a standalone store for $5/month (Starter).
It’s important to look out for hidden costs. Features may be limited depending on your location, number of products, or other parameters. Also, be on the lookout for required monthly minimums, monthly service or access fees, and installation costs.
Here’s a breakdown of some of our recommended platforms’ ecommerce website pricing:
3-day free trial;
$1/month for three months
15-day free trial
Free plan available
Free plan available
Point-of-sale (POS) app
Payment processing fee
2.9% + 30 cents
Starter & Basic;
2.6% + 30 cents Shopify;
2.4% + 30 cents Advanced
2.05%–2.59% + 49 cents
2.9% + 30 cents Free & Plus;
2.6% + 30 cents Premium
Add-ons, Apps & Plug-ins
Free to $50+/month, but can vary greatly
You might need to add functionality or integrations to your ecommerce site via add-ons, apps, or plug-ins. Sometimes these platforms have associated costs, either as one-time purchases or recurring fees. Evaluate the functionalities you truly need to avoid unnecessary expenses.
Our top pick for ecommerce platforms, Shopify, has an extensive app store where you connect almost every imaginable software to your online store. For example, you can connect to different social media platforms, marketplaces, and dropshipping companies via apps to be able to buy or sell on these platforms seamlessly.
Templates free–$500; freelance design services $500–$5,000+ depending on functionality and site size
Three-quarters of your business’s perceived credibility is based on your website design (see some of our other web design stats). So, it’s an important consideration, though it ranges in cost.
There are many ways to approach your ecommerce site design. You can do it yourself (DIY) using ready-to-go templates available for free or for sale through your site builder’s theme library. All you have to do is update the look and feel for your branding and add the content.
But if you need more specific design and functionality or simply don’t want a DIY ecommerce store, you can enlist the help of freelance web design and development services.
These prices have a huge range, largely depending on the experience of the designer/developer, the functionality you require, and the overall size of the project. Expect to pay no less than $500 for a basic site. Complex sites can cost thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars. Don’t be afraid to start small.
Here’s a rough breakdown of what it looks like to outsource this part of the site build:
Web Design With
Cost to Build a Basic Website
Cost to Build an Ecommerce Website
Includes Hosting, SSL & Domain
Cost to Maintain
Freelance Web Designer
Digital Marketing Agency
Custom retainer or hourly
Web Development Firm***
Time-based per hour
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2%–4% per transaction; some platforms charge additional monthly fee
Facilitating secure and convenient payment options is essential for any ecommerce business. Popular payment processors like Authorize.net, Stripe, and PayPal offer different fee structures.
- Authorize.net: 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction + $25 monthly fee
- Stripe: 2.9% + 30 cents per transaction.
- PayPal: 2.9% + 30 cents for transactions over $10
- How Does Payment Processing Work?
- What Is a Merchant Account? A Guide for Small Businesses
- How to Accept Credit Card Payments Online for Free
- 6 Best Retail Payment Processors
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- 13 Payment Trends Shaping the Future of Retail & Ecommerce
- 40+ Payment Trends & Statistics to Know (2023 Edition)
Other Factors to Consider
Business Type & Size
The scale and type of your ecommerce business play a significant role in determining costs. A small boutique store with a limited inventory may have lower expenses compared to a large enterprise with an extensive product catalog. Additionally, businesses that handle international transactions may incur higher costs due to currency conversion and additional compliance requirements.
Functionality refers to the capabilities you want for your site—including things like one-click checkout, user behavior tracking, appointment booking tools, personalization, and subscription options. Some ecommerce site builders include functionality in their plans. Others, like WordPress, require some type of integration or plugin. If you need several plugins, this could drive up your ecommerce website price.
SEO & Content
To drive organic traffic from search engines, you’ll want to invest in search engine optimization (SEO). Hiring an SEO expert or agency typically costs anywhere from $500 to $5,000 per month, depending on the scope of services and niche.
High-quality content, including product descriptions, blog posts, and marketing materials, is essential for SEO, engaging customers, and building brand credibility. Content creation costs vary depending on the complexity and volume of content required. Freelance writers may charge 5 cents to $2 per word, while professional agencies might offer fixed packages or retainer-based services.
- 15 Best Places to Get Free Images for Website Design
- SEO for Ecommerce Websites: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
Ecommerce Website Cost FAQs
The cost of an ecommerce website can range from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. It primarily depends on factors such as domain registration, web hosting, ecommerce software, website design, payment processing, and additional services like SEO and content creation.
You can build a Shopify website for as low as $39/month under its Basic plan. Other plans are priced at $105/month (Shopify plan) and $399/month (Advanced Shopify plan). An enterprise plan is also available.
Our top ecommerce website builders, in order, include the following:
- Square Online
Starting an ecommerce site in 2023 can be a low-cost venture, but the expenses add up quickly if you’re not on top of it. From domain registration and web hosting to ecommerce software fees, website design, payment processing, and more, there’s so much that goes into creating a successful online store. Evaluating your business needs and comparing different options will help you make informed decisions and set a realistic budget.