Some entrepreneurs boast that they’ve implemented their eCommerce store for only $100 in a few days, with the help of their brother-in-law. Others complain that they’ve already spent millions of dollars on such an investment, it’s dragging on for the third year and there’s no end in sight… Where does the truth lie? Probably somewhere in between these two extremes.
So, how can you estimate the minimum cost of creating and implementing your own online store? What elements should you include in such a calculation? We answer these questions in today’s article – happy reading!
What generates costs in an eCommerce store
Just so we’re all on the same page: the total cost of an online store consists of three main elements:
- 1. Operational costs, i.e. purchasing, storage and shipment of goods plus the cost of employees and relevant IT systems to handle it on a daily basis,
- 2. Implementation cost – more on this below
- 3. Cost of eStore development, i.e., all activities related to customer acquisition (marketing, including SEO).
What determines the cost of implementing an eCommerce store
Now, coming back to the topic at hand. Yes, you can indeed implement your own online store in only a few days for, say, $1,000. There are many ready-made solutions for eCommerce businesses out there that work in the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model. They allow you for a quick and easy configuration of your eStore and starting sales immediately.
This approach, however, will not work in the long run. Your online store will quickly become clogged and you’ll end up spending a lot of money for an urgent intervention by external specialists. As a result, you’ll have to forget about a fast entrance into the lucrative eCommerce business.
To properly build and implement an online store, you need to approach it professionally. Depending on the complexity of the project, you’ll need a team of specialists with various, complementary competences. Ideally, you should have the following experts onboard:
To give you an idea of how time-consuming the implementation of an eStore in the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) version can be, we’ve calculated the average values for a sample of 40 implementations that Satisfly has carried out. The minimum number of hours required to implement such a project is 700, with the average being 3,000.
And the record holder required a total of 8,000 hours of our expert work!
Where to look for savings while implementing an eCommerce store?
However, a well-designed process of creating and implementing an online store does not have to generate catastrophic costs. Here are its key stages along with some tips on where to look for savings:
- 1. Analytical work
If you do your homework properly and provide the company that will be implementing your online store with a complete, comprehensive input on the desired operation of your eCommerce business, you’ll significantly reduce the cost of analytical work. Remember that the more elements of your documentation require deepening and clarification (e.g., business requirements, user stories), the greater the impact of this stage of work on the final budget of the entire project. When preparing your brief, don’t take shortcuts and avoid asking closed questions (yes/no); instead, ask open questions that allow for an exhaustive answer.
- 2. Conceptual and graphic work
Contrary to popular belief, using a good-quality, ready-made online store interface template is not a bad practice. In fact, configuring it and modifying its selected elements will generate a minimal cost for you. However, if you want to design the interface for the desktop and mobile versions of your online store from scratch, it will significantly increase the cost of your investment.
- 3. Changes in the user interface (UI)
While introducing simple changes to the UI is likely to have a small impact on your budget, modifying the ready-made template to accommodate your own graphic designs will generate a significant cost. And replacing the entire template with a dedicated interface will increase it even more. So, make sure that the graphic design of your eStore takes into account the specifics and limitations imposed by the ready-made template you’ve selected.
- 4. Implementation of a basic eStore
If you choose to create a basic architecture or use a ready-made solution in the SaaS model, the cost of implementation will be negligible. However, if you want to ensure a state-of-the-art implementation of server architecture, environments, back-ups and a monitoring system, be prepared to spend a lot more.
- 5. Changing the application logic
Implementing ready-made store app modules or applying minor modifications to its logic will generate a noticeable, yet bearable cost. On the other hand, if you want to create many dedicated and complicated features for your online store, its total cost will very likely go through the roof.
- 6. Data integrations and data migrations
Implementing basic integrations with external systems, which can be made using available plug-ins, will have an average impact on the budget of your eCommerce investment. However, if you want to handle complex processes that don’t have dedicated plug-ins, you must take into account a very high cost.
To sum up, the most expensive elements of designing and implementing your own online store are: the analytical work, significant changes to the interface and the logic of the eStore application and handling non-standard integrations.
eCommerce store implementation: can’t it be done cheaper?
This is actually a valid question. If you want to lower the overall cost of implementing your own online store, follow these four tips:
- 1. Rely on your own (internal) skills.
Even if the implementation of your online store is carried out by an external company, it’s worth having certain skills within your own team. This will allow you to significantly reduce the cost of implementing and maintaining your online store in the long run.
- 2. Talk about needs, not solutions.
When doing the analytical work, bear in mind that you need a specific process in your online store and you’re looking for a solution to that, not the other way around.
- 3. Implement your store in the MVP version.
This will allow you to monetize on the investment faster and verify your original assumptions about the operation of your eStore. By letting customers in early, you’re likely to make some significant savings on features that they don’t need.
- 4. Adopt agile working methods.
Instead of planning the implementation in a year or two, plan dynamically and in the short term. The events of the last two years – i.e the COVID-19 pandemic and the inflation raging across the world in recent months – prove that decisions are worth making on an ongoing basis, taking into account ever-changing business circumstances.
Instead of a summary
As you can see, implementation of your own online store consists of many elements, the scope of which you can freely modify, thus lowering the final cost of the investment. And while entrusting this task to an external agency is not the cheapest solution, it will definitely pay off in the long run.