With more than 1.2 billion digital buyers worldwide in 2015, online shopping is a growing trend no one should ignore. With that number growing 7.5% in the next year, e-commerce websites sure look like a great opportunity from an entrepreneurial perspective. Selling products, whether they're online courses, handcraft jewelry, t-shirts, and so on, is an excellent way to broaden your website's current offer.

number-of-digital-buyers-worldwide-2011-2016

With so many buyers, one question is popping up into my head: how much is the e-commerce world worth? How much money are people spending online to buy stuff around the world? Let's see.

The e-commerce world in U.S.

US ecommerce sales (Q3 2015)

The Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimates that U.S. retail e-commerce sales for the Q3 of 2015 was $87.5 billion (+ 4.2% from the Q2 of 2015) and 15.1 % from the Q3 of 2014 (PDF file).

The e-commerce world in Europe

EU online retail sales

According to the Forrester European forecast, online retail sales are projected to reach $247 billion by 2017, growing from $165.6 billion hit in 2013.

The e-commerce world in Asia-Pacific

Estimated ecommerce sales Asia

A PwC research (PDF file) for the Retail and Consumer Products Sector in Asia Online says sales in Asia Pacific are expected to reach a total of US$1.3 trillion by 2019, with China leading the way for the biggest market.

Wow, right? Huge numbers ahead of us. And do you know a cool thing about numbers? They don't lie! Now that you know how much the e-commerce world is worth around the entire globe, it's time to dive into what e-commerce solutions are out there that you can leverage to grow your business, get them know a little bit better and see how much they're going to cost you to set up.

Market share of the top e-commerce platforms

It's no secret, there are plenty of options to create an online store and sell items, ranging from shopping cart features with the ability to handle payments, to those more complex and detailed for medium and enterprise levels. In the e-commerce world, we're discussing here, there are 4 main players who power up most of the online stores: they are WooCommerce, Squarespace Commerce, Magento, and Shopify.

Ecommerce technologies market share

As you can see, with (almost) 30% of all the online stores, WooCommerce is currently the most widespread adopted solution in the world followed by Squarespace Commerce with 16%, Magento 6%, and Shopify with a 4% adoption in the entire web.

But how do they differentiate one another? How much will they cost you? How difficult are they to setup and use? Let me tell you about it.

Want a quick answer to how much does an e-commerce website based on WordPress will cost you? Check out our infographic: WordPress pricing debunked.

WooCommerce

Developed in 2011 by Mike Jolley and Jay Koster, as a fork of Jigoshop e-commerce plugin, WooCommerce is a free plugin that enables the most common and useful e-commerce functionalities to any WordPress websites. If those aren't enough, or you just need something more specific (like, for example, handling EU VAT numbers correctly), there are plenty of extensions you can download/buy that will perfectly work with your WooCommerce-powered website.

Costs and noteworthy aspects

  • Free plugin to download
  • Free themes available, and premium themes starting at $39
  • Extensions: from $0 to $249
  • Technical knowledge required: medium to high, depending on business needs and custom setup

Squarespace Commerce

Launched in 2004, thanks to the work of Anthony Casalena, who used a $30k investment from his father, Squarespace is an all-in-one solution to enter, grow and manage your business online. Hosting, templates, blogging tools, carts, social media integrations, etc. are some of the features that Squarespace users have at their hands. Since it's a SaaS solution, it offers different price stacks based on the product you choose with a monthly-based minimum purchase.

Costs and noteworthy aspects

  • No downloads required and no server-side configuration needed
  • 1 custom domain with annual purchase
  • 2 e-commerce solutions: Basic at $30/month ($26/month if billed annually) and Advanced $80/month ($70/month if billed annually)
  • Technical knowledge required: none

Magento

Magento is an Open Source e-commerce framework (written in PHP) that powers up many online stores around the world. Born in 2007, it tickled the interest of a business giant such as eBay, who in 2011 acquired the company, but recently Magento has reborn as an independent company called Magento Commerce. Their main products are Magento Community Edition and Magento Enterprise Edition.

Costs and noteworthy aspects

  • Magento Community Edition: free to download and Magento Enterprise Edition: $18,000 per year
  • High levels of configurations for all the features like catalog browsing, checkout and payments, analytics and reporting just to name a few. (more info here: PDF file)
  • Technical knowledge required: high,

Shopify

Born in Canada, from two unhappy snowboard equipment shop owners, Shopify now powers around 200k merchants all over the world. The main reason behind this it's the ease and friendliness of use, combined with all the tools (apps) you might need for your online store in "one place". Shopify offers ~100 premium themes you can choose from (available both as free or paid) and an app store thanks to which you can add features to your online store. As SquareSpace, it's also a SaaS paid service.

Costs and noteworthy aspects

  • 4 plans available: Lite starting at $9/month, Basic starting at $29/month, Pro starting at $79/month and Unlimited starting at $179. Note: if you accept credit cards, there's a fee to add depending on your plan.
  • If you already have an offline store, you can use Point of Sale (POS) System from Shopify to integrate all your online and offline sales.
  • Support also via phone, with 4 international phone numbers
  • Technical knowledge required: little to none

What if you already have a WordPress website and want to integrate an e-commerce into it?

Since Squarespace it's a CMS on its own, it makes no sense to integrate it into a WordPress website while the remaining 3 are perfectly suited to be "merged" into a WordPress installation.

This is the most common situation: you have a website for your company, startup, etc., and you're now thinking to sell "something" online. "How can I do that?", you ask yourself. Before answering that question, I'd like to provide some good points on why you should do it:

  • It'II create a mutual channel between your visitors and buyers working as bridge
  • It'II improve the whole UX
  • It'II improve the SEO of your product pages
  • Generally speaking, having a more coherent and seamless structure can lower the frictions that might bring your visitors and buyers to leave

At the end of the day, it's about picking the opportunity cost solution that best fits your current business. And if you already have a WordPress website, it'd be silly not to integrate it.

How to integrate Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce into your WordPress installation

I won't go into details in this post but here's how you can integrate Magento and WordPress, a quick guide to integrate Shopify and WordPress, and finally a handy guide to integrate WooCommerce and WordPress.

Need top-notch WordPress developers taking care of your WooCommerce, or any other integrations and customizations? Post your task and let them help you!

Fixed costs for each of the e-commerce solutions

E-commerce: Fixed costs table

These numbers represent the fixed items bundled with each plan and available options or features. Things are way different when we're talking about designing custom solutions. So when we need also to account for planning, design, development, etc., which are essential steps in any solid web project, it's completely a different story.

Long story short: the question "how much would an e-commerce cost me" still remains unanswered.

So, how much will it cost me to build an e-commerce?

Whenever it's time to talk about prices and final costs with such open-ended questions, it's tough to come up with specific numbers because there are too many things involved in planning, creating and developing a behemoth of a project such as an e-commerce. So we need to start with a known example: our website.

For the planning, designing and development of Codeable website, it took a total work of approximately 8 weeks (considering working on it full-time at $60/hour), with a final cost of $26k+. What if we bought a theme on, for example, ThemeForest, rather than developing our own? The cost would account for $14k+, which is lower, but still it's quite steep for someone who thinks building professional websites is an almost-free kind of job.

What piles up as costs for an e-commerce?

It depends on many aspects, but the 3 most important elements that you need to consider when budgeting for an e-commerce are time, available resources and future maintenance. This means that, for example, if you have deadlines to respect, the closer you get, the higher the costs will be for you. Also: do you have in-house resources that would be available/have the knowledge to deliver what you need? And again, who will be in charge for the future maintenance of your e-commerce, once it gets online? Will you have taken into account money for that? These questions are just at the very beginning of the journey towards an online e-commerce.

Here's a list of the costs to consider before thinking about building an e-commerce:

  • Domain
  • Reliable and scalable hosting
  • SSL certificate
  • 3rd-party fees (like PayPal)
  • Planning
  • UX
  • Visual Design
  • Development and Documentation
  • Testing
  • Copywriting
  • Imagery

As you can see, building up an online store is a complex project that ranges around different aspects, thus involves various subjects on it.

How much does it cost to build an e-commerce based on WooCommerce?

Since we're working with WordPress, and because of its large market share, WooCommerce sounds the most natural option to me when thinking about e-commerce. So how much will you spend to build yours?

If you're able to do all by yourself and don't consider your time working on it (which sounds crazy, but let's go on for the sake of the argument), building up an e-commerce based on WooCommerce will cost you a little less than $1,000, with a good hosting company, a paid SSL certificate, a premium theme, as well as some paid extensions.

Note: if you just download WooCommerce, and use a free theme, pick the cheapest hosting company, you might find yourself spending less than $1000. But this example makes no sense here because that wouldn't be a business tool (like an e-commerce is meant to be), it'd be just a WordPress website with a plugin.

Even if these numbers look appealing and might lead you to shout "C'mon that's not much for an online store! Why do developers keep saying it'd cost way more than that?", you'll know why in seconds.

When looking at such numbers, you should be warned because they don't account for regular maintenance, for specific needs related to your business, for any customizations, and they take for granted both these concepts: you know how to set everything up and all the time you'd spend working on it isn't accounted for as an expense.

Commercegurus provides a detailed overview of the costs related to e-commerce solutions and state that:

A typical budget for a WooCommerce custom eCommerce project would be between $10,000 and $20,000 for SMALL to MEDIUM eCommerce websites. Scope and eCommerce maturity will significantly influence which end of the scale a project will fall into.

As you can see, numbers are 10x higher than what we saw before when talking about setting up a small to a medium e-commerce website. And even if not everyone agrees on these numbers and says that $5,000 is what you should expect to pay for starters, you get the idea: building an e-commerce will cost you some real money.

You can create and run a great e-commerce almost for free. Said no successful business owner ever. Click To Tweet

How much will it cost me to maintain an e-commerce website?

As a rule of thumb, Chris Lema says that you should always consider something in between the 3% to 10% of the revenue generated by the e-commerce in one year as a cost of keeping it up and running smoothly:

Did you know that on average, of over 150 online retailers studied by Forrester, the cost of supporting their e-commerce systems was 7% of their online revenues.

Now there was a wide range, from 3% to 10%, but think about it. If a company generates $1 Million from its e-commerce platform, it should expect to spend at least $30,000 in a year – to keep it well-tuned.

Wrapping up things

good fast cheap chart

When it comes to talking about costs, there's no one answer for all. Depending on your business size, status (early stage vs. established), strategy, budget, and deadlines everything might lead you to pretty distant numbers.

All-in-one e-commerce solutions such as Shopify or Squarespace, when compared to WooCommerce and Magento, come with less room for customizations on your end, and they only require a nice and short learning curve from your side. That's why they're great for non-technical users or people who just want to launch their online store right away.

On the other hand, scalable solutions such as Magento and WooCommerce can offer you almost infinite combinations and customizations, thus, are able to address any business needs. These products require medium to high levels of technical knowledge and are mostly adopted by experienced users, entrepreneurs with developers at their disposal or people who are willing to invest their time understanding how these solutions work.

What all of the 4 e-commerce platforms discussed here have in common is that they will cost you some real money to use as part of, or as your core, business. And this is the very first rule of running any business, whether online or offline: if you want results, things don't come for free.


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  • Excellent write-up. I really appreciate the data and charts you used to make your points. Well-written piece.

    As a fellow designer-developer, I’m partial to WooCommerce because of the near-infinite customization options. But for some small business owners flying solo with a basic store, Shopify might make a lot more sense.

    • Hey Dave,
      thanks for your kind words. So much appreciated ;)

      Yep, I think Shopify it’s the go-to option for non-techies or, as you said, solopreneurs might find it as an effective solution (aka they don’t need to take care of some time-consuming setup). On the other hand, well, WooCommerce has been the most adopted e-com solution for quite some time and there should be some reasons behind this, am I right?

      • You right. WooCommerce must be even easier to use for non-techies than we think. I don’t think you acquire 29% of the market share by only catering to designers & developers.

        I’m excited to see them grow, now that they’re under Automattic’s wing.

        • I don’t think you acquire 29% of the market share by only catering to designers & developers

          I couldn’t agree more.

    • As another fellow designer-developer, would you not be hesitant to give clients shopify instead of woocommerce? Because it is so easy, they may not even need you and now you’ve spent less time, made less money, pretty much gave your services to someone else. Or am I thinking of this the wrong way?

      • e11,
        There’s no right or wrong in how you think about this. Depends on how you prefer to run your business.

        Personally, I prioritize what’s best for my client, first and always. Even if it means less revenue. Assuming both platforms provide the necessary functionality… If one of my client’s goals is to manage their site themselves, and I think they’d have a much easier time using Shopify, I’d recommend Shopify.

        The client’s success, happiness and long-term ROI are more important to me than potential revenue from that client. I see that as relationship & trust building. Then that client will refer me to a bigger company with a larger budget, and the aptitude (and possible necessity) to use WooCommerce, and I can make lots of money then, while still keeping the client’s success as my #1 priority.

        • I agree and I always tell the client what is best for them but I wanted to know what others thought about this. Thanks Dave.

  • Really useful & detailed write up, although on your market share by platforms section you state Magento as having a 6% market share, whereas when clicking through to your source is shows
    14% for CE, and 8% for EE.

    Great article though…

    • Just to clarify here: when you clicked the link I posted, did you also click on “The Entire Internet” tab on the right? If you do that, you’ll get the graph (and data) I posted here. Let me know :)

      • Hey Matteo,

        Ooops – you’re absolutely right!

        • No worries, glad we’ve cleared that up ;)

  • Zach

    This article is spot on. One thing that i’d consider mentioning, especially for sites being built on a budget, is to use a free SSL certificate from LetsEncrypt. It’s in an open beta now and is completely functional. I’ve had it set up on a private GitLab server since they were in private beta and the software is really easy to use. Their certificates are just as valid as an SSL you’d get from anywhere else (meaning they’re cross signed).

    I also usually recommend the Braintree payment gateway for new eCommerce sites (esp. ones on a budget). They offer virtually the same functionality as any other gateway, but they give you your first $50,000 in transactions, transaction free. Assuming you do $50k in sales, that’s an extra $1,500 in the client’s pocket. I actually use it as a selling point.

    Another really cool thing is that Stripe announced ACH payments. This means that they only charge 0.8% with a maximum fee of $5. This is also an option where clients can save a lot of money in transaction fees – especially if their average sale is over $600.

  • Some really interesting facts and figures thanks – I didn’t realise that WooCommerce is so far ahead the hosted e-commerce platforms. It also helps to justify our own costs for designing WooCommerce websites, as we try to be competitive while acknowledging that it’s a lot of work to get an e-commerce website right, even if you use an existing theme.

  • So,….. Opencart doesn’t even register on the radar. I thought they were decent in size. We got two sites running on Opencart…mmm, now yo got us thinking.

  • priyanka poojary

    This article is very informative, brings various aspects of e-commerce to light. Styledge is an E- commerce platform that enables young business enthusiasts build their own website at a very economical rate. They also provide logistic services. Do check them out.

  • This is very interesting. I have been debating which platform to use for my new e commerce store. This article has cemented my decision to go with woocommerce. I already wanted to after seeing this video, but I wanted to conduct further research as well.

  • Magento_oCodewire

    No doubt!! e-commerce is a trend nowadays. Everyone love to start their business with e-commerce platform. E-commerce completely satisfy the customers needs.

  • Hi,
    In 2016, Ecommerce store is currently trending on the internet, Most Ecommerce Builder gets offers for Online store. You also mentioned some Ecommerce platforms, But I would suggest Webnexs wcomm which is cheapest Ecommerce website builder. Price starting in India just INR 999/Month and rest of the world @ $19/month.
    Thanks

  • Rohini D

    Great article and very informative, also i heard about webkites http://www.webkites.in hope this also will helpful…

  • Daniel

    Quick question for you David, as well as anyone else. How much would you charge for an e commerce website with about 1500 items. All these items include a description. They’re on ebay at the moment and client wants me to take them from ebay and place them on his new website. I’m having trouble pricing a job this huge. Anyone have any suggestions?? I’m open to all :-)

    • Craig Sapsford

      Hi Daniel,

      A project that size is never easy to cost up. Maybe set a fixed price for the site itself, then create an hourly charge for adding the products in the inventory?

    • Zareen

      I am also having difficulty in pricing the website for my client. It will be my first e-commerce website as a developer for 50 items each having description. How much should I quote.

  • Jaffrey Eric

    Great explanation about developing Ecommerce website. I am a website developer and I used Shopify and Magento platform to build Ecommerce websites for clients. I learned a lot of new things from this post. Thanks!!

  • peter jackson

    Actually I looking to make an ecommerce marketplace store in multivendor format. So I’m into the search of marketplace software in magento 2 version, I got a marketplace script here https://goo.gl/3DvuTZ It’s a readymade software comes with ecommerce extension aswell, So I need more clarity about this.

  • These Custom Designed Turn Key E-Commerce Websites might be a good option for those considering starting an online business. These sites are not templates and are rich in SEO, Customer Engagement, Visitor Conversion & E-Commerce Features and Widgets.
    From only $129.00 you can start selling today check them out here http://www.hostedweb.site

  • Bálint Liptay

    wowow, great article, i’ve spent 10 hours browsing the net only to find a trustable comparison. now i got that, thanks indeed!
    on the oher hand, i’m still having trouble to make a decision. while shopify seems to be the obvious option, woocommerce is gaining more and more market share in the small business area. shall i go for them now, trusting their developments, or will shopify still fulfill my needs better???
    we have a hobby-brand at http://www.balkan-tango.com, selling about $5000-7000/year, a free website developer friend without SEO and worpress experience, and the question is: shall i set up a webshop with automated SEO features at all? shall i spend even a $1000/year on shopify? or am i better off on the long run by mastering wordpress myself? for us design had always priority, and didn’t care about marketing at all, so a properly customized woocommerce site would be the best, but shall we spend a years’s revenue on a programmer?? i really have no idea :S and appreciate any comments!
    thanks & love

  • fit440

    Awesome article. I’ve been reading article after article on this subject (pricing/value) for the past few hours. Thanks for your work! I use woocommerce and wordpress on sites I design too: http://www.websitestasmania.com

  • Veena Deshpande

    One of the companies which are into the business of developing E commerce website is Triwits. The best part of this company is they even maintain your e commerce website for a lifetime and the amount they charge is so much affordable that no one can resist. They are super experienced in data extraction from other websites and uploading a huge number of products to your e commerce website with no error. So just lend your work to them and sit back and relax.