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Custom eCommerce development is like true happiness: it’s hard to put a price tag on. While not being able to figure out the price of true happiness is okay, that’s hardly the case for eCommerce projects. eCommerce development projects are an investment. And, in most cases, a big one. Good eCommerce development agencies aren’t cheap.

The problem with custom eCommerce website development is that it is hard to price, and the digital marketing needs that follow can be extensive. See, eCommerce web development is more of an umbrella term. Everything from hosting to maintenance and custom feature development affects the overall cost of your website. 

Since requirements differ from one project to another and from one business vertical to another, it’s hard to give a fixed price for developing an eCommerce website in general. 

What we can do is the next best thing, which is to help you understand the different variables involved in developing your custom eCommerce website and how much you should expect to pay for each. 

The Cost of Developing Your eCommerce Website 

When we say “developing an eCommerce website” we’re referring to the process of designing a website based on the products you sell, your target audience, and your business goals, then turning that web design into a fully functional online store. This, however, doesn’t include any other operational costs like hosting, payment processors, etc. 

The cost of developing the website itself could be anywhere from $30,000 to $500,000+. You’re probably rolling your eyes at the 15X+ range and that reaction is understandable. The thing with eCommerce is that these sites are like watches, cars, or even houses: there are numerous factors that can affect price. The same is true of an eCommerce website. 

The top factors that’ll affect the overall cost of your custom eCommerce website development project include:

  • Project complexity
  • Custom feature development
  • User interface and architecture
  • eCommerce platform choice
  • Backoffice integrations

The general rule is that the more “custom” your custom eCommerce website is, the more you should expect to pay for it. When you’re creating the look, feel, and function in a custom way, this means more time spent on eCommerce site design and development, which translates directly into a higher investment. 

The Cost of Operating Your eCommerce Website 

Successful eCommerce websites can not be a build-it-and-forget-it type of project. Once the development of your eCommerce website is complete, you’ll have to shift your focus to having it operate smoothly, generating brand loyalty, and creating more and more revenue. A good eCommerce development agency will not only know how to make this happen but be ready to assist as your strategic long-term partner.

Operating an eCommerce website isn’t free. There are ongoing fees to keep a site up and running. The following are some of the operating costs you should keep in mind during the development process of an eCommerce website:

1.  Hosting and Platform Costs

Your website needs to be hosted on a web server so people can access it. The hosting is the “online” part of your eCommerce site and the hosting you need depends on the eCommerce platform you’re using. 

For example, if you’re using a SaaS (Software as a Service) eCommerce platform such as Shopify, hosting is included in your Shopify plan. In other words, you don’t have to pay for a Shopify license and a hosting plan. If you’re using an open-source eCommerce platform like Magento, you’ll need to pay for separate hosting. Magento does offer a cloud hosting option as well as the ability to host the eCommerce software on a hosting provider of your choice. 

Of course, if you’re not a technical person, this whole hosting thing can be confusing, and it doesn’t matter. The eCommerce agency you work with will guide you through the entire process. They can offer hosting options and explain the pros and cons of different plans. That’s their job.

Without getting into unnecessary details, let’s just say that you should expect reliable and scalable hosting/eCommerce platform fees for a large eCommerce website to cost you something in the range of $4,800-$9,600 annually. In addition to flat-out cost, it is important to take customer service, support, and the provider’s knowledge of your eCommerce platform into consideration when making a hosting decision.

2.  Ongoing Maintenance and Support

After the eCommerce agency you’re working with finishes your eCommerce project, you’ll want to be sure you have some sort of maintenance and support contract with them. This way, you can count on peak performance for your website for years to come. 

Whether it’s a platform update, security patching, modifications to your back office integrations to meet changes in your business processes, minor updates you want to make for the holiday seasons, or even a sudden technical problem that requires immediate intervention, your eCommerce agency will be there to save the day. 

Keep in mind that, with ongoing support and maintenance your eCommerce agency can work with you on things like A/B testing, which helps improve the overall performance and conversion rates of your website and keep you abreast of the latest trends and offerings in the eCommerce space. Based on the range of services included in your maintenance and support agreement, you should expect to pay something in the $30,000 to $120,000+ range annually. 

TL;DR

Putting a price tag on hiring a custom eCommerce website development agency isn’t as easy as it seems. While it would have been great if you could order an eCommerce website like you’d order something online, that’s never the case. Many factors affect the overall project cost of implementing a custom solution. 

While you can find a price range for every service that falls under the umbrella of eCommerce development, the only way you can know the exact cost of a project is by contacting an agency. Rarely are you comparing apples to apples so you need to be aware of partner agency benefits, competencies acquired, and agency track record. By consulting with a professional agency and discussing your specific online needs and business goals, they’ll be able to give you a realistic investment cost.