As the ski season winds down, now is the time to think about ways to grow your business in the seasons to come. Naturally, eCommerce and creating an online store is high on most retailers list of ways to grow business. But most retailers don’t know where to start. There are many questions, but the first one is always the same.
How much does it cost to set up an online store?
Unfortunately, there is no single, simple answer to this question. There are several factors involved in building an online store. But this post will help you understand the real costs behind building your online store. So you can make an informed decision as to whether an online store is right for you.
Factors that determine the cost of an eCommerce website
The cost of building an online store can vary greatly. These are the 4 main things that affect that cost.
- eCommerce Platform/Software
- Time and Cost to create the site
- Seasonal product upload cost
There are certain choices you can make that can save you money up front, but end up costing you more in the long run. That cost could be in dollars or time – or both. Conversely, the choice to make a larger investment up front can end up saving you thousands in the long run.
Domain Name Registration
While not a major factor in cost, it’s the first thing you need to do to start a website. There are thousands of websites out there that offer you domain name registration. Some have introductory offers that give you a sizable discount for the first year. But after that all of them pretty much cost the same. Domain name registration typically costs anywhere from $9.99 – $15.99/year. I happen to like NameCheap the best. Despite the generic name, they offer the most bang for the buck. In addition to DNR, they offer a free Whois protection and many other important benefits that greatly affect the security and search engine optimization (SEO) for your site.
Once you have a domain name, all websites need hosting. Hosting quality can make or break your online store. Although, this is the main monthly overhead cost for your online store – don’t skimp here. When you compare this cost vs the overhead for your physical store you will find it is pretty inexpensive. Prices vary depending on your needs. Basic web hosting can cost as little as a few dollars per month. While more advanced options can climb into the hundreds. The cost of hosting typically varies based on bandwidth used. Most new online stores can get away with a smaller plan to start and then scale up as their business grows.
Popular web hosts I recommend include BizBudding, BlueHost and WPEngine. Each claim to be “the best web hosting”, and they are in their own right. As each have unique benefits that are specific to certain needs. I would be more than happy to help you determine the host that is best for you.
Before you determine your eCommerce Platform, you will need to take a look at your Point of Sale (POS) system. You need to determine if you want to connect your eCommerce site to your POS so that it syncs automatically. It has been my experience that most commonly used POS systems in the ski and outdoor industry do not easily/automatically connect to any online store platform. If you want to connect your POS system, and you are not planning on changing your system at the same time, this will be the limiting factor as to what eCommerce platform you can use. Please note: you do not necessarily need to sync the two, you can still manually update your online inventory if you so choose.
Then you can decide if you will use a hosted eCommerce solution like 3dcart or Shopify, a licensed eCommerce software like Magento, a managed solution from a reliable partner like Specialty Retail Sites or use open source code like WooCommerce for WordPress to build your own online store.
Hosted eCommerce platforms
Hosted eCommerce platforms offer you hosting and a website “all-in-one” and are often referred to as software-as-a-service (SAAS). You do not need to purchase hosting separately. The only thing you need to do is register a domain name and plug it in to your hosted eCommerce site and you are on your way to running an online store. They may do all the work for you, but you have no access to the source code that runs your online store, all your information lives on a third-party site and you basically don’t own your online store. Hosted eCommerce solutions typically cost more per month and are easier for a novice to set up and use, but often end up being less versatile and scalable in the long run.
Licensed eCommerce software
Licensed eCommerce software is available in many forms from free and low cost versions to high cost versions. For the good ones, the setup costs are higher, the learning curve is higher and can require a specialized developer, hosting fees are charged separately and upgrading and downgrading server capacity is complicated.
Open source code
Open source code like WooCommerce was once more complicated, but has now become quite user friendly and offers all of the versatility and scalability you could ever need. It is considered the best eCommerce solution for WordPress. It is designed for stores of any size and is a flexible solution with hundreds of free and paid extensions. WooCommerce offers professional support and the sheer volume of available themes will mind-boggle you. This is my preferred eCommerce solution.
Managed WordPress All-in-One solution
Recently, Snowsports Marketing has partnered with BizBudding to offer Specialty Retail Sites. It is a Managed WordPress hosting package designed specifically for online retail that includes hosting, your theme, initial website layout and design and all the best plugins for a successful eCommerce store.
[Full disclosure, the links to the DNR and web hosts are affiliate links, but I would not recommend them if I did not use them and feel they were the best available options.]
Time and cost to create an online store
While time and cost varies based on content. The number of products, availability of information and images and someone to do the work. It’s an investment in your future that is well worth the cost. The ski industry has embraced the online revolution and all reputable vendors make product images easily available to their retailers. Many also supply product descriptions too.
Depending on the number of products, and the quality of the information you are providing on your website, product upload costs can range anywhere from $2500 – $25,000 per year. Based on my experience, the average cost for a small-medium sized ski retailer with 300 – 400 products online (about 1500 SKUS) is around $8 – 10,000 +/- for the initial product upload. After the first year, subsequent product uploads do end up costing less because of several factors, including carry over products. Of course costs and results will vary based on who is doing the work (in-house or out-sourced) and the quality of the work. Just like your physical retail store, the more you put into it, the more you will get out.
Snowsports Marketing specializes in building online stores and doing product uploads for ski, bike and outdoor retailers. We offer a complete range of solutions tailored to your budget and needs. Ranging from creating eCommerce sites and training someone on your staff to upload products and maintain it to a fully managed solution. For more information about the cost to build and online store, please contact us.
Editors Note: This blog post was updated 04/21/20.