There are around 24 million online stores that are estimated to generate a total of $4.2 trillion in sales all around the world in 2020 alone. E-commerce has crossed the critical thresholds of being considered a viable business model and has found global acceptance among consumers. The success of retail websites like Amazon and Flipkart, which started small but are now global brands, have fueled the imagination of entrepreneurs to launch their own online stores.
E-commerce came into existence around 1994 (Source: Wikipedia). However, the online business has undergone numerous changes from the time it started. Today, technology has become advanced enough to make anyone an online entrepreneur in a relatively short period of time. You can either outsource your website-making to a competent developer or approach platforms that provide pre-designed templates with an easy user interface.
These platforms help create an online store with minimum or no technical competence. This article seeks to provide details on how to create an e-commerce website with the help of a developer and through website builders.
Hiring a Developer for an Ecommerce Store
The expansive growth of e-commerce stores has meant that there are more than enough developers and companies offering their services to build online stores. Out of this noise, you have to make a choice depending on your business goals and budget. While establishing a store, one has to remain conscious about including features that translate to great user experience. Customers are known to prefer stores based on the features they offer.
Benefits of Hiring Dedicated E-commerce Developer:
- Focus on Business Priorities: With a dedicated developer and their technical expertise, as a business owner you can focus on your business priorities, without worrying about the technical details and associated aspects of developing and getting a website ready. The developer will deliver the website as per the stipulated deadline without needing any intervention from your side.
- Flexible Approach: A developer working exclusively on your website would be more accommodating about any additional requirements from your side and would be willing to revise the agreed terms and conditions. In contrast, with a company you cannot expect such flexibility as they cater to multiple clients with strict deadlines and any abrupt changes would not be entertained.
- Cost-Effective: A developer would not be part of a corporate set-up and would not have obligations and overheads like a company. Getting a website developed by a developer would work out cheaper and cost-effective by all means. Moreover, you are saving on costs by outsourcing your e-commerce website as compared to getting it done in-house.
- Quick Response: While a company may have written SOPs and protocols to assist a client in critical situations, a lot of time can get wasted in getting real help during a crisis situation. On the other hand, opting for a developer can get you quicker response during situations where your e-commerce business might come to a halt. Besides, getting a glitch fixed by the original developer is more practical compared to support offered by a company employee who might take more time, just to understand how the system works.
- Get Best Talent: While hiring a developer as a business owner you can be spoilt for choice due to the number of developers who offer their services. You can do the necessary checks about previous work experience and portfolios to shortlist and choose the best available talent. Due to the increased competition among independent developers, you can be certain about obtaining services of good developers with sound technical expertise.
Costs Involved in an Outsourced Ecommerce Website
Cost for an Ecommerce Website Development can vary based on whom you are outsourcing to. Whether you are outsourcing to a Freelance Web Developer or to an agency. Next, the cost also varies whether you want a basic Ecommerce Website or an advanced multi vendor Website. To develop a standard website comparable to an Amazon or Flipkart will cost a business owner around $35,000. An expansive website will always come at a steep price, but it is suggested that an entrepreneur starts modestly before launching a feature-rich online store. Now, when it comes to pricing, online stores are developed primarily through – a fixed price and an hour-based pricing model. Now, let’s look at options in terms of functionality:
- Basic E-commerce Store: $2500 – $3500
- Customized E-commerce Store: $4000 – $7000
- Customized Enterprise-level E-commerce Store: $10,000 – $50,000
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Time-taken to Complete an Outsourced Website
This is essentially dependent on the product catalogue & variety of features. For example, a site carrying 10,000 items can take approximately three months to complete.
Content Management System (CMS) for an Outsourced Website
CMS is software that helps in creating, editing and publishing content, allowing websites to remain fresh and updated. Here is a quick look at the most used CMS options:
- WordPress: This is the most well-known CMS in the industry, used both for e-commerce and plain-text sites. To enable e-commerce functionality, one has to download the WooCommerce plug-in into a WordPress website. The best part is that it is an open-source platform with a free WordPress plug-in, making it the best fit for e-commerce sites.
- Drupal: The platform is a powerful and flexible and is the third most-used open source CMS system. While it is not the most user-friendly, the sheer flexibility it offers is unmatched. Plus, it is easily compatible with payment gateways, search engines, CRMs, analytics, and other services.
- Joomla: This is a free open source platform for publishing content. There are a number of extensions that work with Joomla to make it work as an e-commerce solution.
- OpenCart: It isan open-source and customizable platform with ready-to-use templates along with thousands of extensions and modules. To get high performance, one needs to add additional plug-ins.
Web Hosting an Outsourced E-commerce Website
Selecting a web host is majorly dependent on the web hosting speed, and it is measured in milliseconds (ms). A good web host must be able to respond in less than 200 ms because if your competition is loading the website much quicker, they have the advantage. Other features that make a difference include price, customer support, uptime guarantee, and security. Here is a look at popular web hosting services:
- Hostinger: They perform well against the competition in terms of speed (99 ms), ease of use, and customer support. Besides, they offer 1-free domain name with each account.
- Siteground: The company is based out of Singapore and offers good speed (136 ms) and is backed by a good customer support team. They offer free SSL for all its users.
- A2 Hosting: This is an American company that offers a web host speed of 163 ms and provides free SSL for users and comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth.
- GoDaddy: They offer fast website speed of 111 ms, offer 30GB storage with a 1GB database and have customer service that resolves issues quickly.
- Bluehost: They come with data centres in the U.S to offer relatively low speeds of 318 ms and come with 50GB storage and one free domain. Their customer service is nothing to boast about.
With the above steps, you would hopefully have a high-functioning, domain approved e-commerce website at your disposal complete with product categories and individual product pages matching your expectations. Lastly, get a working contract with the developer for website maintenance and other issues that might arise impeding the smooth functioning of the website.
Developing an E-commerce Store on your Own
Previously, website building was an intensive process, requiring one to know coding and other associated aspects. But, today it is possible to build a website without any technical background in software through website builders.
Here is a look at the major advantages offered when developing an e-commerce website on your own:
- More Control: An e-commerce store by your own effort makes you in control of things. This would make you perfectly aligned with the needs and concerns of your website without being dependent on an outside agency or developer.
- Better Understanding: With you being the developer of the website, no one would be more in-tune with what is exactly required by the website in terms of scalability and overall health. Besides, you will not be compelled to add anything extra other than what is required, as you do not have any vested interests associated with the website.
- Relatively Inexpensive: Developing a website on your own, would save you from paying an external agency or developer. Apart from the initial cost of development, there are recurring costs associated with a website which would not be incurred.
- Saves Time: Being the creator of the website, you will be more aware of emerging glitches and bugs on your website. Such instances can be immediately fixed without waiting for outside help to take over and remedy the situation.
Cost of Developing a Website on Your Own:
The cost of developing an e-commerce website would range anywhere between $500 – $3,000
Time-Taken to Build a Website on Your Own:
Building an e-commerce website on your own would take a minimum of 25-30 days depending on the number of items in the product catalogue. More products pages translate to more time.
CMS Framework for an Ecommerce Website
Now let’s look at the available CMS frameworks available to build an e-commerce website.
- WordPress: This is the most popular CMSs in the world. To customize a WordPress website for e-commerce, one has to download the open-source WooCommerce plug-in. Using the plug-in can give you access to features such as publishing items for sale, payment processing, and hundreds of dedicated extensions that can add to the credibility of your online store. The CMS is most suitable for beginners and medium-sized online businesses. Anyone who is eager to create an e-commerce site by their own effort can find plenty of video tutorials online from coding enthusiasts.
- Shopify: This is a website builder specially catering to e-commerce stores and is known to serve close to 1-million businesses. It is a self-hosted solution that comes with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Shopify takes care of managing software, installing updates and keeping backups while keeping you focused on running the business. It offers its own integrated payment solution along with the choice to add third party payment gateways. To top that, it comes with full inventory management, unlimited products, easy marketing solutions and hundreds of designs to choose from within the single platform without ever needing to add code. Pricing: Starts at $29 per month with a 2% transaction fee on products sold and pricing can go up to $299 per month.
- Wix: This is a cloud-based web building platform that has made ‘ease of use’ central to its USP. It is a self-hosted platform, providing you access to hundreds of templates which are editable, coupled with a drag-and-drop interface. It is easy to add categories and multiple products. It comes with a host of free and paid apps to increase your website functionality and free SSL with all Wix plans. The platform supports all payment options except Apple pay and Amazon pay. It does offer a free plan but with limited storage and bandwidth along with Wix ads on the site not suited for serious owners. Pricing: Starts at $29/ month that is billed annually.
Website Maintenance for an Ecommerce Website
This pertains to the practice of keeping a regular check on the website for issues and mistakes to keep it updated and relevant. Some of the priority items in web-maintenance include:
- Content updates to keep it fresh & relevant
- Check for broken links on the site
- Create a back-up copy of the site
- Check critical site parameters (load speed, uptime, security etc)
- Inspect and resolve coding bugs on site
- The overall layout and any coding changes (HTML, CSS)
- Online store updates and installations
The write-up began by explaining how to develop an e-commerce website with the help of a developer. It is an easy process where you need not deal with numerous elements that go into creating a site as the company or developer would get you a ready-made website. However, building a website by yourself does involve effort and attention to various aspects. Even though it is easy to create a website, there is still work to be done with regards to individual product pages and creating content for them.
Creating a website is just the start of a journey, and success solely depends on how you bring online visibility to your website.