For a lot of smaller businesses such as arts and crafts artisans, the internet has been an opportunity to boost sales. Small retailers and small manufacturers also have the chance to expand their market and increase sales. The issues for a lot of smaller businesses is the cost of having an online presence. However, costs have fallen over recent years and an online shop is now affordable for many.
Those who have a little technical knowledge may decide to go it alone and run their own online shop. For those without the technical inclination – and indeed the time – what sort of cost can they expect to pay for their online shop.
There are many ready-built eCommerce stores that someone can use examples include Shopify and Wix. The basic price looks very attractive but you soon discover that prices increase very rapidly as more features are added onto the package. A £20 a month basic package can very quickly become £80 or £90 a month with essential additional options added on.
An affordable eCommerce solution for new businesses
So what’s a good way for a small business to consider when setting up their first online shop. After 25 years of web experience, my suggestion would be to go for a reasonable web hosting package and then opt for a web developer to a designer to use WordPress and Woocommerce. This can drive down the monthly and long-term cost of a webshop.
A mid-range hosting package with 1&1 Ionos (the Pro package) offers enough server resources to run a reasonably sized shop – probably up to about 1,000 products. It also includes the cost of the domain name and also an SSL security certificate. The cost of this package will come in at around £7.00 a month plus VAT.
The next thing to look at is the cost of taking payments. Taking payments will cost money in transaction fees. If you are a smaller business then the more traditional card handling companies can be quite expensive. They also normally charge a monthly membership fee. You pay this whether you have made any sales or not.
Online payment solutions for starter webshops
Online payment processors such as Paypal and Stripe offer a much more affordable option for small businesses. You only pay a handling fee and commission on actual sales made. Paypal is probably the most well known of the online card processors. You can take credit card and debit card payments from most companies with Paypal. Your customer does not need a Paypal account to make a payment. Stripe is probably a little more flexible as they also offer the opportunity to receive payment through other payment processes such as Apple Pay.
So once you have your domain hosting account and payment processing account in place you are ready to go. At this stage, some of you may decide to go it alone and set up your own web site. But be warned it is a steep learning curve and if you have no experience you may leave your web site open to hacking and poor security of data. If you choose to outsource your shop set up and optimisation what sort of cost can you expect?
Cost of a basic online shop
For basic integration of WordPress and Woocommerce, security enhancements and some customisation you can expect to pay around £800.00. This is just the cost of installing the software and optimising it. It does not cover the cost of adding products. You would not really want to be paying £40 or £50 an hour for a web developer to do a data input job that pays around £9 an hour.
It’s pretty easy to add content to WooCommerce and WordPress web sites. If you have used a word processing package such as Microsoft Word then you will be at home in adding content and products to your webshop. There are also lots of different high-quality Youtube videos to show you how to use WordPress. The technical part of WordPress may take a bit of learning but the user side of it is straight-forward and easy to do.
Ongoing costs of operating an online shop
If you need anything more than a basic integration or custom design then you can normally expect to pay around £40 per hour for a web developer. A good web developer who knows WordPress can do quite a lot in a short amount of time. Most freelance WordPress developers will price to the 30 minutes mark. So having a new plugin installed and configured could cost as little as £20.00.
Keeping a web site up to date is very important to ensure your site remains safe and secure. It is very easy to do this yourself. When an update is released you are notified in your administration panel with a red warning dot. Then it is simply a question of clicking on the update button and it continues automatically. In 99% of cases this is trouble-free, one very rare occasions you may need to use a web developer to fix an issue, but it is very rare.
The final thing to think about with your starter online shop is making backups. When things go wrong it is essential that you have a backup of your website. Again this is fairly easy to do and can be done with a simple click. You want to save your back up offline by downloading to your desktop. Alternatively, you can save to an online storage facility such as your Google or Dropbox account.
Monthly maintenance contracts for small eCommerce shops
Some developers offer a web site maintenance option where they do all the ‘housekeeping’ of your web site for simple monthly payment. This service will normally cover:
- daily or weekly backups with backup storage
- ongoing updates of plugins and themes
- security and hack clean up
- weekly database optimisation
Depending on payment levels the service may also include a certain amount of developer time to do tweaking and additional work on your website.
Monthly maintenance contracts can range from as low as £25 a month to as much as £1000 a month depending on what you require.