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How To Create Low-Cost eCommerce Websites For Startups

Thousands of eCommerce websites are launched every day. They range from mature brick-and-mortar businesses opening a digital front to new startups, each with their own advantages and challenges. However, resources is one of the areas where startups fall short. They usually have smaller budgets that they need to manage effectively, and if their eCommerce website eats up the bulk of this budget, they may not have enough left for other business growth elements. If this problem is plaguing you as well, learning how to create a low-cost eCommerce website should be a priority for you.

3 Options For Creating a Low-cost eCommerce Website For Your Startup

If you are looking for the most affordable way to create an eCommerce website, you essentially have three options.

  1. The “DIY” eCommerce Website – Build and launch your own eCommerce website without using an eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. The cost is minimal, but it requires more effort.
  2. Use An eCommerce Platform To Build And Host Your Website – This option comes with ongoing costs (monthly subscription) but with ease of building a website and a lot of support. It may be considered a low-cost option based on the subscription plan you choose, but it’s usually the most expensive option out of the three.
  3. Outsource The Creation Of Your eCommerce Website –You can get your website created by professionals at a one-time cost, and you can maintain and update it yourself. It’s a true low-cost eCommerce website option.

1. The DIY eCommerce Website

Even though this option is best if you are familiar with computer programming, thanks to plenty of educational resources and step-by-step guides available online, almost anyone can build an eCommerce website with enough time and dedication. The steps are listed below:

Choose Your eCommerce Website Builder

You can use an open-source headless eCommerce solution (like Medusa, which is considered a Shopify alternative), but it’s suitable for those who are more tech-leaning. If you don’t have the right technical knowledge and you don’t want to spend weeks wading through technical jargon just to get your eCommerce store up and running, that’s not the right option for you.

Then, there are options like Wix – one of the most widely-used website builders that’s ideal for beginners – that allow you to create an eCommerce website for free using drag and drop. However, when you go to publish your website and start accepting payments, you will need to buy a monthly subscription.

Creating your eCommerce website on WordPress using the WooCommerce plug-in is another common and free option (even if it’s not the best option). It allows you to add eCommerce functionality to any website. There are other free plug-ins as well that allow you to further customize your eCommerce website and add more options.

Choose a Hosting Plan and Domain Name

The hosting plan will be the only true cost if you are building a DIY eCommerce website. Apart from the cost, it’s crucial to consider factors like reliability, reputation, uptime, speed, security, and more, as well.

WordPress’ own top recommendations are Bluehost and Dreamhost, but you can also look into Hostinger and Hostgator. Hostinger offers the most affordable starting plan for $1.99 per month, while Bluehost offers the most expensive one, i.e., $4.95 per month.

Your domain name can (and should be) your business name or its variation, if the original match is already taken.

Pick the Right Theme/Template and Customize

If you are using Wix, it offers over 500 free themes for eCommerce websites. WordPress also has its own range of free themes, many of which are geared for eCommerce websites and can be easily integrated with WooCommerce. The right theme will be easiest to mold for your eCommerce business. It will have the right visual appeal, easy navigation, and necessary traits like mobile-friendliness.

Add Your Products/Services to the Website

When adding products to your eCommerce website, you should:

  • Write a clear and concise product description. The more informative the description is (instead of salesy), the more impactful it’s likely to be. Provide the necessary information in the right order, making it easier to skim.
  • Use professional photos of your product.
  • Add information regarding the product SKUs and manufacturer codes. This allows people searching for that particular manufacturer code on Google (or other search engines) to find the product on your website.

The overall goal is to make the process of choosing the right product as easy for the consumer as possible.

Set Up Payment Methods and Shipping

Most eCommerce website builders and plug-ins offer multiple payment options like online payment via multiple payment processors, cash-on-delivery, etc. Each method may come with its own fees, processing time, and ease-of-use considerations.

Similarly, setting up the right shipping option is necessary. Free delivery is one of the top reasons many people buy online. But it’s not a financially viable reason for all scenarios.

Test and Launch Your eCommerce Website

It’s imperative that you rigorously test your eCommerce website. You should be able to rectify most of the bugs before the website launch. The rest comes from the user experience and comments. One important test is how your website performs on cell phones because that’s where most of the eCommerce traffic comes from nowadays.

Pros and Cons of the DIY Approach

Pros

  • Most low-cost eCommerce website creation options
  • Offers a lot of flexibility, tools, and plug-ins
  • You can maintain and modify the website on your own, which saves time and cost

Cons

  • Takes a lot of time and effort
  • A difficult option for people with minimal technical knowledge

2. Using an eCommerce Platform To Build and Host Your Website

eCommerce platforms (like Shopify and BigCommerce) allow you to build and launch eCommerce stores/eCommerce websites using their platform, and they take care of everything, including hosting and maintaining the website. All of these costs are rolled into a monthly subscription, which makes them the least effective, low-cost eCommerce website option for startups.

The lowest subscription rate for both Shopify and BigCommerce is quite similar – $29 per month and $29.95 per month, respectively.

The process of creating a website on these eCommerce platforms is relatively easier because the website builder, all the themes, tools, and plug-ins are specific to eCommerce and the respective eCommerce ecosystems. This may offer good functionality and speed even on eCommerce websites loaded with plug-ins and additives. Shopify offers over a hundred themes and templates, while BigCommerce offers around 170.

Pros and Cons of Using an eCommerce Platform

Pros

  • Significantly easier for individuals without any technical knowledge
  • The time to create and launch a website is quite short
  • Hosting, maintenance, and integrations are rolled into your subscription plan
  • 24/7 support ensures that you can fix problems with your eCommerce store quickly, rather than stumbling around on your own

Cons

  • The higher cost
  • There is still a learning curve for developers

3. Outsourcing the Creation of eCommerce Website Development

In a way, outsourcing offers you the best of both worlds. With the right developer/development team, you don’t just get premium quality at a truly low, one-time cost; you also save a lot of time. All this time can be better spent on growing your eCommerce business.

While creating an affordable, low-cost eCommerce website for your business by outsourcing does keep you out of the creation phase, it doesn’t mean you have no control over the final product, especially when working with the right eCommerce development team, from both quality and cost perspective. You can choose the theme, convey the format and styling you want (as per your brand image), and any other specifics you need in your eCommerce website.

When you outsource, make sure you are getting every feature you will need, at least in the short term, for your eCommerce website. The whole point of outsourcing the creation of an eCommerce website is that you can go live with minimal effort and time spent. But if the final product is incomplete and you don’t have adequate knowledge to add the necessary features, it may cost you more (in time as well) than paying a higher price in the first place for development.

It’s important to note that you will need to learn how to add or remove products from your website and how to analyze your traffic.

Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

Pros

  • The website is developed by experienced professionals
  • “Time To Market” can be quite short
  • The learning curve is significantly smaller
  • You get to see your eCommerce business up and running before you choose to invest more time and effort in improving your website (and determining if it’s worth it)

Cons

  • You have relatively limited influence over minor details of your low-cost eCommerce website
  • The success of this option hinges a lot on choosing the right development team

Conclusion

Creating a low-cost eCommerce website is not just possible; it’s quite easy, and you have multiple options at your disposal. However, it wouldn’t be advisable to approach this from a cost perspective alone. Your time and effort investments and the customers you may lose when experimenting with the DIY approach should also be considered. But if you follow the best practices of each option, such as choosing the right eCommerce website development team, then all of them can pay off well.

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