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New year, new dreams. Aha! 

You may have done a commendable job researching eCommerce business ideas. But most aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs get stuck after this on one question- “How to start an eCommerce website?

About 3 decades ago, this question may also have bothered Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Fast forward to 2024, and it remains a pertinent question. Probably, one of the most crucial questions related to your eCommerce venture that could build or break your online selling business in 2024.

So, with a mission to help you all, esp aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs to build your online store and succeed at it, GrowthRomeo is sharing in-depth eCommerce insights, one at a time. Earlier, you may have already read GrowthRomeo’s blogs on eCommerce business ideas, the anatomy of eCommerce websites, and the 7 enterprise eCommerce platforms to start building your online store. Now, read this insight to discover “how to start an ecommerce website in 2024?” 

Here’s a quick peek at what’s covered in here-

  • The ANATOMY of an eCommerce website
  • Why must your NICHE guide your eCommerce website decisions?
  • What do you need to get started? Prerequisites before the heavy lifting.
  • What enterprise eCommerce PLATFORMS & FRAMEWORKS can you use to develop your online retailing website?
    • Should you go for a CUSTOM eCommerce website development or use a pre-built theme?
    • Do you also need a MOBILE APP to make your eCommerce business thrive?
  • How much does it COST to BUILD an eCommerce website?
  • What are the COSTS of RUNNING an eCommerce website?

The Anatomy of an eCommerce Website

Understanding the components of an ecommerce website is imperative to the successful development and launch of your online store in 2024. The ecommerce websites have unique aspects that differentiate them from the rest. We have discussed them in detail in another blog, here we are just sharing the components of an eCommerce website-

For instance,

  • Common elements on all pages
    • Header
      • Logo
      • Navigation Menu
      • Search bar
    • Footer
      • Categories
      • Blogs
      • Address
      • Legal Pages
      • Business Information
    • Cart
    • Login/SignUp Buttons
  • Homepage
  • Products listing pages
  • Category pages
  • Buyer accounts
  • Seller accounts (if it is a marketplace)
  • Brand administrators and executive accounts with different access rights to handle the overall ecommerce operations
  • Cart management systems
  • Billing, invoicing, finance & taxation
  • Logistics integrations
  • Order management system
  • Order tracking system
  • Customer redressal
  • Reviews & ratings management
  • Influencer content management systems
  • Affiliate sales integration
  • Marketing, sales, and promotion management system
  • Analytics dashboards
  • Software systems for product recommendations, and
  • Security features

If words are not self-explanatory, and you’re completely new to the world of eCommerce websites, we would recommend you to read GrowthRomeo’s blog on eCommerce website components.

Why must your NICHE guide your eCommerce website decisions?

Your niche is often the result of product choices and target consumer market. For instance, if you plan to sell drones, your audience is mostly millennials and genZ. 

This audience would need you to be constantly innovating. If you don’t keep surprising them with new features, new deals, and consistent updates (that are crafty and often aligned to pop culture), you’ll lose them to your competitors who do. Therefore, you need to be on your toes when it comes to offering new payment methods, integrating features like video selling, offering them with personalized coupons, and gamifying the entire experience.

But if you’re selling to a relatively older group, let’s say, non-slip bath mats, ergonomic chairs, etc., you may not send frequent updates, you need not surprise them with new features or products compulsorily. But to an extent, you’ll need it.

When you let your niche guide you, you are gifting yourself the art of growing your startup the lean way. Here, in this GrowthRomeo blog on starting an ecommerce website, we shall only share industry-agnostic thoughts. You have to understand each of the sub-topics in context to your decided niche. That will help you in choosing the right ecommerce platforms too. Let’s discuss that in detail.

What all you need to get started? Prerequisites before you start building your online store.

  • A registered eCommerce business name
  • A domain name
  • Business logo
  • A market-validated eCommerce business idea & business plan
  • Products you want to sell
  • Product image(s)
  • Product description(s)
  • Product details

What eCommerce PLATFORMS & FRAMEWORKS can you use to develop your online retailing website?

Now, based on your eCommerce business idea and business plan, you need to figure out which eCommerce store development approach is best suited for your case and budget. There are multiple routes to developing an eCommerce website-

  1. MERN/MEAN tech stack led eCommerce application development
  2. Python-Django & Javascript tech stack powered eCommerce platform
  3. WordPress, Shopify, and other DIY WYSIWYG low-code & no-code eCommerce store builders
  4. LAMP stack eCommerce application development (not recommended)
  5. .Net Stack for eCommerce website
  6. Sign up on Amazon, Flipkart, eBay, and other B2B2C marketplaces
  7. Enterprise eCommerce platforms that are designed to help you sell 10s of thousands of products to your customers across cities & countries.

Should you go for a CUSTOM eCommerce website development or use a pre-built theme?

This is a key thing to ponder over for devising an eCommerce strategy for your business. Ask yourself the following question-

  • What are your key business objectives?List down all the features that you seek in your store. Then refine them to see what is important and what you have added as just an option that is good to have but not necessary. Remove these good-to-have options for now, and see if what is necessary is available in the frameworks that are usable off the shelf – like Shopify and Woocommerce.Note: I’m not mentioning Prestashop, BigCommerce, Adobe Commerce, and others because there is a dedicated blog on which eCommerce frameworks are worth investing in to start your own online store in 2024. Don’t misunderstand me for mentioning only Shopify & Woocommerce as being the only good platforms. There are many worth exploring.

    Anyway, continuing our discussion… if all the essential features are not in any of the off-the-shelf frameworks, you have to build a custom eCommerce platform.

    For that, if you’re not a developer yourself, you need to hire a team of developers. Even when you’re a developer, you need to hire 4-5 developers and designers to build your custom store. It’s tough to custom-develop an eCommerce store for a single developer. Read the insight on what should be your team composition for developing an ecommerce website to know more.

    An alternative is to outsource eCommerce application development to an IT services company. India is a very good location to outsource your eCommerce website development work at a reasonable and affordable price. We shall talk more about how much it costs to develop a custom eCommerce website in an upcoming section of this blog.

    For now, let’s continue with important questions you need to ask yourself to get clear on whether a custom eCommerce solution is needed or not.

  • What’s the maximum budget you would want to spend on this project?Now, this is a very simple question. You may reason “What is it about how much I’m willing to spend? Of course, whatever it costs to start an eCommerce website in 2024.”If only it was that simple.

    eCommerce website development is a complex project. It can be very simple, and it can be very complex as well. For instance, at times you can alone spin up an eCommerce website in just a couple of hours using solutions like Shopify.

    Whilst if your requirements are complex, it can take even to 6 months of work with an 8-20 members team to develop the web application. Sometimes, even longer.

    While it may cost just a couple of hundred dollars to start your eCommerce website on your own using WordPress WooCommerce or Shopify, the cost of custom eCommerce solutions can go all the way up to USD 250K. Yup.

    In general, outsourcing custom eCommerce website development to India gets your work done in the range of $5000-$150,000, depending on the scope of work. If you just want a very basic Shopify store, and your budget is a few hundred dollars, all you need is a Shopify or WooCommerce freelancer.

    Anyway, whatever is your budget or need, if you need tech consultancy to start your online store, feel free to block my time, and we can talk. Ensure while blocking my time that you share as much information, doubts, and questions, as possible, and I shall help you with the details.

  • How immediately do you need to go live?Your decision on whether you need a custom or off-the-shelf solution for ecommerce website development also depends on how quickly you want to go to the market.
    • Are you in a validation phase and just need a couple of product pages to take online bookings? You do not need to spend a fortune on that. Just spin up a WordPress WooCommerce site with a custom theme with your logo, brand name, and product details, and you’re ready to go. Woosh, just like that.
    • If you’re already beyond the validation stage, and now want to serve your customers with a delightful customer experience while building your business’s brand identity for the long haul, you may need more time at your disposal to build your eCommerce website the right way. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve to develop a custom eCommerce website using Python, LAMP, .NET, MERN, or other popular eCommerce stacks. You can build your brand identity & offer joyful CX even with off-the-shelf eCommerce frameworks like Shopify Plus, but irrespective of what you go with, you will need time to customize your store to differentiate from your competitors or at least to be at par with them.
    • If you’ve both budget and time, and you plan to go big, if your vision is clear, I would recommend going for custom eCommerce development if none of the eCommerce frameworks or platforms upticks all the features you desire in your online store.
  • Who will handle maintenance?To start an eCommerce website in 2024 is relatively easy with all the frameworks and IT services outsourcing companies available & accessible round the clock. To make a good decision about how you need to build your eCommerce website, you also must have foresight about who would be responsible for maintaining it. You can’t be handling operations, sourcing, customer service, and also taking care of the tech. If that’s your plan, then maybe your business will collapse or cease to grow to its full potential. This is not a dropshipping website. It’s eCommerce where you’re dealing with customers on your own.Thus as you scale, you need people who can take care of different aspects of the business. So, you would need a team to handle the website tech.

    If you’re going to use Shopify, WooCommerce, or similar frameworks, a small team can take the load. By small, I mean a team size of 1-5 people, depending on how big your business is.

    The same goes for custom eCommerce website development. Depending on the complexity and the tech stack of your website, you may need 3-20 members. 3 as a minimum because if you’re maintaining the ecommerce website in-house, you need at least a designer, a full-stack developer, and a quality assurance engineer.

    Alternatively, you can outsource maintenance as well to IT service providers. This could either be the company that developed your website, or a company that specializes in maintenance work.

If you ask the above questions, you’ll most probably make the best possible decision to move forward. Once you’re up and running with your newly built eCommerce website, do look at customer feedback and employee feedback. Are they happy with your website? If not, what are the pain points, and what are the associated costs to get them fixed? Look at the short-term cost impact, and also the long-term impact.

Now, another key consideration, which could also influence the decision of going for a framework or custom eCommerce website development is whether you’re gonna need a mobile app too.

Do you also need a MOBILE APP to make your eCommerce business thrive?

Today, most of the commerce happens on the phone. Impulsive shopping is a trend too. No eCommerce entrepreneur would want to let go of the opportunity to sell extra. But opportunities come at a cost. Here, the cost is the investment you would need to make in an eCommerce mobile app development. 

For this too, like eCommerce website development there are a lot of frameworks, and no-code, low-code tools. But to maintain customer experience consistency across platforms, you would need to go for custom app development. Here, you don’t have much choice. 

Though some enterprise frameworks offer both web and mobile apps, I do not feel that it is going to be worth it. If premium app feel and customer experience is your priority across web, mobile, and voice commerce… you need to go for custom eCommerce development.

How much does it COST to BUILD an eCommerce website?

I already answered that briefly above-

  • Using frameworks like Shopify, the overall eCommerce platform price including cart management, invoicing, reviews, and logistics software could go from a few 100 dollars to a few 1000 dollars. It could be higher depending on the scale of your business.
  • Using custom software development services, it could be anywhere between 5000 dollars – 250,000 dollars depending on the complexity of eCommerce features that you’re developing and the region where your development team or outsourcing team is located.

What are the COSTS of RUNNING an eCommerce website?

There is more to getting the eCommerce website up and running. Development costs are not the only costs associated with running an eCommerce website. There are other expenses too-

  • Recurring eCommerce platform fees
    If you’re going for WYSIWYG eCommerce software development platforms, you need to pay monthly subscription fees. Some have subscription fees based on the number of products you’ve, and the customers you have, and some take commissions on the invoice transaction value.
  • Domain name & hosting charges
    Managed frameworks may not require you to pay for the hosting, but domain charges you will have to pay no matter what methodology you’re opting to build your eCommerce website.
  • Design & themes
    If you’re developing a custom eCommerce website, you also need to bear the charges for UI/UX development, customer journey experience, and graphics design.
  • SSL certificates
    For website data transportation security, SSL is a must. Browsers won’t even load websites with expired SSLs. There are free alternatives like LetsEncrypt, but normally people go for paid options as higher security is promised. In cases of breach, a paid option gives you the warranty, and you also get quick support.
  • Payment gateway charges
    For running your eCommerce website, if you’re integrating with a payment gateway (which is almost unavoidable), you will need to pay the transaction processing fees. This is different from the eCommerce platform fee. Some frameworks will provide this combined with platform charges.
  • Warehouse & warehouse software management costs
    You’ll need space to store your inventory. And for inventory management, you’ll need software to avoid a lot of unnecessary manual work. This would incur extra costs.
  • Shipping & logistics software costs
    Whether you’re managing product deliveries and returns on your own, or you’ve partnered with a third-party solution provider, logistics software and transportation costs are inevitable.
  • Marketing tools & product advertising costs
    To market your products to the customers, even to lure them to your online store, you need to run campaigns, and invest in SMS, email, social media marketing, design, SEO, and other tools. Additionally, you would need a budget to run ads. All this will be an extra cost. Again, these too are unavoidable. Running an eCommerce business all through organic marketing is a little tough. And who said organic is free? It’s not.
  • Sales and analytics software costs
    When you’ve added products to sell online, you would want to invest in an analytics tool to see which products are doing good, which are not, what impacts the business bottom line the most, and which are overhead. All this helps you optimize your eCommerce operations in a way that maximizes revenue and profits. This could be an additional cost that can be avoided, but avoiding this could also mean not tapping into the opportunities. Ideally, this is a good investment. Recommended. Data is pure love. The more you harness it, the better.
  • Regular costs of running a business
    Lastly, there are regular costs of running a business. It starts from business registration, taxation, hiring, salary, office costs, resource costs, and losses. You need to factor in all of them to come up with an approximate cost of running an eCommerce website.

All of this may look a bit overwhelming, but trust me on this, fuel the entrepreneurship inferno in your heart, the flames may flicker occasionally, yet you’ll manage to shine if you’re committed to keeping the fire alive.

Summing it up!

That was all in this blog on starting an eCommerce website. I hope you gained a bit of clarity around different ways to start an eCommerce website. On a high level, it’s all about choosing between a framework, customizing a framework, or developing a custom website from scratch. There are different perks and limitations associated with each of them. We also touched upon the cost of running an eCommerce website. Besides, I’m leaving you with some more questions for which you may seek answers to be better prepared for running your own eCommerce website in 2024:

  • What after the eCommerce website development is done?
  • What are the PROBLEMS that may kick in after website development?
  • What would you need for a successful eCommerce website LAUNCH?
  • How do you continue SCALING your eCommerce website?
  • Why might your eCommerce website business fail?
  • Your eCommerce STACK
  • What’s an ideal eCommerce TECH stack if you’re going for custom eCommerce website development?
  • What’s an ideal eCommerce MARKETING stack to help you with your business?
  • Revamping eCommerce website DESIGN
  • How to go about eCommerce TECH stack revamp
  • Should you consider an eCommerce MARKETING stack revamp?
  • What factors can contribute to your eCommerce SUCCESS?
  • eCommerce website development CHECKLIST
  • Raising startup FUNDS for your ecommerce business
  • eCommerce SUCCESS STORIES from around the world
Nishant Choudhary

Nishant is a marketing consultant for funded startups and helps them scale with content.

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