I get asked this question a lot; what should an e-commerce solution cost? The answer, of course, has a lot to do with the budget involved but most of my clients are not trying to build a site like amazon, they just want to sell some items easily online. I've been building sites for over a decade and I've tried or worked with just about every e-commerce system out there from Microsoft to Open Source. Here are some solutions based on budget.
Less than $500 - If you have very little money and only a few products to sell, consider using PayPal 'buy now' buttons that go right to your PayPal account. You can build a cheap website and just stick in your buttons wherever you want.
Drawbacks: Number one lesson in web design - you get what you pay for. If you go cheap, you will get cheap. This means if you build a website for $100 or use a do it yourself website service, you will get a cheap looking site with no SEO (search engine optimization) and no way for people to find you (90% of traffic comes from search engines).
Easy Solution: Trig Web Design can build you a CMS website for $899, with 4 pages for whatever you want. We can use one of these pages as a Products page, and create a nice layout for your PayPal buttons. All of our websites come with automated SEO, Google/Bing Sitemaps and optional submissions to 700 search engines and directories monthly to build your organic SEO.
$3,000 to $5,000 - If your total budget is less than $5,000, you should stick with an open source solution like Virtuemart for Joomla. Joomla is extremely robust, with thousands of extensions available to make it do just about anything; while Virtuemart is the most user friendly e-commerce package I've ever worked with. Clients are able to grasp it quickly, making training easier.
Cost breakdown: For as little as $3,000, Trig Web Design can build a professional Web 2.0 CMS (Content Managed Site) website with Virtuemart installed and configured with your payment gateways, shipping preferences, 5 categories and 5 products to get you started. If you want extra extensions, you can get some of the best add-ons and still stay within your budget, while adding great programs like a Newsletter, Social Networking, Forums, Calendars and much more.Important to note - We use some of the most effective SEO extensions Joomla has to offer to make store items completely search engine friendly, with Sitemaps and RSS product feeds to tell the world about your products.
$5,000 - $10,000 - For this kind of budget, you can afford an e-commerce website like above, but with a better design, custom programming or more categories / products programmed for you, and some Internet marketing thrown in for instant results. Even with great SEO, search engines take awhile to index your website and start placing you in top results. PPC (Pay Per Click) programs like Adwords are a great way to jump start traffic to your new store. You can also get extensions like Facebook integration, product newsletters, interactive Maps if you have a retail location, as well as extra content pages in your site.
$10,000 - $15,000 - This kind of budget usually involves large corporations that want a complex website along with e-commerce. With this kind of budget, you can get a complex e-commerce solution, using Joomla and VM, with advanced internal social networking, import of an existing database or even an Excel spreadsheet, event managers, file download management, affiliate banners, Facebook integration, and more. A well constructed PPC campaign like Google Adwords can be included to get the word out to a targeted demographic to jump start sales.
Over $15,000 - If you're looking to build a national brand and offer thousands of products on your site, you may want to consider Microsoft .Net with the MS Shopping Cart. This robust e-commerce solution is single minded in it's programming to sell products online, and has some incredible tools to market your website in unexpected and profitable ways. Site built with .Net can cost many thousands of dollars, but if you have the budget for it, there is no better way to go. Note: the newest edition of the shopping cart has better SEO systems.
There's a little more to the whole equation that's hard to quantify solely based on price. Your designer should be able to project the right image of your company with images, logos, colors and typography to make your site yours.
To see some of the best e-commerce sites we've built, check out our portfolio.