What retailers need to know about ecommerce platform costs

Ecommerce is bigger than ever. Online shopping continues to grow in popularity, and businesses need to sell their products digitally to reach the most valuable consumers.

If your company isn’t selling its products online, now is the time to invest in an ecommerce store. But which platform offers the best value for money and meets the specific needs of your business?

When you work with agencies that specialize in a certain platform, you must be sure that their recommendation is the best long-term choice for your business, not simply their preferred option. To ensure you choose the right ecommerce platform, it’s crucial to know what you’re looking for and when lower costs don’t mean bigger margins.

Here, we take a look at the five key cost areas, how the amounts involved vary, and what the different prices could mean to the success of your store.

Upfront build costs

The initial cost of building your ecommerce store is determined by the complexity of the platform. The more work the agency has to put into its development, the more you’ll pay them to do it. There is a balance to be struck, however, between choosing a limited platform with a low upfront cost and investing a little more during the build.

If your needs are small, and your store is only selling a limited number of products, then a fast and low-cost build on a simple platform might be exactly what you’re looking for.

On the other hand, if your store is to be selling a wide range of products, making savings in this area and opting for a platform with limited functionality may cause you problems. In fact, it might not only limit the success of your store, but also cost you more money in the long run.

The cost of extending functionality

Some ecommerce platforms provide very limited functionality out of the box. They’re often the platforms that entice retailers with a small upfront cost, only to deliver a store of inefficient quality and capacity.

To compensate for a lack of initial functionality, you would have to buy a series of apps for your store, and that can quickly cause your costs to rocket. On platforms with minimal out-of-the-box functionality, even the most basic of features can cost a considerable amount. For example, on one platform, a multi-tiered ‘mega menus’ costs around £7 per month.

Very quickly, as you add more and more apps to your store, your annual spend on these apps will eat into the saving you made by choosing a platform with lower ongoing rental and setup costs.

Ongoing maintenance and development

The more complex a platform is, the more maintenance is required and, potentially, the more difficult upgrades are to complete. As a result, when you have a complex store, you may find yourself spending considerable amounts on its development.

This is, however, the nature of stores with diverse functionality. Maintenance and upgrades will always be necessary. If your business requires more complex functionality and higher performance from its store, the best way to keep maintenance costs down is to choose a platform that offers a support package and is easy to develop on.

If your business only requires a simple store, this will be less of a worry, as maintenance costs should generally be low and necessary development work will be limited.

Infrastructure costs

Every ecommerce platform is hosted on a physical server or in the cloud. 

That’s where the platform’s system, network, and data — its infrastructure — is stored and kept functioning. The cost of hosting is often issued to you, the customer. The responsibility for hosting may also be yours, depending on the type of platform you choose — a hosted solution or a distributed solution.

Hosted platforms are generally used to build smaller stores with limited functionality. Although you won’t need to pay a specific hosting fee for a store built on a hosted platform, the cost is usually included into the overall monthly fee. This option also means you’re at the mercy of the ecommerce platform provider when it comes to the speed, reliability, and security of your store.

With distributed solutions, it’s up to you where your store’s infrastructure will be hosted, giving you control over the cost and the quality of the host. Before you choose a distributed solution, however, it’s important to investigate its hosting requirements, as some platforms are regarded as quite infrastructure hungry, which drives up hosting costs.

If you decide on a distributed solution, you then need to research hosting candidates. First, you should make sure the host you choose is capable of accommodating the platform’s requirements. Then, you should consider other factors, such as their reliability and security procedures.

Alternatively, if you have a limited budget, your store has only simple requirements and is unlikely to ever require much bespoke functionality, and you don’t want the hassle of finding a host yourself, a hosted solution might be right for you.

Merchant services

For your ecommerce store to take payments from customers buying your products, it must be linked to a payment processor. Every payment processor has its own rates, which are determined by a number of factors, including revenue volumes, sector, and merchant history.

The ideal solution is to choose a payment processor that offers the best rates as well as the reliability and flexibility required to meet the needs of your business. But you’ll find some platforms, often hosted solutions, are eager to make that decision for you.

One way in which a platform can influence you is by charging transaction fees. For example, they may recommend their own payment processor, which has a higher-than-average rate and doesn’t offer you a great deal. But, if you want to choose another merchant service, the platform could issue a considerable transaction fee that, on top of the other processor’s rate, may cost you more money than using their processor.

Generally, though, distributed solutions allow you to choose any merchant service, giving you the ability to negotiate market rates and find a payment processor suited to your store and your estimated revenue.

The right choice? It’s a balancing act

When it comes to the best ecommerce platform, cheapest is not always best. In fact, there’s no definitive answer — it’s dependent on your needs. Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

When it comes to the best ecommerce platform, cheapest is not always best. In fact, there’s no definitive answer — it’s dependent on your needs. Here are a few things to consider when making your decision:

  • “Will this saving cost me more elsewhere?” — Opting for a low-cost option in one area can cause inflated prices in another.

  • “Will spending less compromise the success of my store?” — A faster and more conversion-based store may cost more, but you could earn it back in increased revenue and a reduced need for extensive marketing.

  • “Have I reviewed all my options?” — Research and investigate every platform before making a decision.

  • “Does this store provide everything my business and clients need?” — Spend enough to build the store you need but avoid paying for unnecessary features.

A flexible, scalable solution

Aero Commerce is an ecommerce platform that’s built with the needs of retailers in mind. We understand that every retailer is different, and our flexible, scalable platform is designed to run fast, conversion-driven stores for ambitious SME retailers through to large enterprise-level businesses.

To help minimise the cost of running your ecommerce store, and improve your margins, Aero:

  • Provides wide-ranging functionality out of the box, so you don’t need to invest in many apps or extensive upgrades.

  • Offers transparent pricing, so you always know where you stand.

  • Ensures your store can scale to meet your aspirations, so you can make sure your costs are always proportionate to your revenue.

  • Has a lean infrastructure, so you never have to pay excessive hosting fees.

  • Caters for complex requirements while being intuitive, so upgrades can be made quickly and cost effectively.

  • Is lightning fast, so your store attracts more conversions and revenue from customers.

If you like the sound of an ecommerce platform that helps you minimize your costs while accommodating your needs, get in touch with the Aero team today.

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