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Read This Before Setting Up An Online Store

If the answer were straightforward, it wouldn’t need an article and there would be tons of online stores out there. But the fact is many people that start their own stores, quit by the first couple of months.

The costs I will discuss here are not just the initial costs. There are costs related to your offering, your time, managing the store and marketing it.

Platforms for your online store

Once you decide you need your very own store to sell your product or service online you need to find the right platform. This is going to be the base or foundation upon which you will rely for hosting your products and services online. You are spoilt for choice, and you will have many sources of information when it comes to selecting the right one. Just make sure you spend the time to understand what these stores have to offer and what you can do with it as some will have limitations or additional pay features you assumed are part of the base cost.

Here are just some options you have to choose from in no particular order.

Squarespace – Starting from $12 or approximately R180 per month

Shopify – Starting from $29 or approximately R440 per month

Wix – Starting from $4.5 or approximately R68 per month

Bigcommerce – Starting from $29 or approximately R440 per month

Eecwid – Starting from a free plan

Network Solutions – Starting from $8 or approximately R120 per month

Web – Starting from $10 or approximately R151 per month

WordPress – Starting cost varies between $13 – $66 per month excluding any initial costs.

This depends on which provider you are going with, features you need, hosting fees, maintenance and so on. This option entails you building your own store and not using predefined options and customization.

As you can see from the above, there are many options, and the pricing varies because each provider has structured their packages differently. I highly recommend you go to these non-WordPress providers and look at their pricing guide and what you are getting.

Non-WordPress Online Store

You will see that it varies in the following key areas:

  • number of products you are allowed
  • whether you are allowed to use your own domain
  • The level of analytics and reporting
  • Payment methods allowed
  • The rate or fee you pay them for purchases made over the above fees for your pay gate and monthly fixed cost
  • Your method of communication
  • Number of users allowed to manage the online store
  • Limitation on marketing platforms like Google and Facebook
  • Ways you can interact with the customers

I may have missed a few but these are essentially where each provider varies when it comes to functionality. They will also vary by the type of themes that are available to you. Base themes are available with the cheapest plan and if you need more exquisite themes you will have to pay extra for them. Should you require further development down the road as your online store grows, you are limited to using the provider in most cases as you do not have access to the source files.

Keep in mind they are not preventing you from modifying code to make money, they do so as they are providing a fully managed solution where you only deal with the front end. By doing this they maintain a more stable environment and user-friendly experience for you and your customers. These options are designed for non-developers. Those that offer developer packages are much more expensive as they are managed differently.

WordPress Online Store

This option varies in how they are offered to you. Some providers will offer you a WordPress front-end with recommended themes and others will just offer you a server to install and configure WordPress on. The reason you would want to select WordPress is you are in full control over all aspects of your online store and website. There are very few limitations on what you can and cannot do yourself. Keep in mind that there will be some features you will still need to pay for. WordPress is modular and there are loads of support online and plugins freely available to use and set up yourself. So, if you are paying for something, you are only paying for the feature you need.

As your online store grows and you get more revenue, scaling is cheaper if you have the right web hosting package.

Because you have the freedom to create as many pages, products and services as you need with no limit on images, you need to keep an eye on your hosting limitations. Unlike the non-WordPress options where this is managed for you based on the plan you are on, you need to manage this yourself.

Managing server resources pros and cons for an unmanaged WordPress solution.

Pros

  • Scale resources as you need
  • Cheaper to upgrade
  • You are not limited to slow or shared resources

Cons

  • You need to be vigilant that you have provisioned the right amount of resources

Lastly, if you are on WordPress, this can improve your SEO ranking IF configured correctly. Almost all non-WordPress options have limited themes or bloated add-ons which you are not in control of that slows down your site or can be poorly structured. Changing or modifying this can be costly. On the other side, when using a WordPress theme, you have many more options to choose from upfront and control over scripts. So, selecting the right theme and configuring a theme that leans towards performance and design is important.

In conclusion, here are five comparisons I can make.

Non-WordPress options aboveWordPress
Lower starting costMore functionality and customization with basic site
Higher Scaling costsScaling is granular where needed
Limited control over customizationFreedom to custom most or all aspects
No technical knowledge requiredTechnical knowledge required
Less control over site performanceBetter or full control over site performance
Pay for things you don’t need or usePay for what you use.

I may have been a bit biased, but I urge you to do your research and visit these providers and other forums/blogs before deciding. You are stuck with whichever decision you go with for a long time. If you have a hand full of products running a side hustle, then perhaps a non-WordPress option is better for you. For a more hands-on solution with the bells and whistles, a WordPress solution probably is for you.

What if I told you there was a solution with the benefits of both? A managed WordPress solution without worrying about having performance issues or having all the technical expertise. With a basic site from just R199 per month + the online store package with everything to get you started for R500 once-off, you can manage your very own WordPress online store. We will manage all technical requirements and the initial website and online store setup and because we only use VPS hosting and not a shared server hosting, scaling up is a breeze. Contact us if you are interested.

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