In this article we compare cost of setting up ecommerce website in the two most popular eCommerce solutions – Shopify and WooCommerce – from a South African perspective.

Part 2 - Build Costs and Considerations

Compare Cost of Setting up eCommerce Website 1

as a business owner, what functionality is needed for my online shop?

At its core, an online shop needs to be able to effectively present products and allow a customer to select and pay for them in a secure, fast and frictionless way that builds customer confidence and trust in the shop. From a shop owners perspective the following is the bare minimum:
  • A place to add products and update their description, availability and price
  • A place to manage online orders, see who has paid, who needs to pay, and make sure all orders are completed
  • A way for customers to view and select products and add them to a Shopping Cart
  • A way for customers to calculate shipping costs and have it added to their Shopping Cart cost
  • A way for customers to pay for the goods and shipping
  • Email communication with the customer about the order
  • A way to extract the order information for accounting

In addition there are additional functions that make business easier.

For example a subscription system for a Gym, where a users credit card or account is automatically billed when due, is far more efficient than if the Gym sent out an invoice in the hope that the customer would pay on time. There are also booking mechanisms to make it easier for service based products, which can be setup to ensure there are no duplicate bookings and reminders for both the customer and service provider. For retailers, Shipping and Delivery are important aspects of the shop, and need to be built with the customer in mind, providing the information they need as required.  Delivery and communication around it is a vital aspect of ecommerce.  Many of the larger shipping companies provide integration to both Shopify and WooCommerce automating much of the process.

What additional functionality can be added to increase customer attraction and retention?

The 90’s adage of “build it and they will come” no longer works and is definitely not appropriate to the digital age.  Customer attraction and retention needs to form part of an overall online strategy.

The primary consideration is SEO because effective SEO means you appear near the top on search engines. To rank well on the search engines content needs to be unique, informative and be of value to users.  

Google does not care if a picture on a website is pretty, but they do care if you claim to fix a real problem for people, and give an idea of when and how you can do it for them and what it will cost.  And when you make a claim like that, it requires you to be an authority in that area of expertise – with other information around the website confirming that.  There are tools on both Shopify and WooCommerce to help make SEO easier, but WooCommerce is inherently more SEO friendly.  Some professional guidance is advised.

Reviews and customer feedback are important mechanisms that need to be implemented, manned and worked on.   They build community perceived trust.  There are systems to augment review collection and help process complaints and issues. These can be embedded in either of these ecommerce platforms.

Most of the time simply responding to an issue politely and in a concerned way is sufficient to get the situation diffused no matter the outcome.  However no response to an online query or complaint will simply get magnified across social media. 

Linking to external marketplaces like Facebook, Google My Business, and many more can dramatically increase exposure of products which builds sales potential and sales.  Both platforms have options to publish to other marketplaces.

Loyalty (points or cash back) and referral (discount for both parties) programs are also a very useful way to build a customer base and again there are many solutions available that can plug into either Shopify or WooCommerce.

Email marketing is of course a major customer engagement tool if used carefully.  There are 3rd party tools that provide really excellent marketing workflow for all aspects of the customer journey – orders (thank you’s and other communications), remarketing (to customers who have already purchased, how about this new product, also covers customers who have not shopped in some time), abandoned carts (when someone almost checks out, a way to get them back), etc.

Underneath all the technology and tricks however, service needs to be good and the product you offer needs offer value to the potential customer.  Then they will come back again and again; and tell their friends. because

What about hidden costs?

It is possible to pre-calculate most costs for a site build.  

On Shopify the costs of Apps need to be looked at in some detail.  Unless you are aiming for a very small shop, most of the “Free” and free plans on “Free plan available” Apps are largely unsuitable.  For example 10 reviews on a free review App does not add much value.  For fully functional Apps, the costs are often quite steep and possibly work as a business model outside of South Africa. 

On larger projects with more complexity, it might be wise to allow for a 10% to 15% margin for error and to break the project up it into logical phases with specific outcomes, with the critical functionality tested up-front in a proof of concept.  

But there really should be no hidden costs if things are planned correctly and transparently.

Exploring Website Build Costs

For the purposes of calculating costs for this article in a broader way, we are going to define three online shops with different functionality and do a comparison of the build cost of each in both Shopify and WooCommerce. 

Basic Site

eCommerce Basics Only

Marketing Automation

Subscription Site

Subscriptions and a Blog

Marketing Automation

Retail Site

Enhanced Customer Engagement

Marketing Automation

When doing these costs, we need to make a few assumptions and assertions.

  • By eCommerce basics, we mean products, shopping cart and checkout with payment
  • Subscriptions entail a repeating monthly transaction for a service or product
  • Blog is a place to contain News and articles, useful for SEO and additional site content
  • Reviews are customer product and site reviews.  We have based costs on using which is great tool for either platform.  We have based costs on the US$39 package which covers 500 orders per month.  Pricing calculations do not include the Stamped subscription fee.
  • Marketing Automation is email based customer journey automation. For this exercise we are using Klaviyo based on a contact list of 2000 – US$60 per month.
  • We are basing calculations on the following set amounts – it gets a bit chaotic otherwise because all Add-ons are priced on specific volumes:
    • Up to 100 Products
    • Up to 500 Orders per month
    • Up to 2000 eMail Contacts
    • R100,000 Predicted Monthly Turnover
  • Overall the aim is to cost a medium sized shop that is a going concern looking at investing in ecommerce, making sure all the main functionality is in place.
  • For plugins (Annually for WooCommerce) and Add-ons (Monthly for Shopify) we have taken the subscription annual value towards the cost of the build
  • Calculations are based on a US$ exchange rate of 1 US$ to 14.5 ZAR
  • We are assuming labour rate is the same for both platforms
  • We have not included running costs which are covered in the next article

Basic eCommerce Site

Out of the box Shopify with a premium (US$180) theme and some assistance in getting it all setup.

WooCommerce is a bit more time consuming as there are a lot more considerations in setup and presentation.  WooCommerce also inherently has more functionality like  product search and product reviews which add extra monthly cost on Shopify.

R 0
Saving on Shopify for the build
website build cost

Subscription Site

The Shopify Blog app is a unlimited one, to provide equivalent functionality to WordPress.  The smaller packages are cheaper but offer a limited number of posts – Choices are 10, 50 or Unlimited.

WooCommerce runs on WordPress which is inherently a blog engine, so a small amount of time to configure the relevant pages and menu items.

R 0
Saving on WooCommerce per Year
> R 0
Saving on WooCommerce over 5 years
Compare Cost of Setting up eCommerce Website

Retail Site

Shopify again we are using an unlimited review App, so it is expensive.  But there is no point in having reviews which are limited to 10 per product or customer.

R 0
Saving on WooCommerce per Year
> R 0
Saving on WooCommerce over 5 years
compare ecommerce costs

What Is Best For My Business?

The answer to this question is based on what is required by a specific business.

For a small local shop using online as a place to take and manage a small volume of orders for a small number of customers, Shopify is a great fit.  Bearing in mind that sale value is linked to the cost of the transaction, it is a good fit for a high margin, small volume online store.  

For anything more than that, WooCommerce  would be the more cost-effective and scalable option.  For WooCommerce is is best to include the cost of maintaining the site by professionals as WooCommerce and WordPress can cause issues when adding functionality or updating, and it is always good to have the technical intricacies handled by professionals along with technical support on call.  

radiantWEB offers multiple packages for the technical and operational management of your store, freeing you up to simply manage products and orders.

Finding this interesting ?
Read the next article, Running Costs
This is Part 2 of a 3 Part series of Articles
A Business comparison of Shopify and WooCommerce in South Africa

1 - Overview


2 - Build Costs

3 - Running Costs


DISCLOSURE: Our core business is managing WooCommerce stores, providing customers with a similar solution to Shopify at a flat monthly rate.

We are not against Shopify, after all it provides one of the most robust builder type ecommerce solutions to small business far exceeding its nearest competitors, but we are exploring the cost of the solutions along with our professional WooCommerce support in South Africa, and as such local conditions around availability and cost of technical resources do define the overall solution cost.