So, you have an idea, you’ve established what you’re going to sell, and how it’s going to be supplied or manufactured – how long is it actually going to take you to set up and launch your ecommerce website?

Obviously an ecommerce business is far more than just the site itself, but for the purposes of discussing timescales in a way that can apply to most niches and situations, we’ll assume you have already got your products, your target audience and your logistics defined.

What you need to know is how long the website itself is going to take so you can time your launch and all of the marketing activities you want to do around it. With those assumptions in mind, here are the things you need to do, and ballpark time for doing them:

Evaluate and choose an ecommerce platform


Your ecommerce site is going to need to be based on a platform that allows you to manage your product catalogue through a content management system you are comfortable with, and which handles all of the business logic required to sell products over the web.

There are lots of ecommerce products available for you to base your web store on, ranging from free open source solutions to enterprise level solutions such as SAP ecommerce by, and so you’ll need to factor in the time it will take you to research, evaluate, choose and procure your chosen solution.

How long this will take depends on how much you already know, how clear your requirements are, how many products you want to evaluate and how thorough you want to be.

For someone who already has a good idea of what they’d like to use it can take as little as a day or for larger corporations this may go to a tendering process that could take weeks or months to do some due diligence and rule out other products and buy the one they want.

But for someone who is starting out with no knowledge of the tools available it can take a couple of weeks to make an informed choice.

Build your website


If you plan to have an on-brand ecommerce solution running on your business platform or as an external solution, then a web development company would be able to blueprint your requirements, and give you a timeline for the design and build.

For basic sites this may only take weeks to implement on one of the free open source systems and add in all of your product data, pricing structures, related products and static pages etc., but it will be difficult if not impossible to keep these in sync with your pricing structures and internal business logic without additional middleware.

If you are running an ERP system then this is likely to roll out over a period of months depending on requirements, but you get the advantage of an omni-channel solution that is in sync with your business system.

If what you want is more of a ‘brochure based site’ – unlike an ecommerce system, whether that be a blog or some static pages, doing it yourself could be an option, if you have the skills to build a site using existing platforms (like WordPress) because you can put as much time in as you want.

To build, but not populate your site with content, can take as little as a day, although giving so little time to your web presence may not be the best approach for your business, as you probably realize!

Completing your site


When your site is built, all that is left is to get the products into the catalogue and put content on other pages. If you already have content and just need to add it, then this will be a day or two of work for smaller sites up to an ongoing task for ever changing catalogues.

Depending on how many products there are, or your site developer may be able to do a bulk add faster than that. If you need content written, get an estimate from your chosen copywriting company – often they use teams and can produce even large numbers of product descriptions very quickly.

As you can see, in the best case and by having tasks going on at the same time (like preparing content and building the site), it isn’t impossible to have a site ready to launch in as little as a week, though it is best to always run to conservative timescales, and this is likely to run over a period of months.