How to Buy a Business on Exchange: A Step-By-Step Guide

buy a business on shopify exchange

Buying a website is like investing in online real estate.

Chosen carefully and maintained correctly, buying an ecommerce business creates an income stream you can own and grow without having to start a business from scratch.

Between budding entrepreneurs and veterans, successful ecommerce brands and early businesses, there are hundreds of thousands of ecommerce stores on Shopify.

And now, with Exchange, there’s a marketplace for these merchants to buy and sell their Shopify stores.

With over 10,000 ecommerce stores for sale—more than any other online marketplace—Exchange lets you bypass the building stage and get right into running a business.

Buying a business: What is Exchange?

Exchange is Shopify’s marketplace for buying and selling ecommerce businesses built by Shopify merchants.

Through the Exchange app, which pulls information like traffic and revenue data directly from Shopify, merchants can list their online stores for sale. Sellers can’t edit their store data, which means interested buyers can feel secure knowing that what they see is what they get.

Stores on Exchange range from ready-to-go starter stores to successful ecommerce businesses.

As such, prices also vary. Starter stores can cost as little as $50, while established six-figure ecommerce empires can sell for over $1 million.

Benefits of buying a business (instead of creating one from scratch)

1. Avoiding procrastination

When you buy an online business instead of creating one, you’re less likely to procrastinate. The hard part of store setup is all done for you—there’s no need to worry about the logo not being right, get stuck on a color scheme, or feel discouraged by all the little things starting a new store requires. Plus, whether you’ve invested $50 or $1 million in buying an online business on Shopify’s Exchange, you’ve proven to yourself that you’re committed to making this business a success. The additional financial payment is more than enough to motivate you to go after your first sale early on. 

2. The ability to start selling from Day 1

The best thing about buying a business is it lets you completely skip the store set-up phase and dive right into marketing. If your store has added products to your website, you can start selling the day you get account access. And by diving right into marketing, you’ll inch one step closer to getting your first sale. If you were to create a website yourself, you’d be spending some time during the first couple of weeks designing the site. But by buying a business, you gain a head start over new competitors stuck in the setup phase. 

3. Gaining a professional website

While some of Shopify Exchange’s stores are built by entrepreneurs like you, there are hundreds of stores designed by Shopify Experts who specialize in creating professional websites. If you find that your website design skills could use some work, you might choose to buy an online business built by an expert who specialize in creating Shopify stores. You can find stores built by these experts for as little as $50.

How to buy a business on Exchange

Exchange is home to stores of all sizes and in all industries. You can find dropshipping, print-on-demand, established, and high-growth stores across product categories like fashion and apparel, sports, furniture, and more.

Starter stores are already built and ready for marketing, but have done less than $100 in sales (traffic and revenue data won’t appear for them). As a result, these stores often sell for much less and should be evaluated based on the potential you see in the store and whether you think you can unlock it through marketing.

When you’re browsing Exchange for a store to buy, you should first determine what type of investment you want to make by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What are your revenue goals for the website?
  • How much money are you willing to invest to get there?
  • How much time are you willing to invest?
  • Is it a store that you only need to maintain or does it have growth potential that you will need to figure out through marketing?
  • Are there ways you can add value to the site that the original owner hasn’t?

These questions can be further explored as you discuss the exchange with the seller.

1. Do your due diligence

Each listing contains a description of what you get with the store, along with traffic and revenue throughout the past year and an asking price, which you can negotiate with the seller by sending them a message through the contact form. Many sellers will also list their reason for selling the store, which is often due to a lack of time or a life-changing event.

The listing will also show you what the seller is willing to give you for the asking price, including:

  • Physical inventory
  • Supplier lists
  • Email list
  • Logo and branding assets
  • Social media accounts
  • Personal support after sale
  • Domain
  • Product photos
  • And anything else you can negotiate with the seller to include in the final deal

Sellers and buyers can communicate directly through Exchange using an anonymous email to discuss additional information about the store or the sale. 

Keep in mind that some sellers stop actively marketing their stores when they put it up for sale, so a drop in traffic and revenue could be due to that (check with the seller).

Also, since profit margins can’t be verified by Exchange, you should also ensure that you:

  1. Verify and understand all traffic sources. Make sure you know exactly where traffic is coming from and if it’s a source that you can replicate after purchasing the store.
  2. Confirm financial info. This includes expenses (inventory and marketing) of the store. Make sure you know exactly what they are spending to generate the results they are getting.
  3. Vet their social media accounts. Look at the engagement rate to ensure their followers are real. Don’t take a large following at face value.
  4. Know exactly what’s included. Try to get all of the related inventory, social media, email list, etc., if possible. If it’s something that’s necessary to run the store, make sure it’s part of the deal.
  5. Understand why they're selling the site. You might not get a reason, but it's still worth asking.
  6. See it for yourself. Use screen-sharing or obtain “view only” account access for necessary verifications (traffic, sales, ad spend, etc.) with the seller.

Once you’ve vetted the store, you can make an offer on it that the seller can then reply to.

Once you’ve come to an agreement, it’s time to pay the seller through a transaction the seller will initiate after your offer is accepted.

2. Initiate the transaction

Exchange marketplace has partnered with Escrow.com to ensure a safe and trustworthy store exchange.

If you’re not familiar with how making a transaction in escrow works, it’s a method of payment where money is protected by a third party (in this case, Escrow.com) until both the buyer and the seller agree that the conditions of the deal have been met.

In order to start an Escrow.com transaction, the seller needs to come up with some terms for the sale (i.e., what’s included in the sale and whether they’re going to offer some support to the buyer), as well as how long they’ll give the buyer to inspect the shop after the exchange (a.k.a. an escrow period). It’s the seller who initiates the Escrow.com process.

How to buy an online business on Exchange

The buyer then pays Escrow.com whatever price has been agreed to. Escrow.com acts as the intermediary and holds onto the buyer’s money until both the seller and the buyer tell Escrow.com that they’re 100% satisfied with the deal and everything’s been transferred over to the buyer. That’s when Escrow.com gives the seller their money.

You can consult our FAQs for help with conducting a secure transaction.

3. Transfer ownership

The transfer process usually takes three business days, at which time Exchange prepares the store to make you the new owner.

To make the transfer easy on both you and the seller, make a checklist of all the items included in the deal, like what assets and accounts need to be transferred, going through them one by one.

You can contact Exchange support if you have questions about transferring a domain name, social media account, or anything else. Also, Escrow.com offers excellent support in these matters.

In the process of transferring ownership, before the agreed upon escrow period expires you should also:

  1. Check the suppliers for responsiveness and quality.
  2. Change all passwords for the accounts you received access to and remove the original seller’s access.
  3. Take advantage of any support that is provided by the seller so you understand how to replicate their results, asking every question you have while you can.

Once the escrow period is over and the exchange is done, you’ll be the new owner of the store, free to take it in any direction you wish.

How to find the right business for you 

Shopify’s Exchange categorizes its stores to help make choosing the right business for you even easier. 

1. Dropshipping 

Dropshipping businesses for sale can be found on Shopify’s Exchange. You can also sort by Oberlo stores if you have a dropshipping app preference. Dropshipping stores are some of the most popular businesses to buy right now. Dropshipping allows you to sell goods to a customer without carrying inventory or needing to ship to customers as the product manufacturer does that work for you. This is a beginner-friendly business model, so you’ll find many starter stores that are set up for dropshipping. 

2. Print on demand

Some entrepreneurs prefer building a unique brand with exclusive products. Maybe you’ve always wanted to buy a business that’s branded but lacked the design skills to make it happen. Fortunately, you can buy print-on-demand businesses for sale that already feature exclusive designs you can sell.

3. Retail businesses

If you’re looking to buy online businesses in the retail space, you’ll find plenty with inventory for sale on Exchange. Whether you’re looking for access to a supplier in a certain industry or are interested in opening up a retail business to call your own, you’ll find retail stores for sale on Exchange. 

4. Established businesses

If you’re an experienced entrepreneur looking for established businesses for sale, you can buy ones catered to you. You’ll find countless successful businesses in this category that have social media followers, email lists, and other key marketing perks that’ll help you get a headstart on taking your newly purchased business to the next level. 

5. International

If you’re looking to run a business in your home country, you’ll be able to find businesses for sale from many different countries and different languages featured on Exchange. Not only are some businesses based in different countries, some of them also operate internationally. 

6. Stores that sold on exchange 

If you’ve browsed around but are still unsure of what type of store is worth buying, you might want to check out the sold stores section on Shopify’s Exchange. There you’ll be able to see what types of stores people are buying and how much people are paying. You’ll also gain some design inspiration for your own store setup.

Exchange: Buy or sell an ecommerce business

Exchange is a marketplace of Shopify stores for both people looking to invest in a fully functioning business or who just want to skip the time required to find an online business idea and hit the ground running with marketing.