Buying a website is like investing in online real estate.
Chosen carefully and maintained correctly, buying an ecommerce business creates an income stream that 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 3,000 ecommerce stores for sale—more than any other online marketplace—you can now bypass the building stage and get right into running a business by buying an existing Shopify store through Exchange.
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, merchants can list their online stores for sale, including information like traffic and revenue data pulled directly from Shopify. Sellers can’t edit this 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, the prices also vary. Starter stores can cost as little as $50, while established 6-figure ecommerce empires can sell for over $1 million.
How to buy a business on Exchange
Exchange is home to stores of all sizes and 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 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:
- What are your revenue goals for the website?
- How much money are you willing to invest to get there?
- How much time?
- 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 the seller’s:
- Physical inventory
- Supplier lists
- Email list
- Logo and branding assets
- Social media accounts
- Personal support after sale
- 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, and so a drop in traffic and revenue could be due to that (check with the seller).
Also, since profit margins can not be verified by Exchange, you should also ensure that you:
- 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.
- Confirm financial info, including expenses (inventory and marketing) of the store. Make sure you know exactly what they are spending to generate the results they are.
- Vet their social media accounts. Look at the engagement rate to ensure their following is real. Don’t take a large following at face value.
- 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 is necessary to run the store, make sure it’s part of the deal.
- Understand why they're selling the site. You might not get a reason, but it's still worth asking.
- 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 with the seller, it’s time to pay the seller through the transaction you'll receive from the seller after your offer is accepted.
2. Initiate the transaction
Exchange Marketplace has partnered with Escrow.com to ensure a safe and trustworthy exchange
If you’re not familiar with how escrow works, it’s a method of payment where the money is protected by a third party (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).
The buyer then pays Escrow.com whatever price they’ve 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 3-5 days, upon which Exchange prepares the store to make you 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:
- Check the suppliers for responsiveness and quality.
- Change all passwords for the accounts you received access to and remove the original seller.
- 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.
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 just skip the building phase and hit the ground running with marketing.
Check out Exchange and see what’s available–new stores are added every day.
And if you're interested in selling your own Shopify store, you can put it up for sale on Exchange too!